Lisa D. (chaoticidealism) wrote,
Lisa D.
chaoticidealism

Reification

Here's the bald truth: There is no such thing as "intelligence". There are only many, many different abilities. Some of us are genetically luckier than others; some of us got better environments; some of us had more motivation or curiosity to learn; some of us had more free time to use for learning. Some of us have problems with the skills that are required in daily life and at school, and we call them "intellectually disabled". Others have unusually high levels of socially valued skills, and we call them "gifted".

Certainly people differ in what they can and cannot do. Even performance on an IQ test can be a useful gauge of what one might be good or bad at doing.

But "intelligence", as a real thing independent of anything else? No. Doesn't exist. It's a social construct. It's an abstract idea, an estimate, an opinion that one person has of another. We may use it as a shortcut to talk about what a person might generally be capable of doing, but the less specific your statements about someone's capabilities, the less they apply to a real person. By the time you get general enough to talk about "intelligence", you've become so vague that your statements have no practical application and no predictive value--or else your statements have become stereotypical, limiting, and ultimately false.

Book recommendation: The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould.
Includes a very accessible discussion of factor analysis, explanation of how error and bias creep into even honest experiments, and an overview of the history of mental measurements, from brain volume to IQ tests.


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