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Published: July 4, 2011


A much-debated abstraction related to an individual’s ability to reason and learn. Often mistaken for development and maturation, intelligence is believed by some to be inherited and genetically determined, while others believe it is environmentally determined and, therefore, the result of training, experience and other external influences. Most educators believe intelligence is a combination of the two, that is, a combination of biological factors and environmentally produced educative factors such as child-rearing practices, parental attitudes, parental levels of education, cultural influences and a range of intellectual experiences at various ages. There is little question that school-aged children who receive extensive education during infancy and the preschool years function better academically than those who do not receive such education. Whether academic success is synonymous with intelligence, however, is itself a much-debated question. Many psychologists theorize that intelligence is not a quality but a process. Some go a step further by postulating a series of constantly variable processes, that is, multiple intelligences relating to logic and mathematics, visual and spatial abstractions, muscular coordination and many other intellectual and physical functions— all of them constantly changing and developing.
Whatever intelligence is, it is measured in the United States by so-called intelligence tests that yield an I.Q. score, or INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT, that is a measure of an individual’s “general ability” compared to others of the same age. First used with the 1916 version of the STANFORD-BINET INTELLIGENCE TESTS, the I.Q. score originated in 1908, when French psychologist Alfred Binet developed the concept of “mental age.” Derived from the individual’s raw score on Binet’s standardized intelligence tests, the mental age was then divided by his or her chronological age and multiplied by 100 to arrive at the intelligence quotient. The mean I. Q. of 100 is the result of dividing a mental age by an equivalent chronological age. A 12-yearold child with a mental age of 12 has an I.Q. of 100. A mental-age measurement of 12 produces an I.Q. of 120 for a 10-year-old and an I.Q. of 80 for a 15-year-old.
The standard deviation (usually 15 or 16) of most I.Q. scores is so wide that it tends to obscure the meaning of traditional I.Q. test scores for school placement purposes. Many psychologists, pediatricians and schools now depend on newer individual and group tests such as the OTIS-LENNON MENTAL ABILITY TEST or WECHSLER INTELLIGENCE SCALE FOR CHILDREN, whose results correlate directly to school performance rather than to the abstract concept of I.Q.