The General Factor of Intelligence: How General Is It?

The General Factor of Intelligence: How General Is It?

The General Factor of Intelligence: How General Is It?

The General Factor of Intelligence: How General Is It?


This edited volume presents a balanced approach to the ongoing debate of just how general the "general factor" of intelligence is. To accomplish this goal, the editors chose a number of distinct approaches to the study of intelligence--psychometric, genetic-epistemological, cognitive, biological, behavior-genetic, sociocultural, systems--and asked distinguished scholars to write from the standpoint of these approaches. Each approach comprises two chapters, one by a scholar leaning toward a view arguing for the greater generality of g, and the other by a scholar leaning toward a view arguing for the lesser generality of g. The scholars are not simply "for" or "against" these outlooks, rather they provide a more textured view of the general factor, attempting to explain it in psychological terms that are easily understandable. Intended for psychologists in all areas, including clinical, consulting, educational, cognitive, school, developmental, and industrial-organizational, this book will also be of interest to educators, sociologists, anthropologists, and those interested in the nature of intelligence.


Is there a general factor of intelligence, and if so, how general is it? Few debates are as heated and polarized as the one centering on the answer to this question.

On the one side are the so-called “g-theorists. ” These theorists appear to be as convinced that there is a single general factor of intelligence as anyone could be of any scientific theory. Many g-theorists view g theory as fact, in much the way that many evolutionary theorists view natural selection as fact. Indeed, within the past several years, two books with the same title, The g Factor, have been published by major publishers (Brand, 1996; Jensen, 1998). the controversy surrounding the issue caused one publisher almost immediately to place the first book on the g factor out of print because of what the publisher and some others believed was an appearance of racist extensions of general-factor theory.

On the other side are theorists who believe that, to the extent that there is a general factor of intelligence, this factor represents nothing more than a factor that is general to tests of certain academic abilities, and not even the full range of these abilities. For example, both Gardner (1983, 1999) and Sternberg (1985, 1997) have suggested that the general factor applies only to the powerful range of tasks used in tests of academic abilities, and not much more.

It is difficult for any reader to evaluate the status of the debate on g theory because the available literature often seems partisan. Some researchers believe the evidence against this factor's being truly completely general is overwhelming. But the g theorists view the presentations of multiple-intelligence-type theorists as biased in much the way that the latter theorists view the presentations of g theorists as biased.

The goal of this volume is to present a balanced approach in presenting a variety of points of view including but not limited to the relatively extreme positions that g is either an established fact or an epiphenomenon. Thus, the book is motivated by the need to provide (a) a balanced presentation of points of view on (b) the most central theoretical issue in the field of human intelligence and one that has (c) enormous practical implications, such as whether an iq score can be meaningful in any but a fairly trivial way.

Contributors to this book include many of the most distinguished scholars in the field of human intelligence. These scholars represent a wide variety of methodological perspectives and viewpoints regarding general ability. in particular, we have sought pairs of authors representing major points of view, with one member of the pair at least partially in favor of and the other at least partially . . .

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