Throughout the history of psychology, intelligence has been a critical concept. In early theories of psychology, intelligence (i.e., "thinking ability") accounted for how well and how much an individual learned. For example, Thorndike considered intelligence to be a measure of how many S-R connections a person had acquired. Binet felt that it could be represented by a single number (IQ) derived from a written test score. Cattell (1987) used factor analysis to identify two general abilities: crystalized (verbal/mathematical) and fluid (spatial-mechanical) intelligence.

In modern theories of learning, intelligence is viewed as multidimensional and dynamic. Guilford divides intelligence into 150 specific abilities according to the nature of the operations, content and products required. Sternberg proposes that the three major components of intelligence are performance, metacognition, and knowledge. Gardner argues for six distinct forms of intelligence: linguistic, musical, mathematical-logical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and personal. Cronbach & Snow argue that certain instructional approaches are more effective with some learners than others because of specific aptitudes. Piaget identified specific stages in the development of intelligence in children.

Measurement of abilities/aptitudes has always been a central aspect of the concept of intelligence (e.g., Butcher, 1968; Lyman, 1968). The concept has posed many interesting questions for the field of learning such as: (1) To what extent is intelligence innate or acquired? (2) How does intelligence change with age? (3) What are the cultural components of intelligence? (4) What are the differences between human and animal intelligence? In addressing questions such as these, theories of learning have become more comprehensive and sophisticated.


Butcher, H. (1968). Human Intelligence: Its Nature and Assessment. London: Methuen.

Cattell, R.B. (1987). Intelligence. New York: Elsevier.

Lyman, H. (1968). Intelligence, Aptitude, and Achievement Testing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.