Research Paper on Intelligence and Cognition

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1688 Words
Date:  2022-07-01


Neuroscientists and psychologists are always particularly interested in the functional processes of the brain and their determinants. However, the brain is a complex organ and its functionalities are not simple either. The brain is the mastermind behind intelligence, personality, sexuality and other attributes of a human being. Intelligence, in particular, has raised debates in its definition and analysis. Academic performance has always been accepted as a good indicator of intelligence. Tests like the IQ test have been developed to quantify intelligence and support its implication in academic performance. However, what makes up intelligence still remains elusive. Studies show strong inter-relations exist between all the attributes of a human being forming intelligence and determining academic performance (Gazzaniga, 1992). Therefore, it is worth exploring which additional variables play a role in academic achievement and intelligence.

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Some schools have introduced personality training in their curriculum in light of the fact that personality traits play a huge role in academic achievement. Some researches even claim personality may have a bigger influence than intelligence when it comes to academic achievement. This would mean academic performances can be changed since personalities are variable. Studies show that at least three of the 'Big Five' personality traits are related to non-verbal intelligence. These are an openness to experience, neuroticism, and extraversion. Moreover, openness to experience and conscientiousness are time and again considered as correlates of cognitive abilities.

Openness is a trait that features characteristics like imagination and insight. On the other hand, conscientiousness features high levels of thoughtfulness, goal-directed behaviours, and good impulse control. According to an article from the New York Times, 'Smarts vs. Personality in School', grit has become part of the instruction in a number of schools. This trait is described as a perseverance and desire for long-term goals. It overlaps with conscientiousness. From the article, the number of people taking advanced placement classes has increased due to the willingness of students to do the hard thing instead of always taking the easy way out. Although efforts to model personality traits like grit have yielded great results, they still face criticism.

Alfie Kohn, an educational writer and speaker, argues that grit is not always helpful. He explains that dogged perseverance is not the best approach to every situation. It would be more productive to stop and reassess than to preserve and aim for the impossible. Alfie Kohn further argues that teaching personality to improve academic performance doesn't solve much. The key to improving education is analysing the environment children are put, what they are asked to learn and what they are being taught. A good teacher makes a lot of difference (Gazzaniga, 1992). It's not just what the student brings. He alludes to the influence of the environment on intelligence and sparks the debate of nature versus nurture in the development of intelligence.

At birth, the human brain is not fully developed. Considerable brain growth occurs in childhood with numerous dynamic changes. Research shows that brain growth is under the influence of genetics (nature) but emerging evidence shows the environment (nurture) also has a role to play. White and grey matter are necessary for intelligence (Lewis et al., 2007). Around puberty, the amount of grey matter in a teenager's brain start to decrease while the white matter increases. The variation in the total white matter and grey matter constitutes intelligence and it's genetically predetermined. The genetic influence on brain size reflects the influence on cognition and intelligence (Lewis et al., 2007). However, the specific mechanisms and genes involved in the brain morphology and their influence on cognitive functions remain unknown.

Many psychologists don't deny genetic components play a role in cognitive functions but they argue it's a naive idea to say it's only genes. Research has shown the environment has an influence on cognitive functions. Children who grow up in wealthier, more educated households often turn out to be smarter than those raised in poorer homes. The reason behind this is that children from wealthier homes are likely to engage in regular educational conversations, visit educational sites like museums and read educational material like storybooks. Some neuroscientists argue that it is the genetically predisposed intelligence that seeks particular environments to help in its growth. Unfortunately, this does not explain the variations in the intelligence of biological twins raised in different environments.

Although much is unknown, the influence of genetics and the environment has been established. The extent of the influence and the effect still remains subject to debate but more studies are bringing evidence to the table to analyse the influence of both factors. The influence of nature and nurture open possibilities to alter the performance of a human being in a particular socioeconomic setup (Furnham, 1998). Large strides in genetic studies and developments in personality coaching using environmental factors may soon lead to significant alterations in human intelligence. However, it still remains unclear what exactly human intelligence is. Over the years many theorists have proposed definitions and categorizations of human intelligence and some of its determinants.

Charles Spearman came up with the two-factor theory of intelligence using factor analysis. His work led to the development of the general intelligence factor, the g factor (Mackintosh, 1983). This is a concept developed from studies on cognitive abilities and human intelligence that revealed positive correlations among different cognitive tasks. In his research, Charles Spearman analysed how people performed on several tasks related to intelligence. These tasks included mathematics, perceiving weight and colour, directions and distinguishing pitch. From the data he collected, he realised the performance of the subjects varied from task to task. Those who performed well on one cognitive test tended to perform well on other tests. On the other hand, individuals who scored badly on one test scored poorly on others (Spearman, 1927). Spearman concluded that there is one central factor that influences our cognitive abilities, the g factor.

Spearman conducted his research on 24 children from a school recording three intellectual measures established from teachers' rankings. These were School Cleverness, Common Sense A and Common Sense B. From the results, the two-factor theory was constructed. According to Spearman, the two-factor theory has two key components. The g factor has effects on all mental tasks while the s factor influences specific abilities (Spearman, 1927). The g factor is common to everyone while the s factor varies from person to person (Mackintosh, 1983). Robert Plomin, a renowned American psychologist and geneticist termed the g factor as one of the most reliable measures in the behavioural domain. He added that it's a better predictor for important social outcomes like occupational and educational level than any other trait.

The two- factor theory faced criticism from Sir Godfrey Thompson, an educational psychologist, who claimed the evidence was not as important as it seemed (Deary et al., 2008). However, contemporary research is still expanding this theory. Currently, Spearman's form of intelligence testing is utilised by numerous researchers in their studies. Spearman reported on a functional link between Sensory Discriminatory Abilities and intelligence. Research has shown an overlap between fluid intelligence, working memory, and general discriminatory abilities. Spearman's work provided the foundation for many studies on human intelligence.

Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist came up with the theory of multiple intelligence that supported Spearman's concept of general intelligence. According to the theory of multiple intelligence developed in 1983, Gardner proposed that numerical expressions of human intelligence, like the IQ test, were limited in accurately depicting people's abilities. He argued that information processing in human beings occurs in different, independent ways (Gardner, 2008). Based on the skills and abilities valued in different cultures, Gardner proposed eight different kinds of intelligences to explain the broad range of human potential among adults and children.

The eight kinds of intelligence described by Gardner included visual (spatial) intelligence, linguistic intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, mathematical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence and musical intelligence (Gardner, 2008). He also described intrapersonal intelligence and naturalistic intelligence. Gardner says many education systems focus on linguistic and mathematical intelligence. We revere the logical and highly articulate individuals. Unfortunately, those who are exceptional in other intelligence are left out. Such individuals don't receive much reinforcement for their abilities in school. They include artists, designers, dancers, musicians, therapists, naturalists and entrepreneurs. When compared to highly articulate and logical students, they are labelled 'learning disabled' or underachievers.

According to Gardner, teachers need to learn new ways to present their lessons. He proposes using different learning tools like music, art, field trips, multimedia and cooperative learning to accommodate different individuals (Campbell et al., 1996). The theory of multiple intelligence has led to major transformations in many learning institutions but old-fashioned teaching methods are still rampant. Each intelligence has a learning tool that works effectively. Words are good for linguistic intelligence while numbers are effective in logical intelligence. Those with exceptional interpersonal intelligence benefit more from self-reflection while physical experiences are effective in kinaesthetic intelligence. Spatial intelligence benefits from pictures, musical intelligence from music and an experience in the natural world is good for naturalist intelligence. Finally, a social experience ties well with interpersonal intelligence (Campbell et al., 1996). All these learning tools need to be incorporated in the education system to enhance academic achievement.

On further analysis, Gardner realised spatial abilities, language, logic and mathematics are all interrelated. The link was evidence for an underlying general intelligence that Charles Spearman had proposed. Robert Sternberg, an American psychologist and psychometrician, agreed with Gardner's proposal of multiple intelligence. However, Sternberg narrowed to just three forms of intelligence in his Triarchic theory of intelligence. He argued that some of the types of intelligence from Gardner's theory are individual talents rather than forms of intelligence. In his theory, Sternberg defined intelligence as a mental process focused on purposive adaptation to, selection, and shaping of real-world environments relevant to one's life (Sternberg, 1985). His theory took a cognitive approach rather than a psychometric approach.

According to Sternberg, intelligence has three components. The componential sub-theory describes the analytical intelligence. It explores the mechanisms and structure that underlie intelligent behaviour (Sternberg, 1985). The experiential sub-theory interprets intelligent behaviour along a continuum of experience. It described creative intelligence that is responsible for dealing with new situations by drawing solutions from existing skills and knowledge. The contextual sub-theory describes the sociocultural c...

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