Intelligence Testing LO22552

Philip Pogson (
Thu, 02 Sep 1999 10:48:24 +1000

Several people including Rick have asked me to expand on my comments about
the history and background of IQ tests as my perception is that the List
would benefit from some more clarity around personality and intelligence

I am not a psychologist, but a few years ago I did a graduate research
degree on non-academic intelligence contructs that was subsequently
written up with Professor Mark Tennant in a book called "Learning and
Change in the Adult Years." (1995: Jossey-Bass)

My interest in non-academic intelligence had been stimulated by working
with long term unemployed people who often had been failures at school,
and had limited literacy, but were highly competent at "practical" tasks.

I examined a number of constructs including:

-academic intelligence (as measured by IQ)
-practical intelligence
-practical thinking
-tacit knowledge

The first thing to note is that like all human endeavour, the initial
research and theorising around forumulating and measuring "IQ" was
situated and steeped in culture and time.

The two broader societal/cultural issues influencing early intelligence
testing were:

a. Darwin's Theory of Evolution
b. the commencement in the West of universal compulsory education

The legacy of Darwin was the belief that intelligence was an inherited
characteristic. This notion appeared in intelligence theory as the
infamous "G" or general intelligence. (see Burt, Boynton, Hunt etc) What
IQ tests were trying to measures was general intelligence potential, as
theoretically at least, abstracted from context and application.

The legacy on IQ testing of expanding democracy and its corollary,
universal education, was the need for education providers and governments
in France, UK, US, Australia etc to deal with a far broader range of
students with an unheard of breadth of ability. This was happening in the
second half of last century. Most of these people had, historically,
never been to school as formal schooling had been limited to the children
of the rich, or the talented poor on scholarships. Right or wrong, IQ was
seen as a means of understanding and categorising this great hoard of

However, the original scientific work by the father of IQ testing, the
Frenchman Alfred Binet, was motivated by the problem of trying to deal
with intellectually handicapped children in late 19th century France.
Galton's book "Heriditary Genius" (1869) was also highly influential, as
was Cattell.

Very early on, however, problems arose. As intelligence is an abstract
construct like "love", and "personalit", many IQ scientists literally came
to define IQ as "what IQ tests test." Most IQ tests were socially and
racially unsophisticated and biased, actually measuring literacy and
history (some tests asked questions of US history), rather than
intelligence. Tests seemed to prove, fancy that, the Afro-Americans,
third world folk, aboriginals, and the working class were stupid. Not a
surprise when most tests were formulated and validated on literate, white,
middle class US college students!

Later in the 1970s/80s IQ in terms of "g" really started to stumble.
Sternberg posited his Triachic Theory of three intelligence, Howard
Gardner his famous 7 intelligences. (musical, kinaesthetic,
logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial etc) practical intelligence and
wisdom were also found to have valid cognitive underpinning independent of
IQ, and lately people like Goldman have popularised emotional intelligence
or EQ.

What does this mean for org learners in 1999?

1. All IQ and personality tests are based on theories and assumptions that
are culturally and historically grounded. IQ grew out of Darwin's
theories, MBTI out of Jungian personality theory, Centre for Creative
Leadership out of research outcomes which were posited in 16 (I think)
traits of management, DISC is also based on a theory of personality.

This does not a particular test bad or good, its just a fact of life.

2. The cultural, social and scientific assumptions (mental models)
underpinning all these tests are often not made explicit, challenged or
explained, which can lead to misuse of information, misuse of test
results, and misuse of the actual tests! On the front page of the DISC
profile instrument I used to use was the warning "do not use DISC alone to
make a judgement about the suitability of a person for a particualr
position without the interviews, reference checks etc" but managers still
ignored this warning on the basis that the test gave them much needed

3. Nevertheless, feedback is essential to learning. Properly framed, put
in context and used as instructed, I think it is fair to say the best
instruments MAY be useful in helping people grow, understand themselves
and select work they will enjoy. Tests may also assist educationalists to
understand more about learning difficulties, strengths in individuals etc.

4. The acceptance of the use of such instruments is probably linked to
organisational history and culture. An organisation with a strong
scientific managment background that values order, precision, and
segmentation of work may be more inclined to use tests in employee
selection and even promotion. An organisation with a strong culture of
"family" and "human can-do" will probably be uncomfortable with tests as
they would be seen to categorise and limit the capacity of people to move
around the organisation, learn and grow through challenges.

The same goes for us and individuals. (See Ed Schein's great new book
"The Corporate Culture Survival Guide" for more on org history and

5. IQ tests in particular reinforce a head-hand dichotomy that goes back
to the Greeks and was active right through the Middle Ages and even today.
That is, abstract theoretical thinking is more important and valuable than
practical work with one's hands.

To me and based on my personal assumptions of the value of all ethical
human endeavour, IQ can thus leave a whole lot of people out of the
learning loop!!

6. Finally, I do not mandate any particular test. I work in a process
consultant methodology and design each intervention to suit the context.
If MBTI/DISC/CCL can help and the results will assist, and the people I
contract to agreeable, we may use one or another but the emphasis is on
learning, sharing, and understanding, not categorising and excluding.

Hope this has been of interest.

Philip Pogson
Leadership Development Strategy Consultant
Staff Development Branch
University of Technology Sydney NSW 2007

ph: +61 2 9514 2934(w)
fax: +61 2 9514 2930(w)
ph/fax: +61 2 9809 5185 (h)
mobile: +61 0412 459156

"Anyone can lead, and there is no single chief executive officer. There
is a problem of getting used to the idea of no single chief, but the
passage of time will allay that."

-Robert Greenleaf


Philip Pogson <ppogson@uts.EDU.AU>

[Host's Note: Thanks, Philip, for the followup. In association with, this link...

Learning and Change in Adulthood : A Developmental Perspective (Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series) by Mark Tennant, Philip Pogson (Contributor)


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