The Measure of Intelligence

Posted February 10, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Education / 3 Comments

In 1904, the French psychologist Alfred Binet created the Binet Scale which became the basis of what is now the IQ Test. Originally it was created to measure a child’s strengths and weakness so the teacher knew which areas would require special attention for each individual student. The Binet Scale become a revolutionary approach to the assessment of individual mental ability, but it was never designed to test someone’s intelligence. Binet himself cautioned against misuse of the Binet Scale and has been quoted in saying “the scale, properly speaking, does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.” He also feared that the test would be used to condemn a child rather than assist their education.

The Binet Scale had a profound effect on educational development but they failed to listen to Alfred Binet’s warnings and as a result of Lewis M. Terman’s revisions to the Binet Scale (now known as the Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon Scale of Intelligence) we now has a standardised intelligence test. This IQ Test became a standard practise and a multimillion dollar business; even resulting in the American Academy for the Advancement of Science listing the IQ test among the twenty most significant scientific discoveries of the twentieth century along with nuclear fission, DNA, the transistor and flight (in 1989).

If the IQ test was meant to monitor a person’s intelligence I have some questions that need answering;

How are they defining intelligence?

  • The ability to do well in school?
  • The ability to read well and spell correctly
  • Or the ability to following an intelligent person?

When did a person’s intelligence become linear?

The problem I found is that standardised testing is trying to make everyone the same, when we should be using the test on the young for its original purpose. Maybe we should just scrap the whole thing. I’ve also think other tests like the SAT’s are been misused as well. Let me know your thoughts.

3 responses to “The Measure of Intelligence

  1. Like our fears now about DNA testing for various genetic diseases that it can be used against the person. Western society always seems to want to reduce things to some sort of measurable scale, whether it actually tells us anything or not.

  2. Andrew

    Most “IQ Tests” consist of multiple tests that measure at three of these separate abilities. The Full Scale Score or GIA is often used as a summary of an individual’s performance on all of the component tests of a single instrument. Over the past few decades we have gotten away from thinking of IQ as the sole measure of intelligence. In the 1980’s Howard Gardner from Harvard University introduced the term multiple intelligences, recognizing that intelligence manifests itself differently in each person. Some people are more socially intelligent than others, some have greater kinesthetic intelligence, while others are better with language.

    Traditional IQ testing was conducted in an attempt to predict achievement, and later to determine the existence of a learning disability. Contemporary theory has moved away from using a single standard score (IQ number) and has moved toward using cross-battery assessments. This approach recognizes that multiple factors are involved in the processing of information, and that a single number is often not more than the sum of its parts.

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