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Volume 15, Issue 2 (1986)

The Malleability of Intelligence: Cognitive Processes as a Function of Polygenic-Experiential Interaction

pp. 245—255

Psychological testing has taken a beating in the last 15 years, both in the scholarly/professional literature and in the popular press. Some of that negative attention has been well deserved as a result of the use of psychological tests for purposes for which they were not intended, such as the prediction of life status and success from tests that were designed merely to reflect aptitude for school learning, or the making of school placement decisions on the basis of too narrow a sample of behavior. My observation is that we are well on our way to correcting such obvious abuses of tests and of children. Testing itself, and the broader enterprise of psychoeducational assessment, has been unfairly abused, even to the point that its use for scholastic decision making has actually been prohibited by the courts in some jurisdictions. The principal thesis of my remarks today is that while such negative attitudes toward testing have gone much too far, the responsibility for getting us back on a productive course is ours; that is, it lies with the users of tests. We have to ask fundamental questions, and seek fundamental answers, about the nature of what it is that is being measured by our tests. By far the most frequently-used, frequently-abused,controversial, and, from a psychometric standpoint, the most well-developed of our tests are the intelligence tests. My remarks today are addressed to the nature and measurement of intelligence, hence essentially to the question of what we are assessing when we give intelligence tests. In the process it will be useful for us to talk as well about what we might be, or indeed ought to be, assessing, and for what purposes.

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