"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

"I believe that every human has a finite number of heart-beats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises." - Buzz Aldri


On the popular myths of "multiple" and "emotional" intelligence:

"This general hierarchical model is what we might call the “orthodox” model. But there are still psychologists who believe in “many intelligences,” and continue to argue in favour of such a Binetian notion...

More recently Howard Gardner has taken up the Binet mantle. He has asserted that there are multiple intelligences, of which he recognizes seven. These are verbal and mathematico-logical, spatial, musi cal, personal intelligence (interpersonal skills), intrapsychic capacity, and kinesthetic ability, as shown by outstanding athletes and dancers. It is a curious list; to call physical grace an “intelligence” seems somewhat odd. It remains to be seen if “intrapsychic capacity” can be measured, and means anything other than absence of neuroticism. But of course the main question is: Are there seven intelligences actually separate and independent? Oddly enough, Gardner avoids any answer to this question. He nowhere indicates how you could measure some of these “intelligences” (such as the intrapsychic ability), and he nowhere tries to discover the actual correlations between these “intelligences.” But of course we do know that verbal ability, mathematico-logical ability, and spatial ability are quite highly correlated; to pretend that they are quite separate and independent is simply untrue.

Gardner relies on anecdotal evidence entirely... It is difficult to understand what Gardner is saying that is not covered by the orthodox hierarchical model. He is attacking an imaginary foe, namely complete dependence on just one general intelligence, but that notion died many years ago, and has not had a single proponent over the last fifty years! You can always slay imaginary dragons with equally imaginary swords. Gardner never acknowledges the true orthodoxy, and never provides any empirical evidence for his esoteric and quite unrealistic notions. No wonder he gained high academic acclaim and a strongly partisan following—you only have to attack the IQ to become famous and popular; however nonsensical the attack, and however weak the alleged evidence for your own systems!

An offspring of the Gardner tradition is of particular interest because he exemplifies more clearly than most the fundamental absurdity of the tendency to class almost any type of behaviour as an “intelligence.” David Goleman published his book on Emotional Intelligence with the rather ambitious claim that it was “the ground-breaking book that redefines intelligence and success.” He also claimed that his EQ (emotional quotient) could “matter more than IQ”—although having no actual way of measuring this EQ. What he was saying, in principle, was simply that IQ is not everything, that high IQ people are not always the most successful in everyday life, and that emotional factors could be importani What then constitutes this “emotional intelligence”? There are five main “abilities” involved. The first is knowing one’s emotions: ”self-awareness is the keystone of emotional intelligence.” Managing emotions is the second: “handling feelings so that they are appropriate is an ability that builds on self-awareness.” The third is motivating oneself: “marshalling emotions in the service of a goal.” Next comes recognizing emotions in others: “empathy is the fundamental “people skill.” And finally we have handling relationships: skill in managing emotions in others. If these five “abilities” define “emotional intelligence,” we would expect some evidence that they are highly correlated; Goleman admits that they might be quite uncorrelated, and in any case if we cannot measure them, how do we know how they are related? So the whole theory is built on quicksand; there is no sound scientific basis.

But there are even more serious objections that go to the root of the matter. As I have shown in figure 5.1, social and practical intelligence is a descriptive term that refers to our success at meeting the practical challenges of everyday life. IQ plays a part, but has never been suggested, as Goleman maintains, to act as the only actor in this play. Twelve others are suggested in my figure 5.1, which dates back many years, and expresses a general consensus among psychologists working in this field; there probably are many more. Those relevant to Goleman’s misconceived “emotional intelligence” are personality, mental disorders and coping strategies; in particular, what is usually referred to as “neuroticism” in personality description almost exactly coincides with Goleman’s concept. But neuroticism is not a cognitive ability, or lack of ability; it refers to quite another side of personality, namely the emotional. There are hundreds of investigations demonstrating the fact that emotional instability can interfere in practical matters with the proper application of our cognitive abilities, although Goleman seems unaware of this large literature. But to call this “emotional intelligence” makes the term “intelligence” scientifically meaningless; it brings together two unrelated things—neuroticism and intelligence in one ugly hybrid.

To illustrate the scientific absurdity of “emotional intelligence,” consider a physicist who argued that “length” didn’t tell you everything about the universe. Consequently, he argues, I introduced the concept of “hot lengths,” this is much more useful because it explains many things that length cannot explain, such as boiling a kettle, or burning the toast. In presenting his case, the self-same physicist would conveniently forget to mention all the work that has been done on heat, and present his contribution as “ground-breaking.” Can you imagine physicists taking such a contribution seriously? Psychology, alas, is still very far from being a science, and all this talk of “multiple intelligence” illustrates this only too well.

Is it true neuroticism lies at the heart of “social” or “practical” intelligence? Epstein and Meier, like Goleman dissatisfied with IQ measures, constructed a Constructive Thinking Inventory, correlated to IQ, which they argued would predict “success in living” better than IQ tests. It did, but correlations were derisorily small (from .19 to .39), and the Inventory correlated .59 with a measure of neuroticism. We are clearly dealing with an index of emotional reactivity, not of cognitive ability.

Perhaps the most academically acceptable exponent of intelligence as to what makes us successful in real life is Robert Sternberg... The contextualist view presented here is certainly highly inclusive in the sense that it includes within the realm of intelligence characteristics that typically might be placed in the realm of personality or motivation: “For example, motivational phenomena relevant to purposive adaptive behaviour—such as motivation to perform well in one’s career—would be considered part of intelligence, broadly defined.”

This, surely is a contradiction in terms. Science seeks to analyse complex phenomena, such as “success in life,” into simpler, better defined, independent concepts, like intelligence, personality, motivation, and so on... Surely the scientific method is to classify the various components (IQ, personality, motivation, physique, etc.) all of which contribute to worldly success, study them separately, look at their interaction, specify their relation with life success, and attempt to formulate theories for each one separately why they have the success they have in mediating worldly success.

Nor is it clear what “worldly success” means. I have become a successful psychologist earning less than an averagely competent shopkeeper. I could have become a multimillionaire had I concentrated on writing popular books on psychology—several of those I wrote in the interstices of my career were best-sellers selling in the millions. Would that have indicated greater worldly success? Money is not everything, and the satisfaction of doing scientific research was far more important to me than earning lots of money. Did I make the wrong choice? How do we define worldly success? There are problems here Sternberg does not begin to consider. Motivation to succeed does not define our private definitions of success. Is a very rich hooker successful? A dead hero? A fraudulent banker not found out by the police? A martyr? A genius like Lobachevsky, who discovered n-dimensional geometry and was considered insane and sent to the outer confines of Russia? The term “success” has no obvious scientific meaning, and requires far more research than it has received.

But what is the alternative to “multiple intelligences,” and the challenge of delving into the real world? IQ is real enough in this context: figure 6.2 shows this relation between JQ and income for a sample of veterans in the U.S. Army that covers the middle ground of intelligence. There is a direct, linear relationship—higher IQ measures higher income. This takes us from the academic field right into ordinary life, the life lived by largely nonacademic people. The same group shows that it does not pay to be high on neuroticism; when income is plotted against neuroticism, the slant shows high income to go with low neuroticism. Obviously IQ and neuroticism together predict income better than either alone—but that does not justify us in talking about “emotional intelligence.”

The final verdict on recent works on “multiple intelligences” must be that they are premature crystallization of spurious orthodoxy."

--- Intelligence: A New Look / Hans J. Eysenck
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