Reading

HUMAN MENTAL ABILITIES
Lecture 1
A/Prof Irina Harris
[email protected]
PSYC1002
Reading
Intelligence, Chapter 11 (pp. 425-459) in: Gleitmen, H., Gross,
J., & Reisberg, D. (2011). Psychology (8th Edition). New York:
W. W. Norton & Company.
Available from your PSYC1002 unit of study readings in
Canvas.

Mental abilities:
the capacity to perform the higher
mental processes
of reasoning,
remembering, understanding and
problem solving.
Sometimes subsumed under the
term “
intelligence
Individual differences
approach:
How (and why) do mental
abilities
vary across
individuals?
NOT
What is common to all
individuals?

Why study mental abilities and intelligence?
Because they are interesting, helps us understand ourselves
It can help us select people (e.g., for selective schools, for jobs, in
the army)
It can help us understand cognitive impairments after brain injury, or
in developmental disorders
It can help us understand the role of the environment and
educational interventions in improving mental abilities

How we define intelligence
Constructs, latent and manifest
variables
Implicit Theories of intelligence
Explicit Theories of intelligence
Understand what a construct is
and how we might
measure it
Describe the difference between
latent and manifest variables
Describe the difference between
implicit and explicit theories of
intelligence
Overview What You Need to Know
In this lecture
Anxiety
Happiness
Depression
Empathy
Neuroticism
How to measure what you can’t see
Intelligence
Step 1
Define it
What is intelligence?
Some responses obtained from previous PSYC1002 students
Person ‘X’ is
intelligent
Person ‘X’
performs well on
intelligence tests
Because …
Because …
“Intelligence is a word with so many meanings that finally
it has none” ‐ Charles Spearman (1927)
“Intelligence is what intelligence tests test” ‐ Boring (1951)

Step 2
Operationalise it
What does intelligent behaviour look like?

found at the Maroochydore Music and Visual Arts Festival on the Sunshine
Coast

Intelligence is a construct
Construct = a theoretical (hypothetical) entity
It cannot be directly observed
It’s something we infer from observing behaviour
It’s a tool to help us make sense of observable behaviour
We sometimes call it a latent variable (underlying disposition)
Cannot be directly discovered, it is constructed
Basis for predicting future behaviour
How to measure what you can’t see
Observable behaviour
e.g.,
• How quickly you solve a task
• How many solutions you
come up with
• …
Construct
e.g., Intelligence
Latent Variable Manifest Variables
How to measure what you can’t see
Test
e.g.,
• Reaction time
• # of solutions
• Survey questions
• …
Observable behaviour
e.g.,
• How quickly you solve a task
• How many solutions you
come up with
• …
Construct
e.g., Intelligence
Measure Manifest Variables
Devise a test to measure behaviour
Observable behaviour
e.g.,
• How quickly you solve a task
• How many solutions you
come up with
• …
How to measure what you can’t see
Test
e.g.,
• Reaction time
• # of solutions
• Survey questions
• …
Construct
e.g., Intelligence
Devise the test to operationalise the construct
Reaction time reflects “processing speed”
Number of items remembered reflects “working
memory capacity”

How to measure what you can’t see
Construct Test Observable behaviour
e.g., Intelligence
Theory and measurement are inextricably linked
• You need a good theory in order to develop a good measure
• But you also need a good test to accurately measure what you
want to measure

Implicit Theories of Intelligence
Informal definitions of intelligence, beliefs we all hold
Do you believe that we can increase our intelligence?
• believe mental abilities are fixed (Entity Theorist)
• believe abilities are changeable (Incremental Theorist)
FOR EXAMPLE….
Do you believe that intelligence is something you’re born with?
Do you think playing music is part of intelligence?
What about creativity?
MORE EXAMPLES OF IMPLICIT THEORIES….
The Importance of Implicit Beliefs
Blackwell, Trzesniewski and Dweck (2007)
Looked at the
learning trajectories of 7th graders
The belief that intelligence is
malleable (incremental theory) predicted
an upward trajectory in grades over the two years of high school, while
a belief that intelligence is
fixed (entity theory) predicted a flat trajectory.
Holding an incremental theory led to
more effort and a more positive
response to failure

Implicit Theories
Sternberg (1981) asked experts & general population:
What behaviours show…
a) intelligence/unintelligence ?
b) academic intelligence ?
c) everyday intelligence ?
3 factors emerged:
Verbal Intelligence
good vocabulary, converses easily on lots of subjects
Problem Solving
makes good decisions, poses problem in optimal way, plans ahead
Practical Intelligence
Sizes up situation well, determines how to achieve goals, displays an interest
in the world at large
People also agreed that intelligence relates to success in cognitively
demanding tasks
(but not necessarily highly related)

Explicit Theories of Intelligence
Explicit theories use data collected from people performing tasks
that require
intelligent cognition
Theories don’t always cover all of intelligence. Instead they define
the scope of the
psychological construct they deal with
o either whole domain (intelligence), or
o specific subsets (e.g. verbal performance)
I have a theory that the ability to list synonyms is a good
measure of
verbal intelligence.
I have a theory that intelligence is distinct from personality.
FOR EXAMPLE….
Explicit theories are tested against data
Theories are supported by (mostly indirect) evidence
Internal consistency of the measure (i.e., within‐measure)
Correlate with other behaviour measures
Theory can be challenged because…
Doesn’t fit task data ‐ theory is wrong and needs changing
Measure is not good
tasks are too narrow, or lack ecological validity
tasks are too broad
No one theory can account for it all