Factor g and General Intelligence Tests!

General intelligence tests measure your general intellectual ability. Whether your thinking is logical? How do you solve the problems? How do you appreciate new material and benefit from the past experiences? A general intelligence test includes all these facets of your intelligence.

But there is no definite definition of intelligence available so far…

Every definition is given by a set of psychologists. But others take too much liberty to criticize the same. There is no unanimity and you may not expect the same in the near future. Is intelligence a common ability? Is it a set of different sets of abilities? Is it asset of your brain? Is it part of your abilities? Is it part of your behavior? Is it a trait or skill? All these questions are raised and answered by different psychologists in their own ways.

However, it is generally agreed that intelligence is the name of a variety of intellectual procedures as memory, learning, perception, and decision-making, thinking, and reasoning. It is composition of many kinds of abilities so it is measured by many different procedures. This ability is articulated in many facets of a person’s life.

Development of General Intelligence Tests

general intelligence tests

Before development of first IQ test by Binet and Simon, efforts were underway to define intelligence. However, in the beginning of 1900s a British psychologist Charles Spearman made an observation that all tests of mental ability are positively connected. Spearman drew the conclusion that individuals who score high in any mental test, score high in all others, and vice versa. Spearman argued that if all mental tests are correlated, there must be a common factor producing the positive correlation.

In 1904 Spearman published his findings with statistics to show that the positive correlations among mental tests are due to a common underlying factor. His method developed into a technique known as factor analysis. It is possible to identify group of tests that measure a common ability by using factor analysis.

Spearman proposed that two factors could account for individual differences in scores on mental tests. First factor is represented as ‘g’. The g is considered as the cause of all intellectual tasks and abilities. The g factor stands for what all mental tests had in common.

Scores on all of the tests were positively correlated as all of the tests illustrate on g. Spearman believed that g, scientifically defined was in fact what scientists should represent by intelligence. In the 1920s he recommended that g measure a mental power. Others explored g and hypothesized that it is related to neural efficiency and speed, or some other fundamental properties of the mind.

Spearman identified the second factor as the specific factor, or s. The specific factor is related to whatever exceptional abilities a specific test requires and it differs from test to test. Spearman and his followers gave more importance to the general intelligence than the specific factor.

The collection of cognitive data and improvement in analytical techniques has made factor ‘g’ more important. A series of factors with g at its apex and group factors at successive lower levels, is thought to be the most trusted model of cognitive ability. Other models have also been put forward. But they have merely served anything positive except intensifying controversy over factor ‘g’.

Mental Testing and Factor g

  • The abstraction of g stems from the observation that scores on all forms of cognitive tests are associated positively with one another. Factor g can be deduced as the principal factor from cognitive test scores using the method of factor analysis.
  • Tests of cognitive ability earn most of their authority from the extent to which they measure g. If measures of the performance correlate highly with g, it is said to be g-loaded. Creators of IQ tests have made their tests as g-loaded as possible.
  • This meant that the influence of group factors has deepened by testing as wide a range of mental tasks as possible.
  • Elementary cognitive tasks (ECTs) also correlate strongly with g. ECTs are the simple works that need very little intelligence, but still correlate strongly with more effective intelligence tests.
  • ECT testing has made quantitative examination of hypotheses related to test bias, subject motivation, and group differences. Due to their simplicity, ECTs provide a link between classical IQ testing and biological inquiries.

Biological and Genetic Correlates of g

General intelligence tests are tools to prove that g has a lot of biological correlates. Very Strong correlates include mass of the prefrontal lobe, brain mass, and glucose metabolism rate in the brain. The factor g also correlates with overall body size.

Social Correlates of g

Many measures of g rightly correlate with traditional measures of success as income, academic achievement, job performance and career prestige.

It also negatively correlates with the undesirable life outcomes as school dropout, unplanned childbearing and poverty. Some psychologists claim that general intelligence tests that measure a wide range of abilities do not foresee much better than g.

The Flynn effect and g

The Flynn effect narrates a rise in IQ scores with the passage of time. There is no strong consensus as to whether rising IQ scores also reflect increases in g. Statistical analysis of IQ subtest scores proposed a g-independent input to the Flynn effect .

Challenges to factor g

Many psychologists have challenged the validity of factor g in general intelligence tests. Among critics Stephen J Gold, Horward Gardener and Philip Kitcher are more popular. However, most of the testing industry recognize and employ factor "g" as a valid and comprehensive evaluation in general intelligence tests.

A number of psycho-theorists have argued that general intelligence tests measure only a part of the human abilities that could be understood as one aspects of intelligence. Other scholars argue that such tests rightly measure intelligence and that the disagreement on a definition of intelligence does not nullify these measurements. They think that, intelligence is like many other scientific concepts that are correctly measured.

It is advisable not to take results of general intelligence tests as a complete indication of a person’s future. They are useful in determining people who need special attention due to disability or gifted-ness. However, there is no data yet to prove that job selections made upon such tests can help the organizations to perform better.


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