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What Intelligence Tests Miss 4: Cutting Intelligence Down to Size


Chapter 4 is more or a less a strategic semantic case against our current use of the word “intelligence.” Stanovich thinks that in labeling every good ability we have as “intelligence” (emotional intelligence, musical intelligence, etc.) we are making it look like a person’s IQ is really, really important. Since IQ tests presumably measure “intelligence,” the more things we label intelligence, the more it looks like IQ tests will predict a person’s ability there.

There is also the danger of an overemphasis on intelligence as the one, main great thing to have. After all, if every good thing to have is a type of intelligence, then of course intelligence must be all-important.

To solve this, Stanovich wants to partition the terms and limit intelligence to only what IQ tests measure, while leaving other areas with different labels, like rationality. That way when we find someone has a very high IQ, we stop supposing they must be good at everything else.

This is pretty interesting since the less wrong rationalist community seems to define intelligence in the exact way that Stanovich is fighting against.

Kindle Notes:

Consider a thought experiment. Imagine that someone objected to the emphasis given to horsepower (engine power) when evaluating automobiles. They feel that horsepower looms too large in people’s thinking. In an attempt to deemphasize horsepower, they then begin to term the other features of the car things like “braking horsepower” and “cornering horsepower” and “comfort horsepower.” Would such a strategy serve to make people less likely to look to engine power as an indicator of the “goodness” of a car? I think not. I think it would instead serve to make more salient just the feature that the person wished to deemphasize. Just as calling “all good car things” horsepower would serve to emphasize engine power, I would argue that calling “all good cognitive things” intelligence will contribute to the deification of MAMBIT (612).

My strategy is different from that of the broad theorists. It is to let MAMBIT carve what it can out of nature in scientific terms, label that intelligence, and restrict intelligence to that (622).

One type of broad definition of intelligence that has strong imperialist tendencies is represented by those definitions that emphasize intelligence as “adaptation to the environment” like that of Wechsler quoted above. Such definitions appropriate large areas of instrumental rationality into the definition of intelligence. To define intelligence as adaptation to the environment when the best known tests of the construct do not assess any such thing creates tremendous potential for confusion (660).

Finally, my argument is, essentially, that we would value MAMBIT less if we would take care to label the things it is not (rationality) and not let the term intelligence incorporate those other things (703).

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