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Human Intelligence

Indiana University contains in-depth articles exploring current debates relating to human intelligence.  See the interactive chart of the significant influencers in the field of intelligence theory and testing, from Plato to modern leading lights - Gardner, Sternberg, Dweck, Kamin, Renzulli. (See below.) 

'The emergence of new neurological techniques is creating possibilities to study environmental, biological, and psychological aspects of intelligence simultaneously.' Plucker, J. A. (Ed.). (2003). Human intelligence: Historical influences, current controversies, teaching resources.


Howard Gardner: Gardner first set out his ideas about 'multiple intelligences' in Frames of Mind (1983). Although his intention was to communicate ideas from his work with extremely gifted children and brain-damaged adults, his theory attracted attention from mainstream educationalists. It continues to have an impact on thinking and practice and Gardner is still working on MI theory. Listen to him on YouTube (8 mins.)

Daniel Goleman made his name with the concept of Emotional Intelligence. Watch this video on YouTube where he talks about his latest book - Social Intelligence.

Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds : An Interview with Howard Gardner (2004). He has identified 8/9 separate intelligences which he believes have relatively independent functions and are grounded in the brain's hardwiring, and are amplified by human and cultural values. The theory of multiple intelligences has helped break the psychometricians century-long stranglehold on the subject of intelligence.

Constructivism can be best seen as a collection of teaching strategies that create learning environments where individuals can process new information in a way that it is incorporated into previously-held knowledge. Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences reflects attempts to put cognitive research and constructivist philosophy into practice.

View YouTube clip (9 mins) from a Horizon film on Intelligence and Testing. It involves some people with outstanding skills in their chosen professions. It includes interview clips of psychologists Howard Gardner and also Robert Sternberg. The last 3 minutes is about Ian Deary's research study on Scottish adults born in 1931. The IQ test administered at 11 years of age and then repeated around 80 years later showed increases of 10-20 points in some cases. He asks - what has caused the increase in IQ?

Robert Sternberg: Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence - a combination of analytical, creative and practical abilities. "You need creative skills to come up with ideas; you need analytical abilities to know whether they're good ideas; to evaluate the ideas and you need practical abilities to make your ideas work and to persuade other people that your ideas are worth listening to."

Sternberg defines Intelligence as the skill in achieving success in life within your sociocultural environment by finding out what you do well, and capitalising on your strengths. You might need to work on certain aspects to change yourself to fit the environment or modify the environment to suit you better. Other times you might choose not to adapt and quit.


Carol Dweck: how people's implicit theories about intelligence impact on their behaviour. Students are more likely to push through setbacks and reach their full potential when they believe intelligence is malleable. Then self-esteem remains intact regardless of how hard they may have to work to succeed.

Leon Kamin: The champion of the environmental argument for intelligence. He publicly challenged Cyril Burt's data, was an active critic of the hereditary theory of intelligence and highlighted the dangers of attributing all intelligence to genetic factors (including race).

Joseph Renzulli: Three-ring model of giftedness.  He was instrumental in shifting educators' views of talent away from a unitary view of intelligence.

6 seconds - a website on emotional intelligence (EQ)

IQ Tests
There is a plethora of free online psychological tests. However taken in isolation they don't prove anything. Psychological tests can be fun to do and are a snapshot of certain aptitudes. They can be useful in particular contexts although they need careful interpretation.
Personality Tests
Complete a  test based on Carl Jung and Isabel Myers-Briggs typological approach to personality.

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Val Bissland, Strathclyde University