Dimensions of Intelligence: The Nature and Properties

There is a wide debate as to how intelligence can be defined. Different scholars and researchers argue about the nature and properties that can be definitive of intelligence (Paik 1998). There are also different theories as to the nature of intelligence, but the debate that stands out is whether it has a general intelligence or multiple intelligences (Paik 1998). The school of though that consider a single general intelligence theory points out how there is but one factor that intelligence can be derived from while the other school of thought sees different kinds of intelligence (Paik 1998). However, most believes in the fact that there are different levels of intelligence and how different people have different capacities for it (Paik 1998).

Models of Intelligence

Sternberg Model

Robert Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence exemplified propositions that came from the multiple intelligence schools of thought. This theory dictates three categories of intelligence; analytic or componential intelligence, creative or experiential dimension of intelligence, and practical or contextual aspect of intelligence (Krelof 2002).

The analytic dimension pertains to different methods people use in order to analyze information or to process facts in their minds thus becoming a very critical portion of intelligence (Krelof 2002). The components of this dimension consist of the Metacomponents, Performance components, and Knowledge-acquisition components (Krelof 2002). On the other hand, the creative or experiential dimension refers to how people approach new things with its novelty component and he can handle repeated tasks as seen with its automatization (Krelof 2002).

The third dimension is the practical dimension that shows how someone relates or adapts to the environmental or sociocultural context and shapes the current environment (Krelof 2002). Understanding Sternberg’s theory implies that there cannot be a single test that can fully account for the different dimensions of intelligence he had mentioned as there are different skill areas involved in the testing (Krelof 2002).

Spearman Model

According to Charles Spearman, there is a single unitary quality in the brain or the human mind that qualifies his theory under the general intelligence school of thought. He developed a psychometric definition for intelligence and believes in an entity called in the general factor that encompasses the singleness of the intelligence factor or “one pool of mental energy” (Plucker 2007).

Gardner Model

Howard Gardner was the one who promotes his own theory of multiple intelligences (Li 1996, p. 33). The uniqueness of his theory from other multiple theorists is his theory is grounded on a biological basis of intelligence (Li 1996, p. 33). This theory is able to isolate seven distinct human abilities that represented seven intelligences (Li 1996, p. 33). He also added a number of other types of abilities that was an offshoot from Thurstone and Guilford’s single ability which was the intellectual ability (Li 1996, p.33). He presented human symbols system that included linguistic, logical, numerical, musical, bodily, spatial, and personal symbols system (Li 1996, p. 33).

Analysis of Models

There are different theorists that supports that there is but one kind of intelligence and there is a single factor that determines intelligence (Paik 1998). Spearman’s model is the perfect example of this group. In complete contrast, Sternberg and Gardner both puts forth that there are multiple intelligences. However, the multiple intelligence theorists cannot seem to agree as to how many kinds of intelligences are there (Paik 1998). Even though Gardner and Sternberg follow the same school of thought that involves multiple intelligences, Sternberg believes in three dimensions of intelligence while Gardner believes in seven (Paik 1998).

Sternberg’s theory is an attempt to reinterpret intelligence according to cognitive terms or under an information processing framework (Li 1998, p.69). He skips the general/pluralist intelligence debate and redefines the domains of intelligence and placed intelligence as a phenomenon that can be dissected into smaller parts (Li 1998, p. 69). On the other side, Gardner promotes the multiple intelligence position and approaches the issue of intelligence based on biology and macrophysics as his pieces of evidence (Li 1998, p. 69).

Gardner and Sternberg through their theories presented different definitions of intelligence. For Gardner it was the ability to solve problems within one or more cultural settings (Li 1998, p. 75). While Sternberg sees it as a mental capability from contextual behavior from different regions of the mind (Li 1998, p. 75).

Multiple Intelligence Theory

Gardner offered two premises and a conclusion from his theory. According to his first premise, “If it can be found that certain brain parts can distinctively map with certain cognitive functioning then that cognitive functioning can be isolated as one candidate of multiple intelligences” (Li 1998, p. 34). His second premise states, “Now it has been found that certain brain parts do distinctively map with certain cognitive functioning, as evidenced by certain brain damage leading to loss of certain cognitive function” (Li 1998, p. 34).

The conclusion would be the existence of multiple intelligences. The argument is valid and it is taken from neuroscientific evidence (Li 1998, p. 34). His theory has strong support from neuroscience, neuroanatomy, and clinical cases before he concluded brain modularity and multiple intelligences (Li 1998, p. 34).

Compared to Sternberg’s treatment of his knowledge-acquisition component that reflects a rather sketchy, inadequate and unclear mechanism, Gardner has presented a more well-rounded and evidence-based theory to the thinking and learning in relation to intelligence (Li 1998, pp. 11-12).


Krelof, N. (2002). Robert Sternberg. Retrieved on October 29, 2007.

Li, R. (1996). A Theory of Conceptual Intelligence: Thinking, Learning, Creativity, and . Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Paik, H. (1998). One Intelligence or Many? Alternative Approaches to Cognitive Abilities. Retrieved on October 29, 2007

Plucker, J. (2007). Charles Spearman. Retrieved on October 29, 2007, from http://www.indiana.edu/%7Eintell/spearman.shtml.

Spearman, C. (1904). General Intelligences: Objectively determined and measured. American Journal of Psychology (15), p 201-293, also retrieved on October 29, 2007, from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Spearman/chap5.htm.


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