psychology

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Effectiveness of specific attempts to train intelligence

Intelligence otherwise known as IQ, which stands for intelligent quotient, has many different definitions and explanations. Some psychologists’ claim that intelligence is fixed before birth, whereas others claim that intelligence is genetic. Others claim that intelligence can be improved by training an individual to become more intelligent, whilst others claim that intelligence cannot be trained, and environmental factors influence the levels. Therefore they have all came up with different ways to ‘attempt’ to train intelligence. The oxford dictionary defines intelligence as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

There have been many studies into intelligence and over the past one hundred years or so, they have become more sophisticated. Alfred Binẻt the founder of psychometrics developed early intelligence tests in 1905; these were developed in order to help identify special needs children in the Parisian school system. The Stanford-Binẻt scale was later standardised by Terman in 1916, and then extended in 1939 by Wechsler. This helped to identify all children who struggled to study and needed extra help, it helped to show that some people can have more or less intelligence, for example rank order, not everyone agreed with rank orders however Binẻt believed that this could be used to help people.

Most of the standardised tests of intelligence measure what have been called group factors, these largely include memory, verbal ability, perceptual speed, and spatial ability among others, and these have all been shown to correlate to one another creating a general intelligence. Brody (1992) claimed that although not accounting for all types of intelligent behaviour, standardised measures are highly reliable and can predict later educational attainment, occupational status and intellectual performance.

Behavioural genetic methods assume that differences in the measures of intelligence or academic achievement can be influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. Heritability is the proportion of differences in measured behaviour that can be explained by genetic differences in the population, for example the similarity in reading ability between family members may be influenced by shared genes important to reading. Estimates were made by looking at twins and families with adoptive children. The genetic influences on intelligence were statistically significant averaging at around 50% (Plomin and Petrill, 1997). It was also found that heritability also varies with age (Plomin, Fulker, Corley, and DeFries, 1997) with early childhood starting at 40%, 60% in early adulthood, and 80% in late adulthood. However, shared family environmental influences are significant in early and middle childhood but decrease to zero by adolescence and early adulthood. Plomin (1988) found that non-shared environmental influences are significant throughout the lifespan. These results are found not for general intelligence, but also for specific cognitive abilities.

Thurstone (1939) came up with one of the earliest models of intelligence and proposed that using factor analysis could identify a number of primary mental abilities, from this the structure of intellect (SOI) was proposed by Guilford (1956; 1959; 1967; 1981) who claimed that it was a comprehensive theory of intelligence that could provide a useful explanation of individual differences in human ability. In the 1960s the SOI model was elaborated by Meeker who concentrated on the link between basic learning and intellectual ability, she found that IQ is not invariant and that intellectual intelligences and the ability to think critically can be taught. She therefore developed a training programme that was specifically designed to improve critical thinking abilities.

This was put into practice during a study of the workers in a manufacturing facility in Ireland; it was found that SOI measures learning capacity rather than learning ability. Participants had to complete both the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Skills Assessment (CTSA) and the Raven’s standard progressive matrices (SPM) in both an experimental group and a control group. An improvement in the experimental group’s results could be seen as contradictory of the view that critical thinking developmental interventions must begin in infancy and be carried through school. However, it could also suggest that it is never too late to intervene in this and that individuals may acquire jobs based on what they learn rather than what they have learnt. The results of the study showed that there was no significant differences between the pre-test and post-test scores when it came to the CTSA assessment, although there was a significant difference between the pre-test and post-test scores when completing the SPM test.

Hernstein and Murray came up with The Bell Curve argument, which involved two different claims; firstly that the Darwinism belief would be returned to, this was often the term given to any evolutionary argument about the biological basis of human differences, although the original meaning referred to a theory of class stratification in industrial societies, especially to the idea that constant poverty stricken people consisting of genetically inferior people that had spiralled down into their own inevitable fate. This half of the bell curve happens because if a paradox egalitarianism which means an inconsistency in fairness. So long as people who remain on top of the social status by accident through parental wealth and so on, people from the poverty stricken group cannot rise regardless of talents, therefore social stratification will not reflect intelligence . Nevertheless, if true equality of opportunity could be attained, smart people would rise and the lower classes would only retain those who were not the brightest or not intelligent.

The teaching of intelligence and the teaching of academic achievement can seem almost the same, there are differences however, differences in the interventions designed to improve intelligence do not focus on improving academic skill, such as mathematics. The teaching of intelligence focuses on improving mental processes such as problem solving or reasoning, the teaching of intelligence can therefore be completed in standalone courses or through infusion into ongoing classroom practices.

Binẻt believed that intelligence could be improved through the enhancement of judgement skills and a special needs child would enjoy success in standard education through improving his/her intelligence by using this skill. Binẻt then in 1975 created what he called mental orthopaedics, which he introduced a set of simple exercises to enhance the school readiness of special needs students. He found that after one year in his mental orthopaedics programme special needs children advanced their school performance by two years, however, Francis Galton (1883) believed that intelligence was innate and not changeable. Lazar and Darlington (1982) stated that Binẻt’s theory was developed by Americans into a system named Head Start it was backed by the Government slightly in America and it was found that it demonstrated improved attitudes towards school performance, and therefore the likelihood of repeating years was reduced as well as enrolment in special education courses.

Instructional intervention based on Spearman’s 1927 theory, Spearman’s general intelligence theory attempts to identify components that make up intelligence, looking at general intelligence with specific ability, could target the general intelligence factor. The effectiveness should be evaluated by examining test scores of general intelligence, if someone could score higher scores on intelligence tests and keep them up, it can be concluded that the intervention was successful in increasing intelligence. Andrade and Perkins (1998), Grotzer and Perkins (2000) designed cognitive reorganisation (CORE for short) in order to enhance five areas. Firstly, thinking strategies people use to solve problems; secondly, methods people use to monitor their thought processes; next, peoples thinking tendencies and attitudes toward thinking; another area included the technological and social supports people used for thinking; and last but not least, the methods people use to extend their thinking in new situations.

The CORE technique was designed in order to make students think more deeply about problems before attempting to solve them, and evaluations of this technique were held up through difficulty in conducting studies to test it, as they involved long term commitment of many people. Nevertheless, evaluation studies have concluded that there are generally positive results indicating that teaching thinking skills is adequate in improving people’s intellectual abilities temporarily.

In conclusion, it can be said that there are many different methods in how to train intelligence, and many different approaches, however, everyone is individually different and therefore methods that may work on one person may not work on another. There is also no way of knowing how long each training method may last on an individual, as to whether it may work at all (Francis Galton, 1883). Training appears to be successful for those with special needs and in lower social standings; however, there have not been many studies into intelligence training on those who are already capable of good scholarship and therefore a generalised conclusion shall have to be made without greater evidence.

Word Count: 1445


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