Contemporary Theories of Intelligence

The field of educational psychology has a long history of research and interest in the theory and study of intelligence. In the early part of the twentieth century, the Journal of Educational Psychology was the primary scientific journal in this country for research on the study of intelligence. In addition to theories, a major emphasis in this field of inquiry was its measurement, which continues to occupy a significant place in the study of intelligence. Sternberg (this volume) reviews both classical and contemporary intelligence theories and their profound implications on practical life and societies. He critically evaluates classical intelligence theories that have had a strong impact on education and goes on to present challenges to these and to current conceptions of intelligence. Intelligence-related abilities permeate many areas of society. In the United States and many other Westernized nations, these are most visibly represented in a multitude of educational and occupational tests shown to relate to societal success. Competing views about the sorting influence of intelligence are presented. Sternberg concludes that societies often choose a similar array of criteria to sort people, but he cautions that such correlations may simply be an artifact of societally preferred groups rather than a result of some natural processes.

Sternberg describes the need for psychometrically sound measures of intelligence as a necessary prerequisite for the validation of theories of intelligence. A significant trend in the last two decades of the twentieth century has been the development of intelligence tests based on cognitive and information processing theories of intelligence. Literature is presented on implicit views of intelligence that have served as the basis for explicit conceptions and tests of intelligence. The early biological theories of Halstead (1951), Hebb (1949), and Luria (1980) are reviewed and contrasted with more contemporary biological findings and theories that are poised to have a substantial influence on psychometric work in the future.

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