Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Passage Limitation as a Source of the Speed-Ability Relationship

Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Passage Limitation as a Source of the Speed-Ability Relationship

Article excerpt

Passage limitation is defined as an important source of the speed-ability relationship caused by the constraints of perception. These constraints result from the restriction of perceptual processing as well as from interferences and inhibitions in preparing the mental representation of a stimulus. Passage limitation is assumed to delay information processing in the case of a considerable demand on perception. In intelligence test tasks, passage limitation contributes to the occurrence of errors via capacity limitation of ,higher" mental processing. Besides capacity and passage limitations, speed is considered to be a source of the speed-- ability relationship. This three-sources model which includes speed, capacity and passage limitations can account for many peculiarities of the speed-ability relationship.

Key words: cognitive ability, intelligence, perception, mental speed.

Numerous observations of a substantial correlation between measures of processing speed and intelligence test scores have so far been reported (e.g., Barrett, Eysenck, & Lucking, 1986; Jensen & Munro, 1979; Lunneborg, 1977; Roth, 1964; Vernon, 1983). All these observations suggest that processing speed is either a fundamental source of cognitive ability (e.g. Eysenck, 1987, p.27) or that there is something which both, speed and ability, have in common (e.g. Jensen, 1982a). As a consequence, various hypotheses about the nature of the speed-ability relationship were proposed. Some hypotheses originate from the biological perspective. In this case, general characteristics of nerves are regarded as major sources of the relationship (e.g., Jensen, 1982b; Hendriksen & Hendriksen, 1980; Miller, 1994). Other hypotheses are derived from the cognitive perspective. They suggest functional and structural characteristics of mental information processing as the basis of the relationship (e.g., Hunt, 1978; Lehrl & Fischer, 1988; Chiang & Atkinson, 1976; Stankov, 1988). This cognitive perspective is especially well suited for explaining the occurrence of errors in processing intelligence test tasks since failures can be related to characteristics of information processing and to the task demands. This perspective suggests the consideration of three major hypotheses which are addressed as mental-speed hypothesis, capacity-limitation hypothesis and accumulation hypothesis.

The Hypotheses of the Cognitive Perspective

The mental-speed hypothesis has received the most attention in the research on the relationship so far. It states that individual differences in cognitive ability are due to differences in the speed of cognitive processes. This hypothesis shows some agreement with the intuitive notion of the intelligent person who is usually characterized as being very quick in performance. This notion additionally suggests quickness of mental activities and even seems to have gained access to the experts' concept of intelligence since a large proportion of experts considers mental speed as an important element of intelligence (Snyderman & Rothman, 1987). Presumedly, the intuitive notion of the intelligent person was even the forerunner of the concept of mental speed which originates from the beginning of academic psychology. Before the advent of intelligence testing, mental speed was regarded as the major source of intellectual efficiency and as a property of the brain in general (see Berger, 1982). It was assumed to characterize every mental activity and to determine the results of these activities. Moreover, it was the search for an account of individual differences in performance which led to the mental-speed hypothesis. Following Galton (1883) as well as J.M. Cattell (1890) and Spearman (1904), it has been assumed that mental processes show a characteristic speed and that the brighter individuals display a higher degree of mental speed than the other individuals. Mental speed was regarded as the actual source of individual differences in performance observed in the intelligence test tasks and other tasks. …

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