William R. Charlesworth University of Minnesota
What follows is an attempt to apply ethology (the study of the habits and characteristics of animals in their natural habitats from an evolutionary viewpoint) to the phenomenon of human intelligence. Such an application cannot be optimal in the space permitted, nor totally professional. The author has not completed all the training needed to develop the full range of methodological and conceptual skills necessary to apply the ethological approach to something as complex as human intelligence. Nevertheless, a start in this direction must be made. The present state of our knowledge and the great personal and social implications of intelligence testing today make it necessary for psychologists to broaden their approach to intelligence. Opening their doors to other disciplines such as ethology, in the author's estimation, is one way to achieve this.
Ethologizing about human behavior has become a popular exercise, and, as most of us are aware, the results of this exercise have been quite mixed. The literature on human ethology is a confused collection of reckless speculations, clever insights, and respectable hypotheses backed by various admixtures of hard and soft data. This state of affairs is partially due to the fact that readers, writers, and even researchers at times, fail to distinguish between general working principles and hypotheses that guide research on one hand and generalizations that are the products of much detailed observation and experiment on the other. This can be particularly said about evolutionary arguments for the origins and evolution of intelligence. There has been much theorizing about it, but a vast amount of empirical work still has to be done before any evolutionary theory of intelligence can be said to have a solid basis in fact. While this chapter belongs to the class of speculation and quasi-theorizing, it also sketches out a methodological approach to obtaining facts on intelligence and its possible adaptive significance which will some day hopefully justify its existence.
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Publication information: Book title: The Nature of Intelligence. Contributors: Lauren B. Resnick - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Hillsdale, NJ. Publication year: 1976. Page number: 147.
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