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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Approaches in Understanding the Cognitive Process

Background- Measuring the intelligence is something very essential in any educational system, be it in public or in private educational institution. It was only around 1910, few years after the invention of the first usable intelligence test have scientific workers started to fully appreciate the importance of intelligence tests as a an essential guide to educational procedure. In fact up to the present such tests are still very popular and useful.

The first usable intelligence test was invented and published by a French psychologist and inventor, Alfred Binet. Binet’s invention, called the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale, became the basis of today’s popular (Intelligence Quotient) IQ tests. It was published in 1905 and other two revised publications in 1908 and 1911. The test was named Binet-Simon after the inventor Binet and his collaborator in the said invention, Theodore Simon. The Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale was invented with an objective to assist in identifying school children who have needs in coping with school curriculum. The test has become a means of perfection and a measure in evaluating educational systems and practices and in particular a tool “for diagnosing individual possibilities and needs” (Terman viii)

Aside from Binet, the names that have a loud sound in terms of the measures of human intelligence or cognitive process are Robert J. Sternberg for his Triarchic Theory, Dr. John C. Raven with his Progressive Matrices, Allan and Nadeen Kaufman and their Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC) and David Wechsler for the Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) . These individuals have made tremendous contributions to psychology especially when it is related to psychometry and cognitive process.

The Works of Binet and the Development of Binet-Simon Scale
Being the pioneer in the field of intelligence measuring scale, the work of Binet can never be disregarded when the testing of intelligence is being talked about. In fact, even up to this time the concept of Binet about intelligence “is essentially the one that is held at the present time by psychologists.” (Pintner 24) Even before the publication of the Binet-Simon Scale or “the scale”, Binet had already numerous works relating to the study of intelligence. These include his collaborations with Henri in 1896 “in an article discussing the field of individual psychology” (Pintner 26), the Measurement in Individual Psychology in 1898, the Attention et Adaptation published right before the scale, his book "L'étude expérimentale de l'intelligence in 1903 and his works on Handwriting and Feeblemindedness as determinants of and correlated to intelligence, in 1904 and 1905, respectively. In his article New Methods for the Diagnosis of the Intellectual Level of Abnormal Children, the idea of intelligence scale appeared the first time and it was exactly termed as une échelle métrique d'itelligence. It is “here too we find the first specifications of intelligence tests, namely, they must be simple, must not consume a long time, they must be heterogeneous and not pedagogical”. (Pintner 31) This set of tests is also known as the 1905 scale containing the idea of graded series, the concept of intelligence and the conception of the fundamental qualities of an intelligence test. It was composed of thirty items in increasing difficulty although there was grouping yet according to age. It was in 1908 that Binet published one of his more important works, the 1908 Scale that appeared in his article entitled The Development of Intelligence in Children. It is important to note that during this time, the tests, unlike the previous 1905 Scale, has been grouped according to appropriate ages. Another innovation of this scale as compared to the previous one is the introduction of mental age. This concept is actually "one of Binet's important and valuable contributions to the problem of mental testing" (Pintner 32) stating that the mental ability of a person is expressed by the age that he/she achieved in the series of graded tests.

Scaled Intelligence: Binet-Simon Scale to Stanford-Binet Scale
After the success of Binet’s work, the 1908 Scale, continuous developments and innovations are done with regards to or related to his measure of intelligence through tests. He, however warned the public that the scores in the test “should not be taken too literally because of the “partial plasticity of intelligence” (Fancher 151) and environmental factors together with the inherent margin of error in the test . A more accepted innovation of the Binet-Simon Scale, and eventually became very popular, came out in 1916 engineered by a Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman. His work was entitled Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon Scale or commonly known as the Stanford-Binet. Stanford-Binet is an overhauled Binet-Simon Scale wherein new items were added to the tests and some original ones of the latter were removed. It, naturally, was done with proper study and scientific approach in validating the experiments done to make this work a success.

Moreover, heavy improvements was made to the old scale as American psychologist Robert Yerkes called on the expert testers including Terman and Goddard. The Scale, which was originally made for the mentally challenged, according to Yerkes, "should not work primarily for the exclusion of intellectual defectives but rather for the selection of men in order that they may be properly placed in the military service." (Fancher 117)

The test style approach to measuring intelligence, as Binet has admitted, have its shortcomings. In fact test administrators who have handled and proctored some group tests of intelligence noted the wide difference in the approach the testees have on their respective tests.

With non-timed tests such as attitude or personality batteries, the first person to complete the task may do so in less than half the time that the last person dutifully hands in their booklet. Equally, with timed tests, some testees appear to approach the task with intense earnestness, as if their lives, or at least their careers, depended on it, whereas others appear cavalier, even nonchalant. (Furnham 289)

Another possible error that can be attributed when test style of measurement is imposed upon testees, as Furnham have elaborated, is the “problem of dissimulation” or the subjects that do not give honest answers.

One of the latest publications on measures of intelligence measure, representing “the latest in a series of innovations in the assessment of intelligence and abilities using qualitative and quantitative methods” (Becker 1) is the 2003 publication of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, Fifth Edition. The following matrices are taken from the bulletin, History of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales: Content and Psychometrics by Kirk A. Becker published in 2003 by Riverside Publishing in Itasca, Illinois. These matrices illustrates in a summarized form what the latest Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales can be.

Even the latest version of the Stanford-Binet test has been so polished and psychologists rely on their validity and it is undeniably popular, it is not perfect. In fact one of the strong critics of the scale is Gould who states that Binet originally have devised his test to be carried out with an examiner in a one-on-one method for detecting problem areas instead as a means of ranking the general intelligence testees linearly. Moreover, he noted that tests of mental abilities has suffered from "inadequate support and its own internal contradictions" (Gould 223) that even the mayor of Chicago, "had tested as a moron on one version of the Binet scales" (Gould 223)

Robert Sternberg and his Triarchic Theory of Intelligence
Another theory on Man’s intelligence is that of Robert J. Sternberg who took a truly holistic approach to the conceptualization of intelligence in his Triarchic Theory. What makes the work of Sternberg special and advantageous over the conventional psychometric test is its bases. Aside from being more cognitive, Sternberg himself proclaimed that his work is "based on a theory of human intelligence, the triarchic theory that is broader than conventional differential theories" which “have been based on theories of intelligence that have their roots in differential psychology -- the psychology of individual differences” (Rowe 183)

The three subtheories of Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory are the componential or analytical subtheory , experiential or creative subtheory, and practical or contextual subtheory. These “theories seek to go beyond the IQ” ( Mackintosh 27) of a human being, though Sternberg acknowledges the importance of IQ testing. He believed that IQ tests measure only a sub-set of the” multiple intelligences” (Mackintosh 27).

The first subtheory, which is the componential one deals with the components of intelligence; the experiential subtheory deals with the importance of coping with relative novelty and of automatization of information processing; and a contextual subtheory dealing with processes of adaptation, shaping, and selection. “I have referred to the theory from time to time as triarchic.”(Sternberg 456) Moreover, one of the arguments of his work is that the g factor or the “general intelligence does not exist” (Sternbeg 4)although general ability does.

Table 7. The Triarchic Theory Diagram

Although the Triarchic Theory is very useful and advantageous, even more detailed than that of Binet, it has its own share of criticisms. Quoting sociologist Linda Gottfredson in Sternberg’s book, is an obvious defense for the validity of the IQ tests.

The effects of intelligence--like other psychological traits--are probabilistic, not deterministic. Higher intelligence improves the odds of success in school and work. It is an advantage, not a guarantee. Many other things matter. is an obvious qualification of the arguments Sternberg has presented and a defense for the validity of IQ tests.

Psychometric Approach and the Information Processing Approach
Psychometrics or psychometry, being the basis of the Psychometric Approach, is “the branch of psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and personality traits” (The Free Online Dictionary) in testing human ability. The Psychometric Approach, which presume that intelligence is a measurable factor, has became the “ primary method of studying intelligence” (Corr) and thus the testing of IQ was born. There are many psychologists who devoted their time on studying intelligence and have paved ways in producing a method to measure the intelligence in a psychometric manner. Among them, as previously mentioned, is Alfred Binet with his Binet-Simon Scale. The study of psychometrics was only starting with that of Binet though and its furtherance can be seen in Dr. John C. Raven's Progressive Matrices, Kaufman couple’s Kaufman’s Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC) and in the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) .

If a one is not following the psychometric approach, that psychologist would be using an Information Processing Approach. This is another philosophical theory in understanding the cognitive process, similar to the applications used by Sternberg in his Triarchic Theory and diverse from that approach of Binet as explained above. This approach views human as an “information processor” (Wyer 2). The same author further explains the idea of this approach on the character of the information processor as:

..capable of receiving information operating upon it according to certain rules, storing the results of these operations in memory, altering the contents of certain areas of memory to which new information is relevant, and ultimately reporting the results of these operations in a form that is implicitly or explicitly specified by a "user." The Information Processing Approach, therefore, is based on the premise that humans have brains that are similar to computers.

Intelligence is something measurable and all the efforts done to measure it have greatly influenced the foundation and philosophical views on the cognitive process as well as the educational system all throughout the world. No matter what a person chooses to use to understand the cognitive process, any approach is useful and have their certain characteristic that is superior over the other. They have their respective disadvantages over each other as well.

Finally, in measuring the intelligence of an individual, it is not the measurement that matters or the measurement method that was used. The most important is the application of that highly measured intelligence towards the betterness of humanity.

Works Cited
Becker, Kirk. A.. History of the Stanford-Binet intelligence scales: Content and psychometrics. (Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, Fifth Edition Assessment Service Bulletin No. 1). Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing, 2003.

Corr, Bradley. "The Psychometric Approach to Intelligence: How Smart am I?." Serendep. 2004. Retrieved May 5, 2008 from

Furnham, Adrian. "16 Test-Taking Style, Personality Traits, and Psychometric Validity." Intelligence and Personality: Bridging the Gap in Theory and Measurement. Ed. Janet M. Collis and Samuel Messick. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001. 289-304.

Gould, Stephen Jay. The Mismeasure of Man /. New York: Norton, 1996.

Jensen, Arthur R. The G Factor: The Science of Mental Ability. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1998.

Mackintosh, N. J. IQ and Human Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Pintner, Rudolf. Intelligence Testing: Methods and Results. New York: Henry Holt, 1923.

"psychometric." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. 2003. Houghton Mifflin Company 5 May. 2008

Rowe, Helga A. H., ed. Intelligence: Reconceptualization and Measurement. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991.

Sternberg, Robert J., and Elena L. Grigorenko, eds. The General Factor of Intelligence: How General Is It?. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.

Terman, Lewis M. The Measurement of Intelligence: An Explanation of and a Complete Guide for the Use of the Stanford Revision and Extension of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.

Wyer, Robert S. Cognitive Organization and Change: An Information Processing Approach. Potomac, MD: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1974.

research paper about Alfred Binet discussing his theories and comparing them with a few other theories like, the triarchic theory of intelligence, the psychometric approach, the information processing approach. It should not a biography but a work comparing the psychologist with other psychologists theories.

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