Tests of human cognitive abilities assess arguably the most scientifically significant individual differences uncovered by psychological science. Tests of general intelligence were the focus of this chapter because the dominant dimension that runs through them accounts for 50% of the variance in heterogeneous tests (across a wide range of talent) and the majority of criterion variance that cognitive abilities can predict in school, training, and work settings. This latter generalization pertains to other real-world criteria (Gottfredson, 2002). Cronbach's (1970) earlier appraisal of general mental ability tests, namely, "[t]he general mental test stands today as the most important technical contribution psychology has made to the practical guidance of human affairs" (Cronbach, 1970, p. 197), is likely still valid.
Across many psychological niches, well beyond educational and occupational settings, powerful empirical evidence reveals that social scientists would markedly advance their scientific capabilities by more routinely incorporating ability tests into their research programs (cf. Benbow & Stanley, 1996; Gordon, 1997; Gottfredson, 2002, 2003a, 2004; Lubinski, 2004; Lubinski & Humphreys, 1997; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). Given the array of important behaviors and outcomes that cognitive abilities predict across longitudinally impressive time frames, neglecting ability constructs and measures in several social science arenas virtually guarantees incomplete theoretical formulations and underdetermined causal modeling.
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