Definitions of Intelligence

1296 words (5 pages) Essay

15th Aug 2017 Psychology Reference this

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The discussion would depend on one’s definition of intelligence. The Oxford dictionary defines intelligence as, “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”. Can one inherit that ability or does that ability need to be learned? It could be said that you don’t need intelligence to acquire knowledge just the ability to listen or read coupled with the ability to remember. Everyone is born with the ability to hear but that is of course not the same as the ability to listen.

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Knowledge does not equal intelligence. Computers have knowledge that they are given but that does not make them intelligent for as the Oxford definition said intelligence is the application of that knowledge. Therefore wisdom as opposed to knowledge in itself would be a better way of describing intelligence; the ability to use accumulated knowledge in any given situation. Children are like sponges they can soak up an endless stream of information and facts and relate them back on cue but initially they cannot use that information in an intelligent way, they can however learn.

Many animals from rats to monkeys to dolphins are said to be intelligent creatures. They have shown “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”. Where did their intelligence come from was it inherited from their parents, did they acquire it through good parenting skills or did they just ‘learn’ to be intelligent; or is their intelligence merely an inbuilt instinct that enables them to survive and reproduce?

Talking to babies for at least 30 minutes daily can measurably increase their intelligence and language skills according to Dr. Sally Ward who conducted a study called BabyTalk which concluded that talking to babies for at least half an hour each day can increase the intelligence of the baby. 140 nine month old babies were studied the mothers of half of the group were given advice as to how to talk to their babies; the other half were given no such advice. Seven years later Ward reported that the average intelligence of the group that were talked to was a year and three months ahead of the other group. This study having been carried out in the 1990’s led Ward to add conclude further that babies in general were not being spoken to as much as they used to be as mothers were going out to work and that videotapes had replaced conversation in many homes. Videotapes have now of course been replaced by a plethora of technological distractions to speech (Ward, 2000).

In addition research carried out at the University of Iowa showed that it’s not just the quantity but also the tone of the words that a baby hears that affects its ability to think rationally, reason abstractly and solve problems. This thirty month study concluded that the amount of words a baby hears “had a profound effect on each child’s abilities to think conceptually by age 4” and that “the first three years are unique in the lives of humans because infants are so utterly dependent on adults for all their nurture and language” (Hart & Risley, 2003).

There was a Venezuelan lawyer and sociologist named Luis Alberto Machado who believes that every child is born with the potential to be a genius. In one experiment carried out in Caracus 35 children from the Amazon jungle learned to play the violin in less than 10 weeks with the guidance the a Japanese master violinist Shinichi Suzuki. Their ability was such that they played in the highly recognised National Youth Orchestra which entailed performing difficult pieces from Beethoven and Haydn (“Anyone Can Be Smart,” 1980).

Masaru Ibuka, co-founder of Sony who wrote Kindergaten Is Too Late which included a foreword by Glenn Doman founder of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, wrote:

“At last, however, the study of cerebral physiology on the one hand and infant psychology on the other has made it possible to show that the key to the development of intelligence is in the child’s experience of the first three years-that is, during the period of development of the brain cells. No child is thus born a genius, and none is born a fool. All depends on the stimulation of the brain cells during the crucial years.”

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A further argument for the environmental effect on IQ was shown in a study conducted in 1978 finding that children that had been adopted into middle-class home had when compared to their siblings raised by their natural parents all from a lower economic class were significantly higher at around 15 point above those of their less privileged siblings. There is an argument that experience aids performance in an IQ test therefore they are unreliable and flawed, that argument is itself flawed as the experience of having tried the test or similar tests previously has contributed towards learning and knowledge and IQ, the experience has in itself helped the person gain intelligence.

There was a time when experts believed that babies less than a year old were unable to coordinate data from more than one sense at a time. Then Andrew Meltzoff of the University of Washington reported at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that babies between 12 and 21 days old had been observed imitating facial gestures. He concluded that a baby is capable of “relating information it receives from separate senses right from birth, and it has psychological mechanisms for forging links between itself and other human beings right from the beginning” (Meltzoff & Moore, 1983). His work has been repeated since with the same results, but not always; Eugene Abravanel a child development specialist at George Washington University added that the “infant imitation is ‘fragile’ and difficult to elicit in very young babies”. Yet Jean Piaget maintained that the imitation of facial gestures is an important milestone in an infant’s development. In imitating a facial gesture, the baby is matching a gesture it sees with a gesture of its own that it cannot see, a sophisticated skill that Piaget claimed was beyond the competence of infants younger than about 8 to 12 months (cited in: “New Picture of the Infant Emerges,” 1985).

For many years scientists have argued over the nature v nurture debate but now the answer is clear; at least according to Robert Plomin, a deputy director of the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Center at King’s College London who says in the Scientific American under the heading “Is Intelligence Hereditary?” that “the differences between people on intelligence tests are substantially the result of genetic differences” (Plomin, 2017). However he later in the same article qualifies his statement by admitting that genes “are not the whole story” and that they only account for half of the differences in intelligence concluding that the other half “provides strong support for the importance of environmental factors”; therefore sitting firmly on the fence by saying it’s not nurture or nature that determines intelligence alone, it’s both equally. Which is not surprising as the current consensus in psychology and is termed ‘interactionist’ the view expressed by Ridley in the title of this discussion:

“Mother Nature has plainly not entrusted the determination of our intellectual capacities to the blind fate of a gene or genes; she gave us parents, learning, language, culture and education to program ourselves with” (1999).

The discussion would depend on one’s definition of intelligence. The Oxford dictionary defines intelligence as, “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”. Can one inherit that ability or does that ability need to be learned? It could be said that you don’t need intelligence to acquire knowledge just the ability to listen or read coupled with the ability to remember. Everyone is born with the ability to hear but that is of course not the same as the ability to listen.

Knowledge does not equal intelligence. Computers have knowledge that they are given but that does not make them intelligent for as the Oxford definition said intelligence is the application of that knowledge. Therefore wisdom as opposed to knowledge in itself would be a better way of describing intelligence; the ability to use accumulated knowledge in any given situation. Children are like sponges they can soak up an endless stream of information and facts and relate them back on cue but initially they cannot use that information in an intelligent way, they can however learn.

Many animals from rats to monkeys to dolphins are said to be intelligent creatures. They have shown “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”. Where did their intelligence come from was it inherited from their parents, did they acquire it through good parenting skills or did they just ‘learn’ to be intelligent; or is their intelligence merely an inbuilt instinct that enables them to survive and reproduce?

Talking to babies for at least 30 minutes daily can measurably increase their intelligence and language skills according to Dr. Sally Ward who conducted a study called BabyTalk which concluded that talking to babies for at least half an hour each day can increase the intelligence of the baby. 140 nine month old babies were studied the mothers of half of the group were given advice as to how to talk to their babies; the other half were given no such advice. Seven years later Ward reported that the average intelligence of the group that were talked to was a year and three months ahead of the other group. This study having been carried out in the 1990’s led Ward to add conclude further that babies in general were not being spoken to as much as they used to be as mothers were going out to work and that videotapes had replaced conversation in many homes. Videotapes have now of course been replaced by a plethora of technological distractions to speech (Ward, 2000).

In addition research carried out at the University of Iowa showed that it’s not just the quantity but also the tone of the words that a baby hears that affects its ability to think rationally, reason abstractly and solve problems. This thirty month study concluded that the amount of words a baby hears “had a profound effect on each child’s abilities to think conceptually by age 4” and that “the first three years are unique in the lives of humans because infants are so utterly dependent on adults for all their nurture and language” (Hart & Risley, 2003).

There was a Venezuelan lawyer and sociologist named Luis Alberto Machado who believes that every child is born with the potential to be a genius. In one experiment carried out in Caracus 35 children from the Amazon jungle learned to play the violin in less than 10 weeks with the guidance the a Japanese master violinist Shinichi Suzuki. Their ability was such that they played in the highly recognised National Youth Orchestra which entailed performing difficult pieces from Beethoven and Haydn (“Anyone Can Be Smart,” 1980).

Masaru Ibuka, co-founder of Sony who wrote Kindergaten Is Too Late which included a foreword by Glenn Doman founder of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, wrote:

“At last, however, the study of cerebral physiology on the one hand and infant psychology on the other has made it possible to show that the key to the development of intelligence is in the child’s experience of the first three years-that is, during the period of development of the brain cells. No child is thus born a genius, and none is born a fool. All depends on the stimulation of the brain cells during the crucial years.”

A further argument for the environmental effect on IQ was shown in a study conducted in 1978 finding that children that had been adopted into middle-class home had when compared to their siblings raised by their natural parents all from a lower economic class were significantly higher at around 15 point above those of their less privileged siblings. There is an argument that experience aids performance in an IQ test therefore they are unreliable and flawed, that argument is itself flawed as the experience of having tried the test or similar tests previously has contributed towards learning and knowledge and IQ, the experience has in itself helped the person gain intelligence.

There was a time when experts believed that babies less than a year old were unable to coordinate data from more than one sense at a time. Then Andrew Meltzoff of the University of Washington reported at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that babies between 12 and 21 days old had been observed imitating facial gestures. He concluded that a baby is capable of “relating information it receives from separate senses right from birth, and it has psychological mechanisms for forging links between itself and other human beings right from the beginning” (Meltzoff & Moore, 1983). His work has been repeated since with the same results, but not always; Eugene Abravanel a child development specialist at George Washington University added that the “infant imitation is ‘fragile’ and difficult to elicit in very young babies”. Yet Jean Piaget maintained that the imitation of facial gestures is an important milestone in an infant’s development. In imitating a facial gesture, the baby is matching a gesture it sees with a gesture of its own that it cannot see, a sophisticated skill that Piaget claimed was beyond the competence of infants younger than about 8 to 12 months (cited in: “New Picture of the Infant Emerges,” 1985).

For many years scientists have argued over the nature v nurture debate but now the answer is clear; at least according to Robert Plomin, a deputy director of the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Center at King’s College London who says in the Scientific American under the heading “Is Intelligence Hereditary?” that “the differences between people on intelligence tests are substantially the result of genetic differences” (Plomin, 2017). However he later in the same article qualifies his statement by admitting that genes “are not the whole story” and that they only account for half of the differences in intelligence concluding that the other half “provides strong support for the importance of environmental factors”; therefore sitting firmly on the fence by saying it’s not nurture or nature that determines intelligence alone, it’s both equally. Which is not surprising as the current consensus in psychology and is termed ‘interactionist’ the view expressed by Ridley in the title of this discussion:

“Mother Nature has plainly not entrusted the determination of our intellectual capacities to the blind fate of a gene or genes; she gave us parents, learning, language, culture and education to program ourselves with” (1999).

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