Is there one intelligence or many?

Very early on in the 20th century, using a rudimentary form of factor analysis, Spearman (1904) proposed that human intelligence was governed by a single factor, g, which was derived from the intercorrelations of a number of tests thought to measure intellect. These tests, which on the surface appeared to be dissimilar, showed surprisingly consistent levels of achievement from person to person. Examples of these include analogies, verbal reasoning, spatial abilities, and numerical reasoning. Whilst tests measuring verbal reasoning correlated higher within this group than between verbal and non-verbal reasoning (and vice-versa), Spearman’s results were taken by some as evidence that intelligence can be thought of as a single concept, where ability on one type of test would be a good predictor of performance on any other type of test. This in turn influenced the development of intelligence tests themselves, with those which correlated better with g thought to be a better measure of general intelligence; Raven’s Matrices are one example here. This essay will examine some of the many alternative views that reject these claims, along with new evidence from methods such as brain imaging that have claimed to shed a new light on the ongoing argument. It also aims to outline some of the conceptual mismatches between the theories, which seem to be the main cause of their disagreement. For more, visit

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