chapter  1
12 Pages

What is intelligence?

If we said that we wanted to measure whether you can reason, think logically, solve problems and use your memory successfully to accomplish these tasks, most people would agree that this is a worthwhile activity. Yet, if we said we wanted to measure ‘intelligence’, and particularly if we used the phrase ‘IQ’, it would be likely to provoke outcries such as ‘You cannot measure IQ’, ‘You’re a racist’, ‘IQ is a dirty word’, ‘There is not an agreed definition of what intelligence means’, ‘Intelligence is different across cultures’ and other cries of woe. As a lecturer in psychology I (Richard) often say to students that there are three typical reactions people give when asked about IQ: those who like it (usually because they have scored or believe they will score highly on an IQ test), those who could not care less about it (they scored around the average score on an IQ test) and those who think they are a waste of time (yes, you guessed it – they scored low on the IQ test). What intrigues us as professional educators is the range of opinions that people proffer about intelligence and IQ and just how little of these are based on a solid understanding of these topics. It should be no surprise that the term ‘intelligence’ provokes such reactions, given the complexity of the concept and the many contrasting and often conflicting views people have expressed in regard to this psycho logical concept. This should be of no surprise given its often chequered history (more on this in Chapter 2). Indeed, its history has made some people wary of it and in particular the manner in which it has been used – sometimes with good cause.