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Human beings are more unique and superior to other living beings in many aspects. the most important of which is INTELLIGENCE. Success in schools and colleges and in ones own profession, social adjustment, possession of general information etc are part of the meaning commonly associated with the concept "intelligence".

According to Alfred Binet, Intelligence involves abilities such as, "Understanding, Originality, Persistence and Self criticism".

According to Wechsler, "Intelligence is the aggregate or global capacity of an individual to act purposefully, to think rationally and to deal effectively with the environment".

Thus Intelligence involves the 3 major aspects as

  1. Adjustment or adaptation ability
  2. Ability to learn
  3. Ability to carryout abstract thinking.

Theories of intelligence

There are many views regarding what constitutes intelligence. Different psychologists have given different view points and formulated their own theories of intelligence. Some important such theories are as follows:

Unitary or Monarchy Theory

This theory holds that intelligence consists of all pervasive capacities. Binet, Terman and some other classical psychologists supported this view.
According to this theory, if one has a fund of intelligence he can utilise it to any area of his life. The intelligence of a person gets stamped in all what he thinks and acts.
But in our practical life we see contrary to this. A genial mathematical professor may be absent minded or social ill-adjusted.
Further analysis of scores in an intelligence test battery shows that different tests in the battery are not highly correlated. Hence, it is suggested that the unifactory approach is too simple and a complex model is needed to explain intelligence satisfactorily.

Two Factor theory of Spearman

Spearman proposed this Two factor theory of intelligence in 1904.
As the name implies, the theory involves two factors namely General(G) and Specific(S) factors.
The first factor was a general capacity which was basically a reasoning factor. According to this theory every different mental ability involves a general factor(G), which it shares with all other mental activities and a specific factor(S), which is shared with none.
The general factor is largely innate and accounts for success in all activities.
It is constant in the sense that for any individual it remains the same of all the correlated activities. It differs from individual to individual. But success in any specialised field very much depends on the concern specific factor which is essentially learned.
Thus no person is absolutely uniform in his mental performance. So persons who are good in certain field or discipline may be poor in the other. Some who excel in Mathematics might be poor in language or literature.
Thus, performance in any situation is predicted by the amount of share of General and Specific factors in different intellectual activities.

Multi-factor theory of Thorndike

Thorndike was an Associationist and he opposed the theory of General intelligence.
He proposed that they are Specific stimuli and Specific response.
According to him, Intelligence is nothing more than a convenient name for almost infinite number of actual or potential specific connections between these stimuli and responses.
According to the theory intelligence is said to be constituted of multitude of separate factors or elements each being a minute element or ability.
A mental act involves a a number of these minute elements operating together. If any two tasks are correlated, the degree of correlation is due to the common elements involved in the two tasks.

Thorndike distinguished 4 attributes of intelligence. They are:


This refers to the difficulty of a task that can be solved. If we think of all test items arranged in a sequential order of increasing difficulty, then the height that we can ascend on this ladder of difficulty determines our level of intelligence.


This refers to the number of tasks at any given degree of difficulty that we can solve. Theoretically an individual possessing a given level of intelligence should be able to solve the whole range of task at that level. Range is determined not only by Level but also by the Breadth of experience and by opportunity to learn.
In intelligence tests range is representated by items of equal difficulty.


It refers to the total number of situations at each level to which the individual is able to respond. Area is the summation of all the ranges at each level of intelligence processed by an individual.


This is the rapidity with which an individual can respond to items.
Speed and altitude are positively related. Speed is much closely bound up with altitude than are the other attributes. We should not therefore emphasis speed too much in our intelligence test.

Group-factor theory of Thurstone

Thurstone and his associates proposed the Group factor theory.
According to this theory, Intelligent activity is not an expression of innumerable highly specific factor as thorndike claimed. Nor it is the expression primarily of a general factor as Spearman held.
Instead the analysis and interpretation of Thurstone and others, lead them to the conclusion that certain mental operations have in common a PRIMARY factor that gives them psychological and functional unity and which differentiates them from other mental operations.
These mental operations then constitute a group.
A second group of mental operations has its own unifying Primary factor; a third group has a third Primary factor and so on.
Each of these primary factor is said to be relatively independent of others. From further analysis, Thurstone and his associates concluded that seven Primary mental abilities emerged clearly enough for identification and used in test designing. They are:

  1. Space visualisation: The ability to visualise geometric pattern.
  2. Perceptual speed: Speed and accuracy of noting details.
  3. Numerical ability: Speed and accuracy in simple arithmetic operations.
  4. Verbal comprehension: Knowledge of meaning and relationship of words.
  5. Word fluency: Ability to think and use many isolated words at a rapid rate.
  6. Rote memory: Immediate recall or retrieval of material learned.
  7. Reasoning: Ability to see relationship in situations described in symbols.

This theory has more clearly specified and defined test categories and types of test items to be included.
Several test batteries have been constructed on the basis of this theory.
Based on the findings of this theory, H.E.Garret has postulated a developmental theory of intelligence in which he argues that with increasing age, abilities differentiates out of general abstract intelligence into relatively independent factors.

Structure of Intellect by Guilford

Guilford and his associates proposed the theory of Structure of Intellects on their attempt of factor analysis.
Guilford suggests that mind is composed of 3 major dimensions namely

Process of operations

Material or Contents


Six process of operations


This involves immediate discovery, rediscovery, awareness, comprehension and understanding.

Memory recording

It is a fundamental operation. It refers to the retention of what is recognised for a short duration.

Memory retention

It means the retention of what is recognised for a long period of time.

Convergent thinking

It refers to the generation of information from the given data where the emphasis is on conventionally accepted best outcomes.

Divergent thinking

It involves thinking in different directions, searching and seeking some different variety and novelty. It is closely related with creativity. It simply means thinking out of the box.


It refers to the reaching of conclusion and decision as the goodness, correctness, adequacy and desirability of information.

Five Materials or Contents

Visual content

It refers to the concrete material perceived through ideas and thoughts.

Auditory contents

It refers to the matter or information perceived through ears.

Symbolic content

It refers to the composition of letters, digits or other conventional signs and symbols usually organised in general patterns.

Semantic content

It refers to the clear verbal form of meanings or ideas for which no examples are necessary.

Behavioural content

It refers to the social intelligence which enables one to understand human communications.

Six Products


This is similar to Gestalt psychology of figure and ground; relatively segregated items.


It refers to conceptions underlying sets of information or data grouped by virtue of their common properties.


It refers to the connections between items of information based on variables. These connections are more meaningful and definable.


It refers to the aggregate of items of information or data with a structure.


It refers to the changes like redefination, modification in existing information or its functions.


It refers to the explorations of information in the form of expectancies, predictions and consequences.

Thus according to Guilford there can be only 180 mental abilities that comes as a result of six processes operating on any one of the 5 contents to produce anyone of the 6 products.
Thus 6*5* 6=180 mental abilities.

Guilford neglects the idea of some fixed amount of intelligence. Instead, he claims that development of intellectual skill as in any other skill depends on practice. Unlike others, he is concerned with the social behaviour of the individual besides academic success. Therefore, he deviced some test of social sensibility. He considers Interpersonal skills. He refers to the dymanic cluster of skills which can always be improved.

Hirarchial Theory of Burt & Vernon

Cyril Burt and Bernon compared human intelligence to a growing tree. When it is a small plant, its thick trunk appears to be the primary part. As the plant grows into tree, many branches set off from different points of the trunk which in turn generate their own off shoots and thus the tree continues its expands.

Similarly, during childhood upto 10/12 years, intelligence operates as a single factor. In the early adolescence between 12 and 14 years, this single basic factor, branches off into two major factors as verbal educational (V.Ed) and Spatial mechanical (KM) and start maturing.
During adolescence, between 14 and 18 years, group factors get generated from these two major factors and they inturn produce more specific factors.

Thus the General factor grows into two elements such as Verbal education and Spatical mechanical as major factors. They further produce minor factors as verbal fluency, comprehension, rote memory from verbal education and Spatial perception and perceptial speed from Spatial mechanical.

Thus, different psychologists have formulated different theories based on the structure and function of various elements involved in intelligence.

Also read

Also read the other related articles on interviews, group discussions, stress management, team working, time management and such other related topics and theories and use the tools in my home page by clicking here

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