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The importance of intelligence in Western societies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 July 2008

C. R. Brand
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh

Extract

There are many different questions about intelligence that easily become confused. They concern its measurement, its psychological basis (if any), its heritability and its relevance to human group differences. Even a discussion of the importance of intelligence could range widely. (1) The evolution of intelligence might consider what selection pressures generate and maintain the higher levels of intelligence that humans are generally thought to possess. (2) The persistence of individual differences in human intelligence could consider whether such differences serve some ‘group’ function in establishing clear bases for social hierarchy: individuals might differ just because intelligence is irrelevant to fertility under conditions of social hierarchy. Or the differences might be temporary, because Western social hierarchies depend on intelligence differences that they will soon undermine. (3) Is intelligence an explanatory concept in psychology? Or must attribution of scholastic or other successes to ‘intelligence’ always yield to further analyses that somehow break down intelligence into hypothetical ‘components’? (4) Educational relevance might be the issue: is it important to take intelligence differences into account when deciding on how to educate children? (5) Or the concern might be with democratic sentiment and the importance people attach to intelligence for themselves and in their spouses and children.

Type
Session 1: The Nature of Intelligence
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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