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Cognitive Psychology

Term Paper

Word Count: 4,002

Discussing Intelligence

Defining intelligence is a complicated task to begin with. Many people have very specific view regarding what is intelligence. In my opinion, and it is shared by others as well, intelligence itself is something of an amorphous concept. According to some there are several different types of intelligence, and I belong to the school of thought that believes in what is known as the Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

After years of research, Howard Gardner proposed a new theory and definition of intelligence in his 1983 book entitled Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The basic question he sought to answer was: Is intelligence a single thing or various independent intellectual faculties? Gardner is Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds an adjunct faculty post in psychology at Harvard and in neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. He is best known for his work in the area of Multiple Intelligences, which has been a career-long pursuit to understand and describe the construct of intelligence (Gardner, 1999a).

Gardner describes his work with two distinct populations as the inspiration for his theory of Multiple Intelligences. Early in his career, he began studying stroke victims suffering from aphasia at the Boston University Aphasia Research Center and working with children at Harvard's Project Zero, a laboratory designed to study the cognitive development of children and its associated educational implications (Gardner, 1999a). In Intelligence Reframed, Gardner states,

Both of the populations I was working with were clueing me into the same message: that the human mind is better thought of as a series of relatively separate faculties, with only loose and non-predictable relations with one another, than as a single, all-purpose machine that performs steadily at a certain horsepower, independent of content and context. (p.32)

Gardner concluded from his work with these two populations that strength in one area of performance did not reliably predict comparable strength in another area. With this intuitive conclusion in mind, Gardner set about studying intelligence in a systematic, multi-disciplinary, and scientific manner, drawing from psychology, biology, neurology, sociology, anthropology, and the arts and humanities. This resulted in the emergence of his Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI Theory) as presented in Frames of Mind (1983). Since the publication of that work, Gardner and others have continued to research the theory and its implications for education in general, curriculum development, teaching, and assessment. For the purposes of this term paper, the focus will be on a description of the theory, major criticisms, and the implications for assessment.

According to Gardner (1999a), intelligence is much more than IQ because high

IQ in the absence of productivity does not equate to intelligence. In his definition, "Intelligence is a bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture" (p.34). Consequently, instead of intelligence being a single entity described psychometrically with an IQ score, Gardner's definition views it as many things. He endeavored to define intelligence in a much broader way than psycho-metricians. In order to achieve this goal Gardner (1983; 1999a) established several criteria for defining intelligence. In identifying capabilities to be considered for one of the "multiple intelligences" the construct under consideration had to meet several criteria rather than resting on the results of a narrow psychometric approach.

To qualify as "intelligence" the particular capacity under study was considered from multiple perspectives consisting of eight specific criteria drawn from the biological sciences, logical analysis, developmental psychology, experimental psychology, and psychometrics. The criteria to consider "candidate intelligences" (Gardner, 1999a, p. 36) are:

1) the potential for brain isolation by brain damage,

2) its place in evolutionary history,

3) the presence of core operations,

4) susceptibility to encoding,

5) a distinct developmental progression,

6) the existence of idiot-savants, prodigies and other exceptional people,

7) support from experimental psychology, and

8) support from psychometric findings (Gardner, 1999a).

To illustrate the specifics of these criteria, a brief description and example of each is provided.

The potential for brain isolation by brain damage means that one "candidate intelligence" (Gardner 1999a, p.36) can be dissociated from others. This criterion came from Gardner's work in neuropsychology. For example, stroke patients who are left with some forms of "intelligence" intact despite damage to other cognitive abilities such as speech. From an evolutionary perspective, the candidate intelligence has to have played a role in the development of our species and its ability to cope with the environment. In this case, Gardner (1999a) uses inference to conclude that spatial abilities were critical to the survival of our species. Early hominids had to be able to navigate diverse terrains using spatial abilities. The pressure of the environment then resulted in selection for this ability. Both of these criteria emerged from the biological sciences.

From the perspective of logical analysis, intelligence must have an identifiable core set of operations. Acknowledging the fact that specific intelligences operate in the context of the environment, Gardner (1999a) argues that it is crucial to specify the capacities that are central to the intelligence under consideration. For example, linguistic intelligence consists of core operations such as recognition and discrimination of phonemes, command of syntax and acquisition of word meanings. In the area of musical intelligence, the core operations are pitch, rhythm, timbre, and harmony. Other criteria related to logical analysis states that intelligence must be susceptible


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