Spearman versus Gardner: A Comparison of the Two Basic Theories of Intelligence

Essay by CarolClark248College, Undergraduate February 2007

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There are two basic theories on the nature of intelligence. This paper examines, compares, and contrasts these opposing schools of thought on the nature of intelligence. The two major theories of intelligence are the one general intelligence theory, and the theory of multiple intelligences. The general intelligence theory implies that there is only one general factor which governs all intelligence, while the multiple intelligence theory holds that there are several diverse forms of intelligence. In addition to the evaluation of these two schools of thought, this paper will discuss which theory is more predominate in today's society, and how it is implemented in the modern day school systems.

Spearman versus Gardner:

A Comparison of the Two Basic Theories of Intelligence

In 1904, British psychologist Charles E. Spearman began developing his two-factor theory of intelligence. After receiving his doctorate from Wundt in Leipzig, Spearman's professional career began to take off.

He took over the department of experimental psychology at University College; London in 1907. After retiring in the early 1930's, he continued to work and teach in North America. Throughout these years, Spearman conducted empirical studies utilizing a number of tests designed to measure an individual's cognitive ability. Utilizing his decidedly statistical background, Spearman discovered a positive correlation evident in all test scores. This means that a person who scored highly on one type of test, for example a mathematics test, had a very high probability of scoring high on another cognitive ability test, such as reading or language. By way of comparison, individuals who scored poorly on one type of test would generally also score poorly on others. Spearman published these findings, and named this concept "positive manifold" (Motley, 2006). Using this concept, Spearman devised a technique of statistical analysis that examined patterns of individual differences in test scores.