Intelligence & Psychology: Stop Talking About How Smart You Are…

Photo by Syed Hasan Mehdi on Pexels.com

We all do it, to some extent. We like to be seen as the person who knows it all or has all the answers, which honestly, no one does. We are all trying to just figure it out. And in the age of technology, we now have every answer at our fingertips.

With mobile access to the internet on our phones, computers, and tablets we can now access any article or any piece of information at the click of a button. But now we have lost sight of maintaining this knowledge because it is so accessible. Our teachers told us we wouldn’t have calculators on us at all times. Well, we have that, and more. Anyone can run to the bathroom, look up an article that can explain anything, and then walk out with enough jargon to sound like an expert. We can fact-check our friends and family in a matter of seconds. With the proper sources, we can show that guy Larry what’s-what on the Facebook thread we’ve been sitting on all day.

Thank you, Google.

It’s the ego driving us. We want to be trusted by others. To have the high ground in a sense. Sometimes it just feels good to be right about something in this world. Considering the last two years we’ve all had, it’s understandable. But here’s the thing, as you boast about your intelligence, others are rolling their eyes. And tearing down others’ doesn’t make it any better.

I once watched someone rate everyone in a bar based on how intelligent they thought they were compared to themselves. I got an Uber home because I couldn’t sit there and watch them fool themselves. Who really wants to spend time with that? No one.

Here’s the thing.

No one actually cares how smart you are. I know. It hurts.

But they really don’t.

In the age of fact-checking, it’s time to fact-check ourselves.

What do we actually know about intelligence?

First, let’s look at the true meaning of ‘intelligence’.

Intelligence Defined

Intelligence can be defined as the ability to learn or understand or deal with new or trying situations (Mersin-Webster). However, many psychologists have defined the word in many terms in their various theories of how intelligence can be measured.

“Although contemporary definitions of intelligence vary considerably, experts generally agree that intelligence involves mental abilities such as logic, reasoning, problem-solving, and planning. Specifically, current definitions tend to suggest that intelligence is the ability to:

  • Learn from experience: The acquisition, retention, and use of knowledge is an important component of intelligence.
  • Recognize problems: To use knowledge, people first must identify the problems it might address.
  • Solve problems: People must then use what they have learned to come up with solutions to problems. ”

How is Intelligence measured?

IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient. This is commonly measured today by standardized tests for the purpose of the study by leading psychologists and educators to understand how to address areas of struggle in the classroom. Tests like the ACT and SAT.

“The IQ score was calculated by dividing the test taker’s mental age by their chronological age, then multiplying this number by 100.

For example, a child with a mental age of 12 and a chronological age of 10 would have an IQ of 120: (12÷10) x 100 = 120.”

Kendra Cherry

While there are many IQ tests available on the web and in the app store, very few of them are actually credible. It’s recommended to take the IQ test, provided by the Mensa organization. The Mensa Organization is a group for those that have tested to have high IQ scores. However, many of the IQ assessments used to address issues in the classroom have been based on studies performed by some of the top psychologists in the modern world.

The history of IQ assessments dates back as far as the 1800s when French Psychologist Francis Galton based his assessment on his observing people and their ability to complete sensorimotor tasks. He believed that intelligence was hereditary.

Sir Francis Galton

“Galton himself was thought to be of higher intelligence, even as a child, with some suggesting that his IQ was “not far from 200” when he was under 8 years of age. According to IQ score ratings, this would have put him in the “profoundly gifted” category for intelligence” (Cherry, VeryWellMind).

Galton’s theory influenced that of French Psychologist Alfred Binet, whose work in experimental psychology contributed to understanding different learning styles. Binet and his partner, Theodore Simon, developed questions that focused on certain skills not always addressed in the classroom.

Alfred Binet

Educators have taken to Binet and Simon’s studies to help understand which of their students needed more attention. Learning style and intelligence are not the same, but we’ll come back to that.

“Binet quickly realized that some children were able to answer more advanced questions. Based on this observation, he suggested the concept of mental age, which is a measure of intelligence based on the average abilities of children within a certain age group”.

Kendra Cherry

Leading psychologists bounce back and forth on how intelligence can be calculated and if this is something that can be measured. Some argue that a person is born with all the intelligence that they will ever get in life, while others believe it can be nurtured.

Theories of Intelligence

Howard Gardner

American Developmental Psychologist Howard Gardner outlined his theories of intelligence in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligence. His theory supports the idea that a person is not born with all of their intelligence. The theory suggests that there are four categories of intelligence: spatial, musical, linguistic, and logic-mathematical. Several of the others shown below were added later.

Among more recent ideas about intelligence is Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. He proposed that traditional IQ testing does not fully and accurately depict a person’s abilities. He proposed eight different intelligences based on skills and abilities that are valued in various cultures:4

  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: The ability to control body movements and handle objects skillfully
  • Interpersonal intelligence: The capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations, and desires of others
  • Intrapersonal intelligence: The capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs, and thinking processes
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence: The ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and to discern logical or numerical patterns
  • Musical intelligence: The ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timbre
  • Naturalistic intelligence: The ability to recognize and categorize animals, plants, and other objects in nature
  • Verbal-linguistic intelligence: Well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings, and rhythms of words
  • Visual-spatial intelligence: The capacity to think in images and visualize accurately and abstractly
Kendra Cherry

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is important because it highlights that there is not just one ‘kind’ of intelligence that a person can possess. We all have different strengths. It helps to consider that when measuring the limits of human intelligence.

Other psychologists such as Robert Sternberg agreed with Gardner’s theory. Sternberg states that intelligence can no longer be defined as g-factor or IQ. And…

“Doing so has been a disaster—literally, not merely figuratively.  At the same time that IQs have “benefited” from the 30-point increase of the 20th century, the world has been coping—or often failing adequately to cope–with disasters that are perhaps unprecedented in human history.  These disasters include human-induced global warming, air and water pollution that are killing millions of people, income disparity that has resulted in staggering gains for the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of everyone else, hunger, poverty, a global pandemic, and a country torn apart (my own—the United States by deliberate and cynical manipulation on the part of politicians and their self-serving sycophants), to name a few problems. Where exactly have the high IQs of our current population been as these problems have become more severe?

Robert Sternberg

Sternberg proposed the three-factor intelligence theory which was based upon the following:

Learning Style Vs Intelligence

Learning Style theory focuses on how an individual absorbs information through the senses.

Photo Credits : Education Corner

This is otherwise known as the VAK theory and was suggested by education psychologist Walter Burke Barbe. He proposed utilizing all three in the classroom would be most beneficial.

“Another discovery from Barbe, Swassing, and Milone determined a difference between modality strengths and modality preferences. Although a learner may have a strength in one modality or another does not indicate the same modality will be demonstrated as a preference for the learner”( Atkinson).

So just because a person may be really talented at music and can shred on guitar does not mean he is an auditory learner, he may prefer learning by doing or reading.

So, there we have it.

It’s time to put the argument to rest. While many psychologists have theorized a method, there is not a viable way of quantifying intelligence.

If you are interested in delving further, I have included some links below to some great reads from when I took Educational Psychology in college. They were interesting.

Recommended Reads

Cited Sources

Atkinson, Tracy Harrison. “Barbe’s VAK Learning Style.” Paving the Way, 25 Apr. 2018, https://tracyharringtonatkinson.com/barbes-vak-learning-style/#:~:text=Walter%20Burk%20Barbe%2C%20born%20in,namely%20visual%2C%20auditory%20and%20kinesthetic.

Cherry, Kendra. “Theories of Intelligence in Psychology.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 1 Mar. 2022, https://www.verywellmind.com/theories-of-intelligence-2795035.

Cherry, Kendra. “How Howard Gardner Developed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 27 Mar. 2020, https://www.verywellmind.com/howard-gardner-biography-2795511#:~:text=Gardner’s%20theory%20of%20multiple%20intelligences,that%20an%20individual%20may%20possess.

Cherry, Kendra. “Why Alfred Binet Developed IQ Testing for Students.” Verywell Mind, 13 Apr. 2022, https://www.verywellmind.com/history-of-intelligence-testing-2795581.

Marenus, Michele. “Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Https://Www.simplypsychology.org/Multiple-Intelligences.html, Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 1970, https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html.

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