Definition of intelligence is subjective, unmeasurable

Many have argued that intelligence is something concrete, but the tests and systems designed to measure this concept of “intelligence” have already proven that the measure of this vague concept is a matter of opinion.

Intelligence is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations; however, UH students’ definitions of intelligence aren’t so cut-and-dry.

Creative writing senior Mariesha Keys said intelligence is the “ability to assess an authority figure and give them the answer they seek,” which is a necessary skill in moving up in a successful world.

Despite the different definitions, students and society can both agree about the ways in which it is measured: tests. There are several different tests designed to “measure” intelligence, such as standardized, state-mandated finals, Intelligence Quotients, SATs, ACTs and so on.

Standards exist so that humanity as a whole can have order in a world that is bigger than ourselves, and it is used to comfort us from the fact that there isn’t a concrete understanding of “Truth.”

The Spanish word “silla” is “chair” in English and “chaise” in French. These words have nothing in common except that each respective language has assigned this arbitrary word to mean chair.

The ability to make decisions is science’s way of describing intelligence, and a scientist’s entire work is built upon making better working theories to fit in today’s world than yesterday’s by searching tirelessly for the closest to concrete “Truth” they can find.

These are the foundations of the standards that make up intelligence testing: the lack of “Truth” in the world. However, the challenges to these standards lies in the fact that they are drawn up by “the collective agreement.”

Take the Intelligence Quotient. A Real Clear Science article argues that this test is meant to measure “academic achievement” and “job performance,” and according to Science Magazine, this test could predict life success. However, none of the sources actually said the intelligence quotient actually measures the dictionary definition of intelligence.

Psychologist W. Joel Schneider explains in a Scientific American article that he defines intelligence as a “folk concept” based on the individual level. It should tailor to the individual and be “ambiguous so that it meets the needs of the folk who use it.”

To an engineering student with a weakness in writing, a creative writing student seems vastly more intelligent than them in the area of grammar. Adversely, a creative writing student who doesn’t understand science sees an engineering student doing physics as intelligent.

Adhering to this idea would mean that everyone is both intelligent and unintelligent depending on one’s strengths and weaknesses, instead of slapping an unwavering score on someone.

The only definition that makes sense today is recent pre-pharmacy graduate Kristeli Bagtas’ definition when she said there are different types of intelligence.

“Whether an individual is book smart or street smart, one must obtain the knowledge and skills in order to apply it to a certain subject or situation,” Bagtas said.

So while IQ tests may be able to tell someone how well they can “learn” or predict future academic and job success, it cannot actually measure something as broad and ambiguous as intelligence, because intelligence is something that can stretch to fit any definition.

Opinion columnist Nicollette Greenhouse is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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