Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Let's Talk about Intelligence

I ran across an article on "Theories of Multiple Intelligence," by Grady M. Towers, which was published in the Prometheus Society's journal, Gift of Fire (Issue No. 33, September 1988). I know little about the measurement of intelligence and the controversies surrounding it. With that disclaimer, here are some bits I find fascinating:
We now know that there are two [kinds of intelligence]: one called fluid g, measured by culture fair tests such as the Raven Progressive Matrices or the LAIT, and another called crystallized g, measured by culture loaded tests like the Concept Mastery Test or the Miller Analogies Test. What we call g has been defined as the ability to "educe relations and correlates," or in more everyday terms, the abilities for inductive ("relations") and deductive ("correlates") reasoning. Culture fair tests measure the ability to educe relations and correlates using abstract diagrams, and other material that requires only a minimum of formal learning. Culture loaded tests measure the ability to educe relations and correlates using learned and over learned material, such as vocabulary, algorithms for arithmetic or multiplication, recognition of common objects and their uses, etc. Ordinary IQ tests measure both kinds of intelligence, but not necessarily to the same degree; they are generally biased in favor of crystallized g.

The currently accepted relationship between these two kinds of ability is called the investment theory of intelligence. It says, in effect, that we are all born with a certain raw ability, or the eduction of relations and correlates, which can be measured with culture fair tests. As we get older, we "invest" this fluid g in certain kinds of judgment skills, such as those involved in doing a mathematical word problem, or parsing a sentence. When we are young, the theory goes, our formal educations are so much alike that we all invest our fluid g in much the same kinds of judgment skills. That means that our fluid intelligence and our crystallized intelligence are so similar at an early age that it's almost impossible to tell them apart. After we leave school, however, we all begin to invest our fluid g abilities in different things. Measures of fluid g and crystallized g begin to draw apart. Those that invest their fluid g in school-like activities, such as accounting or law, continue to show intellectual growth on conventional (crystallized) IQ tests. Those that put their intelligence to work in other ways, such as becoming ranchers or artists, will not show the same intellectual growth, and may even show a decline in IQ on conventional measures of intelligence....

None of this would matter except that each kind of ability brings with it its own kind of cognitive style, its own kind of personality, and its own set of values. In fact, the contrast between persons gifted with fluid g and those gifted with crystallized g is so sharp that, with a little practice, most people find that they can learn to tell them apart at a glance. Those gifted with fluid g (LAIT) tend to be socially retiring, independent of the good opinion of others, analytical, interested in theoretical and scientific problems, and to dislike rigid systematization and routine. Those gifted primarily with crystallized g (conventional tests) tend to be sociable, quick in reactions, artistic, and to dislike logical and theoretical problems. And then there are those who are equally gifted with both kinds of ability, and tend to be mixtures of all these qualities....

In other words, there are those who can do, those who can teach, and those who can do both. In other-other words, don't "misunderestimate" the intelligence of people who seem to lack "book smarts" and who talk like "regular people."