Intelligence & IQ: Concept and Definitions

Intelligence is one of the basic parameters employed to know how individuals differ from one another. In broader sense, the term Intelligence is used to denote the presence of such qualities as alertness, quickness of mind, level of one’s academic success, status in an occupation, or the acquisition of an eminence in a particular field of endeavour and so on. 

Intelligence in Psychology

Intelligence has been an important and controversial topic throughout psychology’s history. In addition to questions of exactly how to define intelligence, the debate continues even today about whether accurate measurements are even possible.

Definitions of Intelligence:

General Definitions:

  • The Oxford Dictionary explains intelligence as the power of perceiving, learning, understanding, and knowing.
  • In the Indian systems of thought buddhi (intellect)— defined as nischayatmikabuddhih (decision maker) is described as an inner instrument (antahkarana), which possesses wisdom, prudence, emotion, societal values, and relations.

Definitions by Psychologists: 

  • Alfred Binet was one of the first psychologists who worked on intelligence. He defined it as the ability to judge well, understand well, and reason well.
  • Wechsler understood intelligence in terms of its functionality, i.e. its value for adaptation to environment. He defined it as the global and aggregate capacity of an individual to think rationally, act purposefully, and to deal effectively with her/his environment.
  • Robert Sternberg defined it as “the ability to adapt, to shape and select environment to accomplish one’s goals and those of one’s society and culture“.

A common element of several of the definitions is adaptation, the ability to modify one’s behaviour to meet the environmental demands. A second common element is the ability to think abstractly using symbols. The ability to acquire new information or to learn through experience is similarly the third common element. However, it appears that the quest for a satisfactory definition is an unending search.

The Concept of IQ

Impressed by Charles Darwin’s Origin of species, his cousin Francis Galton devoted increasing attention toward measurement of anthropological and psychological phenomena. He coined the term mental test and invented the first psychological test methods to measure intelligence and ability.

In 1905, French psychologist Alfred Binet, together with Victor Henri and Théodore Simon completed their first test with a list of 30 problems concerning the child’s ability to understand and reason with the objects in the environment. In 1908, a revision was made in which items were arranged in terms of age levels. The highest age level that a child could perform successfully was called his mental age.

The term “intelligence-quotient,” or IQ, was first coined by a German psychologist named William Stern. In 1912, he suggested that this mental age (MA) be divided by the chronological age (CA) for each child, which multiplied by 100 became the IQ. The number 100 is used as a multiplier to avoid the decimal point.

IQ Intelligence Quotient

Since that time, intelligence testing has emerged as a widely used tool that has led to developing many other tests of skill and aptitude.
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