Happy New Year! New Year, but same old revision. I wasn’t really sure what this blog post should be about, so I thought I could do some revision at the same time. And since there is no way I would talk to you about Cognitive Psychology, let’s talk about Abnormal! 😉 The topic I’ve been revising the most lately is Intelligence. I’ve loved this module, because it covered one of those topics that influence your way of looking at everyday life!
The module started out with a brief history of Intelligence, right from Greek philosophers, which sounded familiar thanks to five years of Ancient Greek and Philosophy studies in my Italian school! Then we quickly moved on to Galton (Darwin’s cousin), who introduced the idea of Intelligence as a quantitative and measurable trait. From there we studied specifically how the measurements of Intelligence developed, and what they meant for the population at that time. For instance, the first tests were meant to individuate children with specific educational needs (Binet, 1905), while a later one was developed for the American Army in WWI (Yerkes, 1917). It is incredible to think how from these very specific tasks, Intelligence tests became a crucial element of modern life…just think about scholastic assessments, or tests for a job! I know for a fact that some Intelligence tests are still used in Italy to select prospective university students! Fair or not, it’s a reality for many.
The module went on to explain the different theoretical hypotheses surrounding the topic, stressing the difference between theoretical and practical needs: describing a model of Intelligence and developing a test to measure it – being able to relate back to the entire population! – are two completely different tasks! I’m not going to mention every research/theory we came across, that’s not the point of writing this blog. What I want to talk about – and what I found most intersing – is the end of the chapter, when we came across modern theories such as Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence (1983, 1996): he suggested that Intelligence not only consists of different abilities (which was not a new idea), but that those abilities are separated from each other, therefore not dependent on a general Intelligence factor, and must be assessed in a spontaneous educational environment. I feel like switching to this view would have a great impact on schooling, since academic merit right now is highly (if not completely) based on mathematical/mnemonic abilities. It wouldn’t be about getting good grades; it would be literally a way of showing kids that they’re not “stupid” just because they don’t do well in a specific subject. A more positive approach could be beneficial for students, because it would avoid self-fulfilling prophecies (kids not even trying, because they’ve been told they can’t succeed) and would make them acknowledge their own potential, not to mention the possibility to fully exploit one’s abilities.
Of course, Gardner’s theory still has to be fully investigated. But I thought it was a great way of challenging secular opinions on Intelligence and one’s possibility to do well in life.
I’m not going to get into the Flynn effect as well, because I didn’t even know what to write and now this post has turned out to be an essay. How did it happen? Sorry! Now I gotta go, I’m leaving Italy tomorrow morning and I still need to start packing! 😛
Ps. For your information, the textbook I used to revise (alongside articles of course!) was co-written by my lecturer, John Maltby! 🙂 I found it really useful, so I’m just gonna leave here the title:
Maltby, J., Day, L. & Macaskill, A. (2013). Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence. London: Pearson.