Origins of Intelligence

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Galton, a strong believer in the innate nature of human traits, conducted the world’s first intelligence tests at the 1884 International Exposition. Cattell followed suit shortly thereafter, solidifying his written belief that “Psychology cannot attain the certainty and exactness of the physical sciences unless it rests on a foundation of experiment and measurement.” Cattell and Galton’s tests were highlighted by an emphasis on physical characteristics and measurements. The tests measured variables such as reaction time for sound, two-point skin sensitivity threshold, muscular power, and body proportions. These early pioneers of intelligence tests represented a remnant of the structuralist and mechanistic paradigm (a focus on the reduction of consciousness to its most elemental components) which slowly began fading away in the early twentieth century. However, the tests also heralded in the new zeitgeist of functionalism (applying psychological principles to real-world issues). (Schultz &amp. Schultz, 2002) While Galton and Cattelll’s tests did not exactly pass scientific muster (they yielded little consistency or correlation), they set the stage for a flurry of interest in quantifying intelligence. In 1904, the pressures of improving school performance prompted the French government to begin a study investigating the learning abilities of children. Psychologists Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon were assigned to head the research commission, and the two men turned to intelligence testing as a measure.