Intelligence Testing Research Paper

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Intelligence Testing

Few concepts in psychology are more hotly debated than the idea of what constitutes human intelligence. The definition of intelligence has become part of current culture wars as well as an area of intense scientific debate. This paper examines one popular theory of intelligence, Howard Gardner's concept of 'multiple intelligences,' which has been proposed as an alternative to the theory of 'general intelligence,' or intelligence as a concept that spans multiple domains of ability.

The theory of multiple intelligences

Few concepts are as contentious and fraught as that of intelligence in modern-day life. Questions of how to measure intelligence is intermeshed with current debates over race and gender, as well as more general concepts of human worth. One of the most popular conceptions of intelligence to emerge in recent years is the theory of multiple intelligences, as advocated by Howard Gardner of Harvard University. However, within the field, this theory is hotly debated, and many state that Gardner lacks scientific evidence to back it up his assertions, even though the media and educators in the field have embraced the concept. "A quarter of a century later, MI Theory has so completely entered the culture that it has taken on a life of its own, and even outstripped its creator in name recognition. The dissemination of MI Theory at every level of education has resulted in significant challenges to a century's worth of fundamental educational principles and practices" (Helding 2009). Multiplicity is one potential relief from the current, polarizing debates over how to measure IQ, given that it expands the fields in which an individual has the potential to be intelligent.

Before Gardner developed his theory, intelligence was thought of as an enclosed entity. In the earliest studies of intelligence, "researchers discovered...although mental tests are often designed to measure specific domains of cognition -- verbal fluency, say, or mathematical skill, spatial visualization or memory -- people who do well on one kind
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of test tend to do well on the others, and people who do poorly generally do so across the board. This overlap, or intercorrelation, suggests that all such tests measure some global element of intellectual ability as well as specific cognitive skills" (Gottfredson 2011). Although within the 'general factor' of intelligence, individuals may have varying levels of abilities or special gifts, "under this [general factor] view, human abilities should be all correlated as all these abilities derive from the same 'general factor' that represents human intelligence" (Barnard & Olivarez 2007).

Gardner, however, believed that there were many exceptions to this 'proof' of generalized intelligence. For example, savants often have highly specialized areas of intelligence, and individuals with great talent such as musical prodigies are not necessarily equally gifted in all areas. From the anecdotal experience of teachers and parents, "MI Theory corroborated" their notions "that children learn differently from one another, and that some children who do poorly in math or language may demonstrate brilliant abilities in other domains" (Helding 2009). Instead of a g-factor (general factor) of intelligence, Gardner proposed that intelligence was composed of self-enclosed modules "which are largely independent and functionally separate from each other" (Barnard & Olivarez 2007).

Gardner states that the apparent perception of a g-factor was due to the fact that currently-existing intelligence tests were biased in favor of specific types of intelligences. Gardner posited the existence of seven (and sometimes more) types of intelligences, including "(1) linguistic; (2) logical-mathematical; (3) spatial; (4) bodily-kinesthetic; (5) interpersonal; (6) intrapersonal; and (7) musical" (Helding 2009). Only some of these intelligences are tested on conventional intelligence tests, which tend to favor verbal and mathematical abilities in their construction.

Intelligence testing, after all, was not designed as a way to research the complexities of the human mind, but as a way of sorting out individuals well-suited to specific institutions (the French educational system in the case of the first tests designed by Binet) or success in specific professions (such as with…

Sources Used in Documents:


Barnard, L., & Olivarez, A. (2007). Self-estimates of multiple, g factor, and school-valued intelligences. North American Journal of Psychology, 9(3), 501-510. Retrieved from

Gottfredson, Linda S. (2011) The general intelligence factor. Scientific American. Retrieved:

Helding, L. (2009). Mindful voice: Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. Journal of Singing - the Official Journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, 66(2),

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