What is the psychology of intelligence? General psychology explains the functioning of intelligence from the study of its development in children.
The researchers are following three orientations: the experimental perspective (transfer of learning), the generalization of intelligence (see if the individual who succeeds in task A can succeed in task B or the other similar tasks), and the final explanation of the functioning of intelligence.
The psychology of intelligence is based on the study of Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Anthropology (evolution), Cognitive Ethology (animal intelligence), Neuroscience (biology), and even genetics.
In animals, it is the endocrine and/or neuronal communication systems that produce intelligence.
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The Psychology of Intelligence
I – The Psychology of Intelligence and Its Definition
Intelligence is the set of processes found in systems, more or less complex, alive or not, that allow us to understand, learn or adapt to new situations. The definition of intelligence and the question of a faculty of general intelligence has been the subject of many philosophical and scientific discussions. Intelligence has been described as a faculty of adaptation (learning to adapt to the environment or on the contrary, the ability to modify the environment to adapt to its own needs). In this general sense, animals, plants, or computer tools (deep learning) are intelligent.
Intelligence can also be perceived as the ability to process information to achieve goals.
In general, intelligence is understood as the ability or ability to understand the relationships between the elements of a situation and adapt to them in order to achieve one’s own ends.
• Today studies show that animals are endowed with a form of intelligence (practical intelligence): see the example of Kenya’s lions.
• Intelligence is not always verbal. In reality, language serves the intelligence but it does not always reflect it: see the example of the deaf mutes.
• As Professor Charles SPEARMAN has shown, the intellectual capacities of the human being are expressed on the basis of two factors: the general factor (G), which is intelligence common to all aptitudes) – and the specific factor (S) specific to the skill considered (specific to each human being).
The psychology of intelligence foresees many kinds of intelligence that vary according to beings and species. This is why THORNDIKE distinguished these three great types of intelligence: abstract or conceptual intelligence, practical intelligence, and social intelligence.
II – The Different Types of Intelligence
1 – Abstract or Conceptual Intelligence
When we talk about an intelligent person, it is on many levels. To find out whether a given individual has a high Intellectual Quotient (IQ), scholars are very interested in his abstract intelligence, which is divided into three dimensions. Let’s follow these 3 stages of realization.
• Logical intelligence uses the reasoning and aptitude of the tested individual to solve a more or less complicated problem by using demonstration and logic. We will also speak of analytical intelligence. This one describes the mental process by which intelligence is expressed. It allows efficient information processing: solving problems and analyzing results.
Also, one could mention the logico-mathematical intelligence: it is the capacity for logic, analysis, observation as well as solving problems. This type of intelligence allows the analysis of the causes and consequences of a fact, the issuance of hypotheses, the understanding of complex phenomena, the manipulation of figures, and the execution of mathematical operations.
• Verbal intelligence is interested in practice but also in the comprehension of language. In this context, it deals with the vocabulary used by a given individual. Here we also talk about linguistic intelligence. Linguistic intelligence is about using language to understand others and to express what you think. It’s the intelligence of the sounds.
• Spatial intelligence is very interested in configurations that can exist in space. In the jargon, it is sometimes a question of geometry in space.
Consider also visuospatial intelligence, it allows the individual to make a spatial representation of the world in his mind. It gives the opportunity to create works of art and craft, to harmoniously arrange clothes, furniture, and objects, and to think in pictures.
• Finally, there is the so-called imaginative (creative) intelligence that evaluates the ability of a given individual to create new things from scratch and to develop original ideas. Creative intelligence is needed when an individual is confronted with a new situation, a new problem. It allows to find a new way of thinking about things and to have an original thought
2 – Practical or Concrete Intelligence
The practical intelligence, related to situations, is that of the handyman. If it has a relation with logical intelligence, practical intelligence remains nevertheless different. Mental organization is not given at birth but is built in stages from the roots of childhood until the adult personality stabilizes.
Practical intelligence allows individuals to adapt to their unique environment. Thanks to practical intelligence, an individual can evaluate a situation in his familiar and social environment, and react to it either by adapting or by changing the environment. Practical intelligence can be measured by the implicit or tacit knowledge of the individual.
It resembles Aristotle’s practical wisdom of finding a balance between two extremes, for example by not being too cautious or too reckless on a battlefield. (Practical intelligence should not be confused with manual skill; here Sternberg is talking about social skills, context-related, rather, resourcefulness, streetwise in English).
3 – e
Social intelligence manifests itself in social relations. It represents the ability to understand the emotions and attitudes of others towards oneself.
Social intelligence or interpersonal intelligence is the form of intelligence that makes it possible to understand others (their thoughts, and feelings) and to act effectively with them in situations of social interaction. Its highlighting is generally attributed to Howard Gardner, author of “The theory of multiple intelligences“. It was taken over in France by René Zazzo.
Social intelligence is not (yet) educated in the majority of the world’s schools. However, as soon as you prepare to interact with someone, your social intelligence is solicited well before opening your mouth, a socially intelligent person will have asked questions to influence the course of interaction.
Others speak of interpersonal intelligence. It allows the individual to act and react with others in the right way. It leads him to notice the differences in character, nature, and motives of action between individuals. It allows empathy, cooperation, and tolerance. It gives the possibility to detect someone’s intentions without being openly avowed. This form of intelligence solves problems related to relationships with others; it helps to understand and generate valid solutions to help others.
4 – Other Types of Intelligence
We can mention other forms of intelligence like a part of the psychology of intelligence. In this sense, we can mention these:
Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to introspect, that is, to return within oneself, to identify one’s feelings, and to analyze one’s thoughts, behaviors and emotions. This form of intelligence makes it possible to understand oneself, to see what one is capable of doing, to see one’s limits and strengths, to identify one’s desires, and dreams, and understand one’s reactions. It is also the ability to seek help when needed.
Kinesthetic intelligence is the ability to use one’s body or part of one’s body to communicate or express oneself in everyday life or in an artistic context, to perform fine motor skills, learn by manipulating objects, do physical exercises, or practice sports. Most of the time athletes, carpenters, surgeons, and comedians have this type of intelligence.
Musical intelligence is the ability to think in rhythm and melody, recognize musical patterns, memorize them, interpret them, create them, to be sensitive to the musicality of words and sentences.
Naturalistic intelligence allows the individual to classify, discriminate, recognize and use his or her knowledge about the natural environment, animals, plants, or minerals. Often those in whom this form of intelligence is well developed like to possess a notebook of observations or to keep their observations in memory; they love to take care of animals, cultivate a garden, and are in favor of establishing parks in their city.
Emotional intelligence is linked to the ability to understand and analyze one’s own emotions but also those of others.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a concept proposed in 1990 by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer, which refers to the ability to recognize, understand and control one’s own emotions and cope with other people’s emotions. It is close to the concept of social intelligence. The concept was popularized by Daniel Goleman in 1995.
III – The Psychology of Intelligence and Its Related Concepts
1 – Intelligence and Adaptation
For some authors like STERN, CLAPAREDE, intelligence is an adaptation to new circumstances. Adaptation supposes accommodation and assimilation. The accommodation is the fact that in order not to suffer too much danger or damage in certain circumstances, the body is obliged to react to changes in the environment. Assimilation means that the individual rather transforms the environment rather than accommodating it.
2 – Intelligence and Habit
This is the question of the psychology of Intelligence and habit. Indeed, there is a link between the birth of intelligence and the formation of habits.
Several points of view are to be considered:
• For associationism, habit explains intelligence. That is, if the individual is able to repeat an operation he is intelligent.
• The point of view of trial and error also holds that habit is a sign or characteristic of intelligence; because the trial and error or the fumbling that precedes the habit is characteristic of intelligence.
• The assimilation point of view recognizes the same relationship between intelligence and habit. It is customary for the subject to practice assimilation.
Habit is a relatively stable disposition acquired through experience. It is therefore acquired by the constantly improved repetition. In this sense, it is opposed to intelligence, which is the ability to solve new problems.
Repetition is not the only condition of the habit. Indeed, for there to be a habit, it is necessary that the individual has the intellectual structures or that the organism lends itself to it.
The habit has an economic function because it releases the vigilant consciousness. However, it presents a danger: that of impoverishing the human being (it does not innovate so it impoverishes).
3 – Intelligence and Instinct
Seized as an innate, spontaneous, and invariable behavior common to all individuals of the same species, instinct differs from intelligence.
IV – The Factors of Intellectual Development
Here we study the psychology of Intelligence from the Piagetian perspective. According to Piaget, four (4) factors underlie the development of intelligence in children.
1 – The Maturation of the Nervous System
The maturation of the nervous system conditions the acquisition of knowledge. It delineates the possibilities of the child at the level of the pipes. For example, comprehension is only liable from the moment when the nervous pathways that it implements are physiologically in working order. (Example: logically a child of 5 years does not succeed in the fourth class of the first cycle in high school).
Note: In relation to the speed of intellectual development, there may be variations due to the cultural environment.
2 – The Action on Objects
The experience acquired during the action on objects promotes the development of intelligence. In other words, the discovery of “new things” by acting on objects is an important factor in the development of intelligence. There are two types of experience: physical experience (object-oriented) and logical-mathematical experience (dealing with the properties of coordinated actions, ie reasoning).
3 – Social Factors
Society influences the intellectual development of the child. It means by company: school, family, other home groups.
Note: These factors are necessary for the completion of the structures of intelligence, but they are not their source contrary to physical experience.
4 – The Equilibration
This is the factor that shows that intellectual evolution follows a certain direction. Equilibration is captured as self-regulation. That is to say, the subject (the child) responds with active compensations to external reactions.
V – Piaget’s Intelligence Development Courses
According to child psychologists, intellectual development does not occur continuously. Piaget has also identified successive periods which he calls “stadiums”. By the way, Piaget is the author of a significant book named “The Psychology Of Intelligence“.
The stages of development of intelligence according to Piaget, there are 3: the sensory-motor intelligence, the concrete operating stages, and the formal operating stages.
1 – Sensorimotor Intelligence (O to 2 Years).
During this period the infant is deprived of language and generally of symbolic function. Thus, he forms the concept of the object from fragmentary perceptions. This period participates in the construction of the real world. (Distinction of one’s self from the image of others). Here, the passage of reflexes to the schemas of action is sketched out. This means that the child is trying to organize these actions now.
In addition to egocentrism, the child goes to decentration.
At this stage, (the child) he acquires the displacement in space and the “group of displacements”
2 – The Concrete Operative Stage (2 Years to 10-11 Years)
Operations are defined as internalized or internalized “actions”, reversible and coordinated in total structures. What characterizes this stage is that despite the acquisition of certain notions (class, number, series, causality) the thought of the child remains linked to the concrete.
The actual operative stage is preceded by a transitional phase called the preoperative stage (2-3 years to 7-8 years).
3 – The Formal Operating Stage (11 Years to 14-15 Years).
Unlike the previous stage, the thought will free itself from the concrete. This means that thought operates in the abstract, forms hypotheses, and verifies them.