Are the General Factors from Different Child and Adolescent Intelligence Tests the Same? Results from a Five-Sample, Six-Test Analysis

By Floyd, Randy G.; Reynolds, Matthew R. et al. | School Psychology Review, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Are the General Factors from Different Child and Adolescent Intelligence Tests the Same? Results from a Five-Sample, Six-Test Analysis


Floyd, Randy G., Reynolds, Matthew R., Farmer, Ryan L., Kranzler, John H., School Psychology Review


Abstract. Psychometric g is the largest, most general, and most predictive factor underlying individual differences across cognitive tasks included in intelligence tests. Given that the overall score from intelligence tests is interpreted as an index of psychometric g, we examined the correlations between general factors extracted from individually administered intelligence tests using data from five samples of children and adolescents (n = 83 to n = 200) who completed at least two of six intelligence tests. We found strong correlations between the general factors indicating that these intelligence tests measure the same construct, psychometric g. A total of three general-factor correlations exceeded .95, but two other correlations were somewhat lower (.89 and .92). In addition, specific ability factors correlated highly across tests in most (but not all) cases. School psychologists and other professionals should know that psychometric g and several specific abilities are measured in remarkably similar ways across a wide array of intelligence tests.

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The term positive manifold refers to the pattern of universally positive correlations between cognitive task scores (i.e., scores from tasks on which performance results from differences in mental processing and not sensory acuity or motor skill; Jensen, 1998). This ubiquitous pattern seems to indicate that a general mental ability underlies individual differences on every kind of cognitive task. Spearman (1927) referred to this general mental ability as simply g, but it is often referred to as psychometric g. On the most widely used intelligence tests, the largest independent source of variance across persons is psychometric g. In addition, the predictive validity of intelligence tests is largely a function of psychometric g (Jensen, 1998; Neisser et al., 1996). The more closely a cognitive task measures psychometric g, the better it is at predicting a wide range of important social outcomes, such as success in school and work (Gottfredson, 2008).

At the current time, Carroll's (1993) three-stratum theory is arguably the most widely accepted taxonomy of human cognitive abilities. From patterns evident across the results of hierarchical factor analysis of more than 460 data sets from a variety of cognitive tasks, Carroll (1993) identified three levels of cognitive abilities representing varying degrees of generality: (a) Stratum I abilities that are narrow and highly specialized, (b) Stratum II abilities that are broader in nature, and (c) one very broad Stratum III ability, or psychometric g. Three-stratum theory posits that cognitive abilities can be arranged from specific to general and that psychometric g is best represented as a higher order variable correlated with all factors and test scores beneath it. For reference, the term order refers to the level of the latent variable in a factor analysis. First-order factors, for example, represent the latent variables underlying a matrix of correlations between scores, and second-order factors represent the latent variables underlying first-order factor correlations. In contrast, the term stratum refers to the degree of generality indicated by a factor, regardless of the order at which it appears in the analysis (Carroll, 1993).

Psychometric g in the Practice of Psychology

In schools, federal special education law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 2004) mandates the assessment of intelligence for the identification of intellectual disability. The use of intelligence tests is allowed, but no longer required, for the identification of specific learning disability. Finally, intelligence tests are used in most states to identify students for intellectually gifted and talented programs (McLain & Pfeiffer, 2012). In other applied settings, diagnostic criteria (e.g., American Psychiatric Association, 2000) require that intelligence tests be administered. …

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