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February 1993 W. O. W.

by Travis Hardin

It was 1916. German psychologist William Stern first used the term "intelligence quotient" while trying to clarify the first intelligence test, a 1905 creation of Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon for the French minister of public instruction. Whereupon a major psychological journal began a discussion in 1921 by asking experts to define intelligence. Fourteen experts replied with about fourteen meanings.

Lately, a few of my fellow Maryland Mensans have published comments on intelligence that represent a retreat to the 1921 level of discussion. It was good-naturedly claimed that some tests are lax, and again with some lightness that intelligence tests do not accurately measure intelligence. Other fellows have hinted that intelligence is so sweeping and varied that tests cannot define it. I hear whisperings of nihilism.

To grasp the essentials of a situation is something within the ability of an intelligent person, so to grasp the essence of the meaning of intelligence is possible. I propose to say how I grasped my definition.

First I begged the question and asked, "What is it intelligence tests measure?" The essence seems to be the ability to reason. Intelligence tests differ from examinations and assessment tests by being less dependent on memory, preparedness, and pedagogy, as they are not primarily concerned with assimilated knowledge. An actual question on the ACT Assessment is "The United States Federal Reserve Board influences the nation's economy by manipulating: (f) the money supply, (g) stock market prices, (h) government spending limits, (j) the awarding of government contracts." A mathematics question asks about the "slope of a line in the standard coordinate plane." Such questions require assimilated knowledge, and are not rightfully on intelligence tests.

But don't intelligence tests measure multiple traits, asked L.L. Thurstone in 1938? Yes, he said, there are seven relatively independent primary mental abilities: verbal comprehension, word fluency, number, space, memory, perceptual speed, and reasoning.

Having taken three intelligence tests, it is T.L. Hardin's view in 1993 that verbal comprehension, word fluency, memory, perceptual speed, number, and space are all tools used to identify and converge on the basic reasoning problem. Reasoning is at the convergence of all the faculties, reason provides the answers to all intelligence test questions, and without reason not a single question could be answered, no matter how simply fashioned the test. No reason, no IQ.

Another analysis of intelligence testing involves taking each claimed source of knowledge and asking if correct answers can be explained by mysticism (Did God whisper the answers to you?); authoritarianism (Did you find your answers in a book?); empiricism (Did you actually measure the area of that walkway around the perfectly circular swimming pool in the CTMM?); intuitionism (Did it come to you whole as certain knowledge, requiring no explanation?); or rationalism (Did you use seemingly inborn, a priori rules of thinking and logic that seem to fit reality?)</<p>

If you are willing to explain intuitionism in a rational sense, namely as rational thought — rapid, parallel, subconscious processing beyond one's ability to explain in steps, but nevertheless as neural activity that likely follows the same paths as rational thought — then the parsimonious answer you get, again, is reason.

I find support in research psychologist Alice Heim who flatly says, "An intelligence test is essentially a test of deductive reasoning. In fact, since 'intelligence' has become a dirty word, many psychologists prefer to talk of 'tests of reasoning'." *

Some of us came to Mensa through a back door (the SAT, in my case). Nevertheless, so far as our IQ's are similar, what we have in common in our association is reason, or the power of comprehending at least abstractly. Alas, we don't necessarily have in common sensitivity to other people's needs and desires, comprehending human behavior, being fun, getting along well with others, a sense of humor, musical ability or other giftedness, a sense of responsibility, social skills, persistence in the face of adversity, responses to stimuli that promote survival, or ability to set and achieve reasonable goals. Some have many of these qualities. But IQ tests do not tell us about them.

*Heim, Alice W., "Intelligence, Its Assessment,* The Oxford Companion to the Mind, ed. Richard L. Gregory (Oxford:Orford University Press, 1987)
Hassett, James, Psychology in Perspective (NY: Harper & Row, 1984)
Sternberg, Robert J., "Intelligence,' The Oxford Companion to the Mind, ed. Richard L Gregory (Oxford :Oxford University Press, 1987)