The truth about intelligence: What is it really?
Gaston Mendieta By Linda Geddes When researchers talk about intelligence, they are referring to a specific set of skills that includes the abilities to reason, learn, plan and solve problems. The interesting thing is that people who are good at one of them tend to be good at all of them. These skills seem to reflect a broad mental capability, which has been dubbed general intelligence or g. That’s not to say people don’t specialise in different areas. Some will be particularly good at solving mathematical problems, others will have particularly strong verbal or spatial abilities, and so on. When it comes to intelligence tests, although these specific skills account for about half of the variation between people’s performance, the other half is down to g. “If you took a sample of 1000 people and gave them all IQ tests, the people who do better on the vocabulary test will also do better, on average, on the reaction speed test, and so on,” says Stuart Ritchie, an intelligence researcher at the University of Edinburgh, UK. This seems to fly in the face of old ideas. In the early 1980s, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner argued for the existence of multiple intelligences, including “bodily-kinaesthetic”, “logical-mathematical” and “musical”. However, most researchers now believe these categories reflect different blends of abilities, skills and personality traits, not all of which are related to cognitive ability. Likewise,