Cognitive Approaches To Intelligence

In 1957, Cronbach called for a merging of the two disciplines of scientific psychology—the differential and experimental approaches. Serious responses to Cronbach came in the 1970s, with cognitive approaches to intelligence attempting this merger. One team introduced the cognitive-correlates approach, whereby scores on laboratory cognitive tests were correlated with scores on psychometric intelligence tests. Another psychologist introduced the cognitive-components approach, whereby performance on complex psychometric tasks was decomposed into elementary information processing components.

In the 1990s, cognitive and biological approaches began to merge. A prototypical example is the inspection-time task. In this task, two adjacent vertical lines are presented tachistoscopically or by computer, followed by a visual mask (to destroy the image in visual iconic memory). The two lines differ in length, as does the amount of time for which the two lines are presented. The subject's task is to say which line is longer. However, instead of using raw response time as the dependent variable investigators typically use measures derived from a psychophysical function estimated after many trials. For example, the measure might be the duration of a single inspection trial at which 50% accuracy is achieved. Correlations between this task and measures of IQ appear to be about 0.4, slightly higher than is typical in psychometric tasks. There are differing theories as to why such correlations are obtained, but such theories generally attempt to relate the cognitive function of visual inspection time to some kind of biological function, such as speed of neuronal conduction. Next, we consider some of the biological functions that may underlie intelligence.

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