The Measurement of Intelligence through IQ Tests Essay

The Measurement of Intelligence through IQ Tests Essay

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The Measurement of Intelligence through IQ Tests

Can intelligence be measured? Does an IQ test actually measure a person’s intelligence? Does a high score indicate a genius? Does a low score indicate stupidity or merely ignorance? These questions have been asked over and over again by psychiatrists and scientists alike, but to date there are no clear answers. These questions cannot be answered without first defining what is meant by the term intelligence. Once intelligence has been defined then it should be easy to answer these questions; however, multiple definitions of the word tend to lead to further confusion.
In a 1921 symposium entitled “Intelligence and Its Measurement”, psychiatrists were asked to define intelligence and their answers varied greatly. One described intelligence as “equivalent to the capacity to learn.” Other definitions included “the ability to adapt adequately to relatively new situations”, “the capacity to learn or profit from experience”, and “the knowledge that an individual possesses.” And one stated that there was no simple definition to the word because “intelligence involves two factors- the capacity for knowledge and knowledge possessed” (Sternberg & Detterman, 1986, p.39-40).

Dictionaries add still more definitions: Funk & Wagnall’s defines intelligence as “The faculty of perceiving and comprehending meaning; mental quickness; active intellect; understanding” , while Webster’s defines it as “the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations; the skilled use of reason.” While some of these definitions are similar, none of them are exactly the same.
The definition of intelligence becomes even more complicated when one considers the work of Howard Gardner. Gardner claims that intelligence can not be defined with one definition because intelligence is not one thing. Gardner purports that there are eight different categories of intelligence: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. He is currently considering adding a ninth category of intelligence: existential (Carvin).
Gardner believes that all people excel in at least one category of intelligence. However, he cautions teachers using the multiple intelligence approach in the classroom: “Do not label kids as ‘spatial, but not linguistic’ or, for that...

... middle of paper ...

... when they arrive the store is out of bread. The children are then asked what they would do with points only being scored for the answer of going to another store; however, for children living in large urban ghetto areas the most popular answer has traditionally been to go home. Researchers argue that, considering the environment that these children live in, going home would be a much more intelligent decision than attempting to go to another store (Lawler, 1978, p.34).

Can intelligence be measured? Does an IQ test actually measure a person’s intelligence? The answers all depend on who you ask.



Block, N. & Dworkin, G. (1976). The iq controversy. New York: Random House.

Carvin, A. EdWeb: Exploring technology and school reform. [On-Line]. Available:

Durie, R. The building tool room: an interview with Howard Gardner. [On-Line]. Available:

Lawler, J. (1978). Iq, heritability, and racism. New York: International Publishers.

Sternberg, R. & Detterman, D. (1986). What is intelligence. New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

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