Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Measurement of Mental Attention: Assessing a Cognitive Component Underlying Performance on Standardized Intelligence Tests

Academic journal article Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling

Measurement of Mental Attention: Assessing a Cognitive Component Underlying Performance on Standardized Intelligence Tests

Article excerpt

Abstract

Despite the widespread use of standardized IQ tests to measure human intelligence, problems with such measures have led some to suggest that better indices may derive from measurement of cognitive processes underlying performance on IQ tests (e.g., working memory capacity). However, measures from both approaches may exhibit performance biases in favour of majority groups, due to the influence of prior learning and experience. Mental attentional (M-) capacity is proposed to be a causal factor underlying developmental growth in working memory. Measures of M-capacity index important cognitive variance underlying performance on standardized intelligence tests. These measures appear to be reasonably culture-fair and invariant across content domains. The current study tested theoretical predictions regarding the content-invariance of M-measures and the development of M-capacity for groups of children differing in performance on standardized IQ tests. Ninety-one participants differentiated on the basis of academic stream (intellectually gifted vs. mainstream) and age (grade 4 vs. grade 8) received measures of M-capacity in the verbal and visuo-spatial domains. Children identified as gifted scored about one stage higher on both measures. Results suggest that measures of M-capacity may be useful adjuncts to standardized intelligence measures.

Key words: mental attention, working memory, intelligence, IQ, giftedness

Development of the IQ test to measure human intelligence has been lauded as one of the greatest achievements in the history of psychology (Nisbett et al., 2012). Advocates of IQ testing point to evidence that IQ scores in childhood are predictive of length of schooling (Neisser et al., 1996), academic success (Brody, 1997; Deary, Strand, Smith, & Fernandes, 2007; Gottfredson, 2004; Neisser et al., 1996; Nisbett et al., 2012), socioeconomic and vocational success (Firkowska-Mankiewicz, 2011; Gottfredson, 2004; Neisser et al., 1996; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998, 2004; Strenze, 2007), and even cognitive declines in late adulthood (Bourne, Fox, Deary, & Whalley, 2007). Intellectually precocious children, as identified by exceptionally high scores on standardized intelligence tests, display heightened performance in areas such as mathematics (Hoard, Geary, ByrdCraven, & Nugent, 2007), speed and efficiency of cognitive processing (Jausovec, 1998; Johnson, Im-Bolter, & Pascual-Leone, 2003; Saccuzzo, Johnson, & Guertin, 1994), and resistance to interfering stimuli (Johnson et al., 2003). On the strength of these findings, IQ measures have been widely adopted for selection, placement, and decision-making in educational, vocational, clinical, and research settings (Richardson, 2002; Weinberg, 1989).

From this perspective, intelligence is viewed as a cognitive trait that can be reliably measured by IQ tests to yield scores that are related (perhaps causally) to superior cognitive performances and achievements across the lifespan. It has been argued that this cognitive trait is highly stable and largely resistant to meaningful long-term change (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994; Murray, 1996; Rushton, 1995). Numerous studies have demonstrated, however, both the short-term and long-term malleability of intelligence (as measured by IQ tests), as in the case of increased IQ scores after adoption into a more affluent family (Capron & Duyme, 1989; Duyme, Dumaret, & Tomkiewicz, 1999; van Ijzendoorn, Juffer, & Poelhuis, 2005), initial IQ gains and occasional later regression after cognitive training (Campbell, Pungello, Miller-Johnson, Burchinal, & Ramey, 2001; Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides, & Perrig, 2008; Klingberg, Forssberg, & Westerberg, 2002; Mackey, Hill, Stone, & Bunge, 2011; Rueda, Rothbart, McCandliss, Saccomanno, & Posner, 2005; Wasik, Ramey, Bryant, & Sparling, 1990), change in IQ as a result of various non-cognitive interventions (e.g., nutritional changes, curing infection, increasing motivation; Duckworth, Quinn, Lynam, Loeber, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 2011; Johnson, Swank, Howie, Baldwin, & Owen, 1996; Nokes & Bundy, 1994; Schoenthaler, Amos, Eysenck, Peritz, & Yudkin, 1991), and the rise and decline of IQ scores with continued or delayed/disrupted schooling, respectively (Baltes & Reinert, 1969; Bedard & Dhuey, 2006; Brinch & Galloway, 2012; Ceci, 1991; Ceci & Gilstrap, 2000). …

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