Theories of Intelligence

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Theories of Intelligence


  • Intelligence refers to:
    • “the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.”
    •  "the capacity to reason validly about information."
  • Major theories:
    • Faculty theory
    • Two Factor Theory - Charles Spearman
    • L.L Thurstone's Theory of Intelligence
    • Howard Gardner —Multiple intelligences
    • Sternberg– Triarchic theory
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • Artificial Intelligence
Faculty Theory
  • Faculty theory is the oldest theory regarding the nature of intelligence.
  • This theory states that mind is made up of different faculties like reasoning, memory, discrimination and imagination etc.
  • These faculties are independent of each other and can be developed by vigorous exercise.
  • Faculty theory has been criticized and proved that mental faculties are not independent.
Two Factor Theory
  • Proposed by Charles Spearman (1863-1945).
  • This theory proposes that  intellectual abilities were comprised of two factors:
    • general ability  or common ability known as ‘G’ factor and
    • group of specific abilities known as ‘S’ factor.
  • This theory states that a general intelligence factor (g) underlies other, more specific aspects of intelligence.
Louis L. Turnstone's Theory
  • He explained intelligence as a person’s “pattern” of mental abilities or a cluster of abilities.
  • “Intelligence, considered as a mental trait, is the capacity to make impulses focal at their early, unfinished stage of formation.  Intelligence is therefore the capacity for abstraction, which is an inhibitory process "
  • This theory explains 7 different “primary mental abilities” which he called primary abilities:
    1. word fluency
    2. verbal comprehension
    3. spatial visualization
    4. number facility
    5. associative memory
    6. reasoning
    7. perceptual speed
Multiple Intelligence Theory- Howard Gardner
  1. Linguistic (“word smart”)
  2. Logical-mathematical (“number smart”)
  3. Musical (“music smart”)
  4. Spatial (“art smart”)
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic (“body smart)
  6. Intrapersonal (“self smart”)
  7. Interpersonal (“people smart”)
  8. Naturalist (“nature smart”)
Triarchic Theory (Robert Sternberg)
  1. Analytic intelligence—mental processes used in learning how to solve problems
  2. Creative intelligence—ability to deal with novel situations by drawing on existing skills and knowledge
  3. Practical intelligence—ability to adapt to the environment (street smarts
Emotional Intelligence
  • The ability to perceive, express, understand, and regulate emotions.
  • The ability to manage emotions in one’s self and in others in order to reach desired outcomes.
  • An ability to validly reason with emotions and to use emotions to enhance thought.
  • An ability to recognize the meanings of emotion and their relationships, and to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • "the study and design of intelligent agents"
  • "the intelligence of machines"
  • Term first used by John McCarthy, in 1956.
  • It is the science and engineering of making intelligent computer machines.


  1. Thurstone, L. L. (1973). The Nature of Intelligence.  London:  Routledge.
  2. Sternberg R.J (1982). Handbook of Human Intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Mayer, J. D., Caruso, D., & Salovey, P. (1999). Emotional intelligence meets traditional standards for an intelligence. Intelligence, 27, 267-298.
This page was last updated on: 05/12/2020