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Biology 202
2001 Third Web Report
On Serendip

Get Smart: I.Q. and Emotional Intelligence

Nana Dawson-Andoh

Intelligence is considered to be one of the most desirable personality qualities in today's society. Expectant parents are told to read and play music to the fetus, in order to stimulate its brain. Being bright is often thought of one the keys to success in life, and highly intelligent people such as Albert Einstein are celebrated. However, despite all the tests and criteria that measure intelligence, the question still remains: what is intelligence? How can it be measured? Is there only one kind of intelligence, or do humans possess several? These seemingly simple questions have proved to be some of the most perplexing and contentious topics in both public and scientific circles.

Everyone differs in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt to the environment, to learn from experience, and to engage in various forms of reasoning. A person's intellectual performance can vary on depending on the occasions, environment, or criteria used to judge it. No current theory has been able to sufficiently answer all the critical questions or establish a consensus. The recognized method of measuring intelligence is the psychometric approach. It is the basis of I.Q. tests and other modern intelligence tests. However, a new theory called emotional intelligence has gained prominence with its more fluid and encompassing definition of intelligence. This has only added fuel to the debate over understanding and measuring intelligence.

The psychometric approach was developed by Alfred Binet in 1904 to identify mentally retarded students who would benefit from special education. He designed the test to be an indicator of school performance and measured skills such as vocabulary, comprehension, and verbal relations (1). Binet believed in an rigid view of intellectual performance, in which "intelligence involved the operation of specific mental functions, including memory, attention, verbal fluency and creativity that are strictly controlled by practical judgment." (2) I.Q. tests that supposedly measured "intelligence quotient" were regarded as such accurate predictors of academic success that most subsequent intelligence tests were based on them, and are still in use today. Intelligence tests do not measure one thing, but are comprised of a number of component subtests that require individuals to perform various cognitive tasks. The test score is supposed to measure the common factor, frequently referred to as general intelligence or "g" that runs through performance on subtests.

"G" was proposed by the British psychologist Charles Spearman, and was based on a statistical technique he invented called factor analysis. Factor analysis determines the minimum number of underlying dimensions necessary to explain a pattern of correlations among measurements (3). He considered this theory as evidence for the idea of intelligence as a single entity that could be scientifically represented by a global measure. He noticed that various measures of performance tended to be highly correlated, indicating that performance was dictated by one general characteristic, hence g can be extracted from scores on any diverse battery of tests. Spearman was careful to state that g was merely a magnitude and not a factual representation of reality. Moreover, the universal nature of g was applicable only to human cognitions and ability, and not to the influences of affect and motivation, as later researchers would infer. The general intelligence factor has been the foundation of psychometric models, and researchers and theoreticians have used it to make a case for the genetic basis of intelligence and downplay the role of environment.

I.Q. tests are presently employed for many purposes such as selection, diagnosis and evaluation in all parts of society. Its advocates claim that, "it is the single most effective predictor known of individual performance at school and on the job." (3) They also assert that g can foretell other aspects of an individual's life such as their chances of divorce, not finishing high school, being unemployed or even having children out of wedlock. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and the Stanford-Binet are the most well known general intelligence tests, and evaluate different abilities, both verbal and non-verbal, and the overall score is calculated by combining subtest scores (4). Proponents of I.Q. tests point to their relatively good correlation to school grades, as evidence of the test creditability,

Some critics of I.Q. testing maintain that the idea of general intelligence is deceptive, and that no such global mental capacity exists. They believe that intelligence is more of a result of an individual's opportunities to learn skills and information valued in a particular cultural context (3). They emphasize that successful learning in school depends on many personal characteristics such as persistence, interest in school, and willingness to study. Encouragement for academic achievement received from friends, family and teachers is also important, together with other cultural factors. Another criticism of I.Q. tests is that their predictive capacity of the tests declines when they are used to forecast outcomes in later life, such as job performance, or salary. Moreover, I.Q. prediction becomes less effective once populations, situations or tasks change. One study found that I.Q. positively predicts leadership success in low stress conditions. But in high-stress situations, the tests actually negatively predict success (1).

Another issue is the validity of IQ tests. That is, do such tests measure what they were intended to measure, namely, human intelligence? Prominent current researchers of human intelligence, such as Robert Sternberg and Howard Gardner, argue that IQ tests measure only a restricted aspect of human intellectual ability. These researchers also highlight the crucial importance of considering the cultural context for a fair evaluation of performance. Western thought based I.Q. tests can not be applied to other cultures, which may have differing values and world views. This lends strong support to the notion of the existence of several kinds of intelligence, and recent theories argue for a further extension of the concept of intelligence to include these other classes, especially emotional intelligence. Psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey, introduced the concept of emotional intelligence in the early 1990's. Emotions are internal events that coordinate many psychological subsystems including physiological responses, cognitions, and conscious awareness. They usually arise in response to a person's changing relationships. Mayer and Salovey define emotional intelligence as, "The ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth." (5)

They further defined four critical areas of the theory: 1) Identifying Emotions, the ability to recognize how you and those around you are feeling; 2) Using Emotions, the ability to an generate emotion, and then reason with this emotion; 3) Understanding Emotions, the ability to understand complex emotions, and how emotions transition from one stage to another; and 4) Managing Emotions, the ability which allows one to manage their emotions. These important areas describe actual abilities rather than preferred courses of behavior. The four areas can be arranged from lower, more micro skills to higher, more macro skills. The lowest level skills involve the perception and appraisal of emotion, as in interpreting facial expressions or artwork. The next level involves assimilating basic emotional experiences into intellectual life, including weighing emotions against one another or other sensations and thoughts. The third level involves understanding and reasoning about emotions, and the final, highest level involves the management and regulation of emotion.

The authors measured emotional intelligence by asking a person to solve emotional problems, such as identifying the emotion in a story or painting, and then evaluating the person's answer against criteria of accuracy. However, emotional intelligence, as an ability, is often measured in other ways. Some approaches have asked people their personal, self-reported beliefs about their emotional intelligence. Test items such as, "I'm in touch with my emotions," or "I am a sensitive person," assess such self-understanding. It has been hypothesized to correlate with both intelligence and self-reported empathy. Although, the concept of emotional intelligence is still being developed, the identification of a new category of intelligence would expand contemporary ideas of intelligence. Adding another intelligence measure to the present I.Q. test would increase the test's fairness by more accurately representing people whose abilities were higher on this test than the previously existing tests. It would imply that within individuals who before had been labeled romantics or highly sensitive, thoughtful information processing is occurring.

Various people define intelligence different ways. The psychometric approach views intelligence as merely a way to predict later success in school, while emotional intelligence believes in a more inclusive definition based on emotions. I personally consider intelligence to be the potential to solve problems and be aware of both themselves and the outside world, in other words possess a well-defined I-function. I do not believe that I.Q. tests are capable of accurately measuring a person's intelligence. They are based on criteria that is much too specific and do not take into account differences such as culture. Why does intelligence need to be determined on the basis of tests? People were capable of assessing intelligence before I.Q. tests, and would probably still be able to if the tests ceased to exist. A few tests can not describe all the ways in which a person can be intelligent. The intelligence theory that comes the closes to being most comprehensive is the theory of multiple intelligences. These include linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. The theory claims that despite the fact that all humans possess all these intelligences, everyone has different profiles of intelligences (6). Originally comprised of seven intelligences, its author, Howard Gardner, is considering adding naturalist and existential, because he feels it is necessary. One can only hope that others will see the necessity of a broader definition of intelligence.

WWW and Bibliographic Sources

1)Scientific American website, Winter 1998 Special Report on Intelligence: How Intelligent is Intelligence Testing?

2)Deanne Robbins of the University of Calgary , The Philosophy of Intelligence: An Outline of Theories

3)Scientific American , Winter 1998 Special Report on Intelligence: The General Intelligence Factor

4)American Scientist July-August 1995 , The Role of Intelligence in Modern Society

5) Emotional Intelligence Informational website , Homepage of Emotional Intelligence

6) Scientific American , Winter 1998 Special Report on Intelligence: A Multiplicity of Intelligences