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The psychology of intelligence has undergone major changes in theoretical orientation and in its empirical approach since its early days close to a hundred years ago (Sternberg, 1990; Sternberg and Detterman, 1986). For the pioneers of intelligence testing, most notably Binet and Stern, the concept of intelligence captured relatively stable, interindividual differences in general abilities and capacities that were relevant to acquiring new skills and learning in novel situations. The idea of adaptation in the sense of mastering the challenges of a changing environment was constituent for the concept of intelligence in its earliest forms. In the minds of the general public until today, having a high IQ was synonymous with being smart and having a large potential for successfully coping with all kinds of professional and everyday challenges.
Due to these underlying theoretical ambitions the construction of intelligence tests in the decades following the pioneering stages faced no less than the triple challenge (1) to identify basic capacities that (2) reflected stable interindividual differences, and (3) that were general in terms of their relevance for all kinds of real-life competencies and skills. In response to these challenges extant psychometric tests have narrowed down the conceptual scope of the intelligence concept quite considerably. Implicit in the psychometric approach to intelligence is a focus on measurement (as opposed to understanding the causes, contexts, and functions of intelligence) and the view that intelligence reflects a collection of fairly static or dispositional abilities that characterizes a person (as opposed to a dynamic system of contextualized and adaptive cognitive functions that individuals continue to acquire throughout their life course).
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