David R. Olson The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada
The range of issues with which any theory of intelligence must deal is bounded on one side by considerations of man as a biological animal and on the other side by those of man as a social or cultural animal. Both of these sets of considerations share some common assumptions about the nature of human intelligence. Goodnow (Chapter 9) and Charlesworth (Chapter 8) both make the clear and convincing case that intelligence has everything to do with successful adaptation. Further, they agree that one cannot discuss adaptation usefully unless one specifies clearly what it is that the system is to adapt to. Neither of them is satisfied with the blindness of traditional theories of intelligence to the cognitive demands of various ecological niches. To answer the question of the demands that the environment makes upon intelligence, Charlesworth urges ethological studies of naturally occurring adaptive behavior on the part of children growing up in our culture. Goodnow argues that the answer to this question may come into focus by comparing the intellectual demands of different cultures. Quite different performances are considered adaptive in different cultures. For example, tests that are found to be correlated indices of intelligence in one culture are unrelated in another. Goodnow's sensitive treatment of these cultural differences gives her chapter some of the features of a field manual for the ethological study of intelligence. Up to this point the chapters of Goodnow and Charlesworth are highly congruent.
But what, if anything, does underlie adaptive performances--what Charlesworth calls "highly generalizable and highly usable, life valuable (cognitive) operations that are responsible for intelligent behavior [p. 158]?" The answers offered to this question show more clearly the differences in underlying theoretical bias--in Charlesworth's case, a bias towards a biological account of intelligence, in Goodnow's case, a bias towards a cultural account of intelligence.
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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: 189.