The Hierachy of Intelligence(s)( Tests)

In the context of an attack on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (10 page PDF), David F. Lohman (of the University of Iowa) presents this visualization of the hierarchies of intelligence tests:

Hierarchy of IQ Tests

The closer to the center, the more general lintelligence (“g”) loads on the test. Some tests, such as identifying the correct endings of words, reading speed, or listening comprehension test “g” more indirectly than measures of verbal achievement, paper folding, or necessary arithemetic operations.

A good example is the Test Necessary Arithmetic Operations. This test was devised by Guilford to measure a specific cell in his Structure of the Intellect Model. Each item presents a short word problem. The examinee’s task is not to solve the problem, but to say which two operations she would use, and in what order. There are four operations: add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Thus, problems do not require advanced mathematics. Yet in the sample of over 100 Stanford undergraduates who were administered most of the tests in Figure 2, Necessary Arithmetic Operations had one of the highest loadings on the [fluid intelligence] factor (Marshalek, Lohman, & Snow, 1983).

I meant this because of Mark’s discussion of Dr. James Flynn on the Flynn Effect. Essentially, the Flynn effect explains the large-scale increase in measured general intelligence over the 20th century as reflecting increased society-wide patterns of practice on subtests. This implies two things: first, that tests should be renormalized every so often to make sure they still measure “g,” and not practice. Second, that ability improves with practice.

It strikes me that, when properly normalized, IQ measures something psychobioneurological… perhaps not working memory exactly, but something not too far apart from that concept.

This has implications for the heritability of IQ. Most obviously, the more environment changes, the more change in performance can be traced to the environment. (Of course, as environments become more similar, more of the variation in the population will be explained by environments.)

2 thoughts on “The Hierachy of Intelligence(s)( Tests)”

  1. Thanks for posting the Lohman article, which had an effective if not terribly original critique of MI's premises. Gardner has always mixed insightful analysis of cognitive functions with his personal sociopolitical preferences – which he at least makes no bones about – so he more or less should be read with care for the useful aspects.

    Liked the diagram too.

  2. Agreed on the article. The second-half especially seems quite different than the first.

    When I first came across Gardner I was really enthused, but since then I've grown more skeptical towards MI/piaget/vygotsky – those theories which seem more useful as thinking aids than hypothesis generators.

    Having read Osinga, I think Boyd made the same transformation… His writings on creativity from the 70s contrasts pretty starkly with what he wrote in the late 80s/90s, and I think that was the influence of the cognitive revolution.

  3. Interesting how everything converges on “analogies,” a concept central to Western philosophy. This diagram may (unintentionally?) allude to the cultural constructedness and perhaps underlying purposes of intelligence testing.

  4. I wonder: if current intelligence testing reflects the culture and philosophical traditions that created it (i.e. our own), what would a test that reflects someone else's traditions look like? And how big an idiot would I feel like after taking it?

  5. fl,

    Excellent points.

    G seems to be very closely related to working memory [1], and working memory itself critical to reasoning by analogies.

    There is no reason why working memory, analogical reasoning, etc., have to be important regardless of environment. Indeed, that Africa (which contains more human diversity than any other continent) has a relatively low mean general intelligence implies that analogical reasoning didn't help all that much.. Probably things like resistance to disease, ability to detect potential sources of parasites, etc., were fare more useful.



    My assumption is that, as the global economy relies pretty heavily on the analogical reasoning skills fl mentions, one would have to look at areas cut off from it — the hunter-gatherer tribes of Papua New Guinea, the Amazon, etc.

    My guess are skills related to warfare, berzerking, abduction, and rape.

  6. Taken a look at the news, lately? We're still good at those things, we just have other hobbies to take up our time:P

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