Human Intelligence
Developed by Eyal Reingold, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The purpose of this resource is to help the students, as well as other interested visitors, to navigate through the enormous number of postings on the topic of human intelligence on the web. As can be seen through this guided tour, interest in intelligence represents an explosive mixture of science and politics. It is essential that you keep this in mind as pseudo-scientific presentations aimed at promoting a particular political agenda are common in this field (some more cleverly disguised than others). You should critically evaluate and contrast the different viewpoints. Some of the issues under debate are very sensitive, and some opinions may be very offensive and or even downright repugnant. To facilitate browsing, copies of online articles will be kept on the local server. If you have difficulty linking to the original page you will be able to retrieve these copies.

Brief Background

The study of human intelligence is perhaps the most controversial area in psychology. At the same time, psychometric assessment of intelligence is a flourishing enterprise and a prominent aspect of applied psychology.

Alfred Binet launched the field of psychological testing. He was asked by the French minister of public education to develop a test that could be used to identify children who would have difficulty in school so that they could be given special instruction. The Stanford-Binet intelligence scale which is still in use today was developed in 1916 when Lewis Terman, a psychologist from Stanford university, translated into English and revised the tasks created by Binet and his collaborator Theodore Simon in 1904.

The most commonly used IQ tests for adults and children were developed by David Wechsler (1896-1981). Building on Binetís pioneering work the Wechsler scales came to embody the psychometric assessment of intelligence. The Stanford-Binet and the Wechsler Series tests are standardized tests, which have to be individually administered and interpreted by a trained psychologist. A slew of group tests which purport to measure intelligence were also created for mass, easy administration in a variety of educational, occupational and military contexts. Furthermore, tests similar to IQ tests, such as the SAT and GRE, are widely used for selection and evaluation within the education system.

In 1904 the British psychologist Charles Spearman proposed the existence of a general intelligence factor, g. He based this theory on a statistical technique which he invented, called factor analysis. Since its introduction, the factor g has been the cornerstone of psychometric models of intelligence. Furthermore, Spearmanís g has often been used by researchers and theoreticians to make the case for the genetic basis of intelligence and to downplay the importance of environmental influences.

The nature versus nurture debate in the context of the study of human intelligence is by far the most viciously contested aspect of this field. This is the case because psychometric IQ tests have been misused to label certain ethnic and racial groups as superior or inferior based on the belief that these tests measure genetically based, non-modifiable aspects of human performance. This strong genetic determinism view is also used for the promotion of the neoconservative political agenda calling for the abolition of affirmative action, as well as early intervention programs such as Head Start, which attempt to compensate for detrimental environmental factors experienced by certain groups within society. Even worse, genetic determinism of intelligence serves the eugenics movement, which argues for genetic selection to produce superior human beings.

An additional important controversy surrounds the issue of 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 very narrow aspect of human intellectual performance. Such researchers also highlight the crucial importance of considering the cultural context for a proper evaluation of performance. Recently, Mayer & Salovey and Goleman argued for a further extension of the concept of intelligence to include emotional intelligence. What all these views have in common is the argument that human intelligence is not unitary, rather, it involves multiple, dissociable facets.

The links below are grouped into four sections. The first section provides links to background and introductory papers. The second section deals with the "intelligence: one versus many debate". The third section deals with the "intelligence: nature versus nurture debate". As explained earlier these two debates are not totally independent, and therefore you should attempt to integrate the material across these two sections. Finally, the last section allows you to visit sites concerning high IQ societies and people, and online IQ and educational tests.

Many links provided here have been archived locally, so they will remain accessible even if the original server is unavailable for some reason. These links will be followed by the text: (local copy). Readers are encouraged to try the normal links first though, in case the page is updated, or altered in some way.

A. Human Intelligence: Introduction and Background

1) Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns ( local copy ) :

Report of a Task Force established by the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association, August 7, 1995. This is arguably the best introduction to the scientific study of human intelligence. The task force was headed by Ulric Neisser who is one of the most respected cognitive psychologist of our generation.

2) Intelligence Considered ( local copy ) : What does it mean to have brain power? A search for a definition of intelligence.

This is a concise overview of intelligence research and theorizing. Written by Philip Yam the editor of the special issue of Scientific American - Exploring Intelligence, Volume 9, Number 4, Winter 1998.

3) The Role of Intelligence in Modern Society ( local copy ) by Earl Hunt; American Scientist, July-August 1995.

Hunt and his colleagues have made seminal contributions to the development of cognitive approaches to the study of intelligence. This paper provides a more advanced introduction to psychometric approaches to the measurement of intelligence, as well as to the issue of the predictive validity of IQ tests.

4) Links to original articles by some of the founders of the psychometric approach to intelligence including Galton, Binet, Terman and J. M. Cattell. An Internet resource developed by Christopher Green, York University, Toronto, Ontario.

5) Emergence of Intelligence ( local copy ), by William H. Calvin, special issue of Scientific American - Exploring Intelligence, Volume 9, Number 4, Winter 1998.

Intriguing, if speculative theory on the evolution of human intelligence.

B. Human Intelligence: one versus many debate

1). One Intelligence or Many?--Alternative Approaches to Cognitive Abilities ( local copy ), by Han S. Paik, Washington University.

A concise introduction to the one vs. many debate, with brief commentaries and replies.

2). The General Intelligence Factor ( local copy ): Despite some popular assertions, a single factor for intelligence, called g, can be measured with IQ tests and does predict success in life. by Linda S. Gottfredson, special issue of Scientific American - Exploring Intelligence, Volume 9, Number 4, Winter 1998.

The title says it all.

3) Howard Gardner - Multiple Intelligences:

3.1) The Bright Stuff ( local copy ) Christopher Koch interviews Howard Gardner, CIO Magazine, Mar 1996.

3.2) Cracking Open the IQ Box ( local copy ), Howard Gardner, The American Prospect, no. 20 Winter 1995.

3.3) Resources in Teaching - Multiple Intelligences

3.4) Multiple Intelligence Theory, (local copy only) Simcoe County District School Board, 1996

4) Robert Sternberg - The Triarchic Theory of Intelligence

4.1) Skeptic Magazine Interview with Robert Sternberg on The Bell Curve ( local copy ), Interview by Frank Miele, Skeptic, vol. 3, no. 3, 1995.

4.2) Be careful of how you define intelligence ( local copy only), Robert Sternberg of Yale explores the cultural underpinnings of intelligence. By Beth Azar, APA Monitor, Oct. 1997.

4.3) What Does It Mean to Be Smart? ( local copy ) By Robert J. Sternberg, Educational Leadership, Vol. 54, No. 6, March 1997

4.4) Lessons in increasing intelligence ( local copy only), By Robert J. Sternberg, interviewed by Bottom Line/Personal 1998.

4.5) Sparking interest in psychology class ( local copy only), by Bridget Murray, APA Monitor, Oct. 1995.

4.6) Triarchic Abilities Test ( local copy ) by Robert Sternberg

5) Emotional Intelligence.

5.1) Emotional Intelligence Informational Website

5.2) The Author Talks About Emotions ( local copy ) Success depends on self-control, he says, by Patricia Holt, The San Francisco Chronicle 1995.

5.3) Whatís your Emotional Intelligence Quotient? Utne Reader, Nov/Dec 1995.

C. Human Intelligence: nature versus nurture debate

1) On the genetic determinism of intelligence ( local copy ) - the classic reference. Excerpts from Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius (Macmillan, 2nd edition, 1892)

See also Galton on Hereditary Character and Talent

2) Innate Gifts and Talents: Reality or Myth? ( local copy ) By M.J.A. Howe, J.W. Davidson, & J.A. Sloboda. Brain and Behavioral Sciences, 21, 399-442, 1998.

An excellent review of the nature versus nurture debate in the context of the study of exceptional performance.

3) The Bell Curve Controversy:

3.1) Two Views of The Bell Curve ( local copy ) one from each of the opposing camps.

3.2) Ned Block provides an excellent conceptual analysis ( local copy ) of flaws in The Bell Curve's arguments.

3.3) Upstream created a comprehensive resource with numerous links ( local copy ) to issues pertaining to the controversy following the publication of the "The Bell Curve" by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994), including an article summarizing the book (local copy), by J. Laurie Snell, from Chance magazine.

4) A previous book, Stephen Jay Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" (1981) was somewhat of a mirror image of "The Bell Curve" by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. As expected the opposing theoretical camp was not amused. Below are links to some negative reviews. Information about Stephen Jay Gould and his writings can be found here ( local copy )

4.1) Reflections on Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man (1981) ( local copy ) : A Retrospective Review, by John Carroll, Intelligence 21, 121-134 (1995)

4.2) The debunking of scientific fossils and straw persons ( local copy ), by Arthur Jensen, Contemporary Education Review, Summer 1982,

4.3) Review and Critique of Stephan Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man ( local copy only), by Scott Morrison, January 1995

5) Eugenics: The genetic determinism view of intelligence taken to an appalling extreme.

5.1) The Roots of the I.Q. Debate: Eugenics and Social Control ( local copy ), by Margaret Quigley, The Public Eye, March 1995

5.2) The Racial Genetics of Intelligence ( local copy ): The Gadfly Interview with Dr. Robert Gordon, by Christina Papavasiliou.

6) Early intervention programs:

6.1) Head Start ( local copy ).

6.2) The Carolina Abecedarian Project:

D. Human Intelligence: High IQ Societies, People, and Online IQ tests

The purpose of this section is to examine popular culture concepts of intelligence as they are reflected by postings providing a variety of online "tests" advertised to measure some form of intelligence. Some of the links look at the postings concerning high IQ societies and people.

High IQ People:

Marilyn vos Savant, Her IQ score is listed as "highest IQ" in the "Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame"

And here is a site dedicated to proving that Marilyn is Wrong!

Chris Hirata a High IQ 16 year old.

High IQ societies:

Mensa International

Uncommonly Difficult IQ Tests


Personality and IQ Test

Whatís Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient? You'll Soon Find Out.

Assessing Your Learning Style: An inventory of multiple intelligences

Sternberg-Wagner Thinking Styles Inventory

GRE Sample Questions