Throughout this essay I will be looking at what different issues researchers face when measuring intelligence and then discussing, with reference to recent studies, how successfully these issues have been resolved. It can be agreed that all types of intelligence tests measure human behaviour and that intelligence is seen as central to human life. I will be discussing the issues of validity due to previous experiences, and cultural differences between countries. With the aim to show that these problems can be successfully resolved using tests produce by Wechsler and Raven, respectively.
Intelligence testing was first introduced in the 19th century with the view to solve issues of wider education and identify the educational needs of children. Stanford-Binet produced a test in which they were able to use age-appropriate versions to monitor changes of intelligence quotient (IQ) of participants over the lifetime. The IQ was developed as a way of identifying any deviations from the expected average ability for age. Although the Stanford-Binet tests have been longstanding and have both high internal and external validity, it does not take into consideration the role of experience from the participants. This can be seen in an example from Cianciolo and Sternberg (2004) with a musical aptitude test. In the example, Cianciolo and Sternberg explain that a music teacher wants to test student’s natural musical aptitude by playing a challenging piece of music. It was suggested that those students who played well will have a high musical aptitude and those who played poorly have low musical aptitude. Although this may sound reasonable, it doesn’t take into account that the test could be measuring something else, not just aptitude, for example, musical experience or the student’s familiarity with that particular piece of music – therefore the test may not be accurate and rendered invalid, with many researchers questioning if these measures correspond with real-world outcomes.
To overcome this issue, David Wechsler introduced the Wechsler Intelligence Scale in 1955, with editions for both adults and children. Wechsler argued that intelligence is composed of various specific and intertwined functions that can and should be measured separately. The main point that was taken by Wechsler was that intelligence cannot be combined to give a single score, and as such he disagreed with the findings of the Stanford-Binet tests. Wechsler suggested that tests on intelligence should be based on intelligence being a multidimensional faction and should be reflected in a range of various sub-test, giving an insight into different processes.
The test itself comprises of assessments in 14 different areas including, but not limited to; picture completion, block design and vocabulary. All 14 areas are covered by two key constructs – verbal IQ and Performance IQ with four ‘indexes’. For administration and scoring, the duration of the tests varies depending on the type of score required with most of the scoring being objective and straightforward.
Due to the two different tests (adult and children) and given that each test comprised of various sub-tests, it was concluded that the range of applications for the Wechsler Intelligence Scales could include areas such as education, work and clinical research and is also used to examine the underlying processes of those with a-typical development to gain a greater understanding of disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Wechsler Intelligence Scales also gives a deeper insight into the processes and abilities behind each participants performance, which eliminates problems such as those seen in the musical aptitude example above.
Secondly, it has been found by many researchers that the concept of intelligence changes depending on where you are from and what culture you are brought up in (Sternberg, 2001). The main cultural differences found when studying intelligence is how closely intelligence is related to the self, versus the social world. Most western cultures refer only to the individual when looking at intelligence, someone who can see answers to problems quickly, and then act on them is seen as highly intelligent whereas in eastern countries these ideas additionally extend to social, historical and spiritual aspects of everyday interactions. In non-western cultures, the ability to show skills in problem-solving, verbal ability and social competence would not only be valued by the individual but also help to solve problems within the context of the wider community. This can be seen between Zambia where there is more emphasis on social responsibility, cooperativeness and obedience (Serpell, 1974) and Spain where the focus is primarily on strong mental abilities (Fernandez-Ballesteros and Colom, 2004).
To overcome the issues of cultural knowledge within intelligence tests, John Carlyle Raven, in 1938, attempted to create a test free of cultural influences. Known as the Ravens Progressive Matrices (RPM), there have been multiple revisions since its first edition, the underlying theory of the test has remained consistent and is built from the concept of Spearman’s theory of general intelligence (or ‘g’)(Spearman, 1904). Much like Spearman, Raven agreed that intelligence has two different factors; Reproductive and eductive, with most of the focus of RPM mainly on eductive ability.
The Ravens Progressive Matrices covers a number of skills such as pattern detection, distinguishing the difference between important and unimportant features and making sense of differences and relationships between figures. The test increases in difficulty with different questions taken from across five different sets (A-E). The test is for use with a wide age-range – from 6 to 70 years (Verguts & De Boeck, 2002). As intended by Raven, this particular test is less reliant on cultural, linguistic or experience factors and attempts to avoid reproductive or crystalized intelligence (this is intelligence that is learnt throughout the lifetime). Unlike many other tests, the Ravens Progressive Matrices has no time limit as it is designed to provide a reliable estimate of a person’s capacity to think clearly when allowed to work steadily and undisturbed, at his or her own speed (Raven, 2008).
In conclusion, there are various issues which researchers face when trying to create a suitable test to identify a person’s level of intelligence. Within this essay I have given examples of two different problems; validity due to previous experiences, and cultural differences between countries. Given that both the Weschler Intelligence Scale and the Ravens Progressive Matrices, mentioned previously, are longstanding and widely popular tests on intelligence, it can be agreed that these problems have been somewhat resolved, although further research and study into the field of intelligence will likely produce more problems and solutions in the future.