- In two interesting experiments, groups of individuals were given certain hormones for reasons other than enhancing cognitive ability.
- In one study, normal ageing men given testosterone to enhance their sex drive showed increased visuospatial performance (Janowsky et al)
- In another, transsexuals given testosterone as part of their preoperative sex change programme were found to show increased visuospatial ability and decreased verbal ability over a period of three months (Van Goozen et al)
- Some studies have also found no relationship hormone level and spatial ability (Liben et al). This may not mean that steriods are involved. 'It may be', as the authors suggest, 'that such effects do occur but only under some as yet unidentified additional setting conditions (be they biological or experiential).'
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- Empathising and systemising are two ways of processing information, described by Simon Baron-Cohen (2003), in which people work at identifying someone's thoughts and feelings (perspective-taking, altruism, cooperativeness) or analysing relationships in non-social interactions (an interest in science, technology, the natural world, etc.).
- The approaches can be measured by two questionnaires, called the empathy quotient and the systemising quotient.
- Women are thought to be better at the former; men, the latter.
- In a recent study, men were found to engage in higher levels of systemising than were women and non-heterosexual women higher than heterosexual women (Nettle).
- There were no differences between heterosexual and non-heterosexual men.
- Women did show a greater interest in the arts and culture, however, which may not be related to sociability/empathy.
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- Assessment of intellectual ability, or intelligence testing, is a controversial topic because of its importance in modern society.
- Unless people have special skills that suit them for a career in sports or entertainment, their economic success may depend heavily on formal education.
- Many employers use specialised aptitude tests to help them select among job condidates.
- Test scores correlate with school and university grades, the number of years in education and adult occupational status (Nisbett et al).
- There are hundreds of tests of specific abilities, such as manual dexterity, spatial reasoning, vocabulary, mathematical aptitude, musical ability, creativity and memory.
- All these tests vary widely in reliability, validity and ease of administration.
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Early intelligence tests
- Intelligence testing has a long and chequered history.
- As early as 2200 BC, Chinese administrators tested civil servants (mandarins) periodically to be sure that their abilities qualified them for the job.
- In Western cultures, differences in social class were far more important than individual differences in ability until the Renaissance, when the modern concept of individualism came into being.
- The term 'intelligence' is an old one, deriving from the Latin intellectus (meaning 'perception' or 'comprehension').
- However, its use in the English language dates only from the late nineteenth century, when it was revived by the philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) and by the biologist/statistician Sir Frances Galton (1822-1911).
- Galton was the most important early investigator of individual differences in ability.
- He was strongly influenced by his cousin Charles Darwin, who stressed the importance of inherited differences in physical and behavioural traits related to a species' survival.
- Galton observed that there were family differences in ability and concluded that intellectual abilities were heritable.
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Early intelligence tests (cont)
- Having noted that people with low ability were poor at making sensory discriminations, he decided that tests involving such discriminations would provide valid measures of intelligence.
- In 1884, Francis Galton established the Anthropometric Laboratory (meaning 'human-measuring') at the International Health Exhibition in London.
- His exhibit was so popular that afterwards his laboratory became part of the South Kensington Museum.
- He tested over 9,000 people on 17 variables, including height and weight, muscular strength and the ability to perform sensory discriminations.
- One task involved detecting small differences in the weights of objects of the same size and shape.
- Galton made some important contributions to science and mathematics.
- His systematic evaluation of various large numbers of people and the methods of population statistics he developed served as models for the statistical tests now used in all branches of science.
- His observation that the distribution of most human traits closely resembles the normal curve (developed by the Belgian statistician Lambert Quételet) is found foundation for many modern tests of statistical significance.
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Early intelligence tests (cont)
- Galton also outlined the logic of a measure he called correlation; the degree to which variability in one measure is related to variability in another.
- From this analysis, the British mathematician Karl Pearson (1857-1936) derived the correlation coefficient (r) used today to assess the degree of statistical relation between variables.
- In addition, Galton developed the logic of twin studies and adoptive parent studies to assess the heritability of a human trait.
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