Contemporary Intellectual Assessment: Theories, Tests, and Issues

Contemporary Intellectual Assessment: Theories, Tests, and Issues

Contemporary Intellectual Assessment: Theories, Tests, and Issues

Contemporary Intellectual Assessment: Theories, Tests, and Issues


This comprehensive work provides information about theory and research on assessment of intellectual abilities and processes. Leading test authors, theorists, and scholars review the conceptual and research underpinnings of recent editions of intelligence tests, including the WISC-IV, KABC-II, SB5, and WJ III, and offer recommendations for interpretation.


The history of intelligence testing has been well documented from the early period of mental measurement to present-day conceptions of the structure of intelligence and its operationalization. The foundations of psychometric theory and practice were established in the late 1800s and set the stage for the ensuing enterprise in the measurement of human cognitive abilities. The technology of intelligence testing was apparent in the early 1900s, when Binet and Simon developed a test that adequately distinguished children with mental retardation from children with normal intellectual capabilities, and was well entrenched when the Wechsler–Bellevue was published in the late 1930s. In subsequent decades, significant refinements and advances in intelligence testing technology were made, and the concept of individual differences was a constant focus of scientific inquiry.

Although several definitions and theories have been offered in recent decades, the nature of intelligence, cognition, and competence continues to be elusive. Perhaps the most popular definition was that offered by Wechsler in 1958. According to Wechsler, intelligence is “the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally and to deal effectively with his environment” (p. 7). It is on this conception of intelligence that the original Wechsler tests were built. Because for decades the Wechsler batteries were the dominant intelligence tests in the field of psychology, were found to measure global intelligence validly, and for many years were largely without rival, they assumed “number one” status and remain in that position today. As such, Wechsler's (1958) definition of intelligence continues to guide and influence the presentday practice of intelligence testing.

In light of theoretical and empirical advances in cognitive psychology, however, it is clear that earlier editions of the Wechsler tests were not based on the most dependable and current evidence of science, and that overreliance on these instruments served to widen the gap between intelligence testing and cognitive science. During the 1980s and 1990s, new intelligence tests were developed to be more consistent with contemporary research and theoretical models of the structure of cognitive abilities. Since the publication of the first edition of Contemporary Intellectual Assessment: Theories, Tests, and Issues in 1997, there has been tremendous growth in intelligence theory and measurement of cognitive constructs. Importantly, since 1997, numerous new instruments have been developed and existing instruments have been revised. The authors and publishers of all these instruments have relied on recent theory and research to develop subtests, to analyze validity data, and to organize frameworks for interpretation and use of test results.

Part I of this textbook consists of two chapters that describe the historical and theoretical origins of intellectual assessment. In the first chapter, “A History of Intelligence Assessment,” John D. Wasserman and David S. Tulsky trace the history of intelligence tests from the latter part of the 19th century to the present day. In particular, they explore the increased interest in intelligence and its measurement in the early 20th century, with special emphasis on the work of Alfred Binet and David Wechsler. In Chapter 2, “A History of Intelligence Test Interpretation,” Randy W. Kamphaus, Anne Pierce Winsor, Ellen W. Rowe, and Sangwon Kim provide a historical account of dominant methods of test interpretation designed to quantify a general level of intelligence, clinical and psychometric approaches to interpreting profiles of cognitive performance, and a theorybased approach to test interpretation. The discussion of these approaches provides readers with an understanding of how current practices evolved, as well as a basis for improving contemporary approaches to test interpretation. Overall, the chapters included in Part I trace the historical roots of test conceptualization, development, and interpretation to modern times, providing the necessary foundation from which to understand and elucidate the contemporary and emerging theories, tests, and issues in the field of intellectual assessment that are presented in subsequent sections of this volume.

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