6 Important Theories of Intelligence – Useful Notes

6 Important Theories of Intelligence are 1. The Monarchic Theory, 2. Oligarchic Theory, 3. Anarchic Theory, 4. The Eclectic Theory or Bifactor Theory, 5. Thurstone’s Primary Mental Ability Theory and 6. Kelley’s Multifactor Theory.

1. The Monarchic Theory:

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According to this theory, intelligence is regarded as an adaptiveness which enables a creature to adjust itself to changing environment. People holding this view believe in inborn all-round mental efficiency as a sign of intelligence.

According to this view, a person who can perform one intellectual task very well, can also perform another task equally well. Dr. Johnson, who believed in such a doctrine, said that if Newton could have turned his mind to poetry, he would have been as great a poet as he was a mathematician.

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2. Oligarchic Theory:


Prof. G. H. Thomson has advanced the theory of ‘group factors’. According to this, intellectual abilities are regarded to belong to some groups. Though, there is much correlation between abilities belonging to the same group, there is little correlation between the abilities belonging to the other groups. It holds that cognitive abilities are manifestations not of a single Commanding faculty but of a few main intellectual powers of groups of abilities. A boy may be good in Mathematics but poor in a language or vice-versa. In related subjects he does fairly well but fails in unrelated subjects.

3. Anarchic Theory:

The chief exponent of this theory is Prof. Thorndike. According to him, the mind is a host of highly particularised and independent faculties. The theory maintains that from a man’s ability to do one kind of work we can infer absolutely nothing as to his ability to do another kind of works. If a boy is good in literature, we can judge absolutely nothing about his ability to study Chemistry; even in scientific subjects, if they are unrelated to each other, from one’s ability to do well in one subject, one can say nothing whether in another subject he would do equally well or not.

4. The Eclectic Theory or Bifactor Theory:

This theory has been propounded by Spearman. Intelligence, according to his view consists of two factors the general factor and specific factor. The general factor is symbolised by ‘g’ and the specific factor is symbolised by’s’. The ‘g’ factor is always the same for the same individual and the ‘s’ factor varies from task to task according to its nature. But there are differences in the general abilities of different individuals as well as in their special abilities.


Different individuals differ both in their ‘g’ as well as ‘s’ factors. If we consider two persons A and B who make the same scores in adding figures, we cannot be sure that they will also make the same scores in discriminating pitch. For it may happen that the specific factor assists A’s performance in adding figures and hinders it in pitch discrimination, while in B’s case the specific factor may work the opposite way.

Different performances require different amount of ‘g’ and ‘s In Mathematics and the Classics, for instance, more of ‘g’ is required, whereas in music and drawing’s’ factor predo­minates; the latter subjects require a small amount of ‘g’.

Person having more of ‘g’ and less of ‘s ‘fares well in life. Selection of students for civil service based on high score in classics is safer than their selection for such a job based on a good musical ability. A good test is always one in which in most of the performances ‘g’ predominates for a high quality of ‘g’ is required everywhere in life.

Spearman has established his theory of two factors by showing that there is always a positive correlation in the performance of an individual in any two tasks.


It may be concluded by saying that Spearman’s theory may lose the battle but it is sure to win the war.

5Thurstone’s Primary Mental Ability Theory:

No one questions the fact that persons superior on one ‘intelligence’ test are generally superior on others. Whether we should interpret this as evidence for a basic general intelligence, or ‘g’ is more debatable. Dr. L.L. Thurstone has argued that ‘g’ can be broken up into a cluster of related abilities, -which he calls the primary mental abilities. Because the methods of factor analysis is basic to his proof that such abilities exist, he refers to his theory as a multifactor theory of mental organization.

In the Thurstone study, a wide variety of tests, calling for almost every kind of performance we could describe as intelligence, was administered to a large population of high school and college students. As Spearman had predicted, all the correlations were positive. It was however, possible to show that some tests grouped themselves together in clusters, seeming by having something in common. The correlations within the cluster were higher than wits tests not in the cluster. Thurstone suggested that each group of test was lapping some primary mental ability.

According to Thurstone the primary mental abilities are:

1.Number Ability(N)
2.Verbal Comprehension(V)
3.Spatial Relations(S)
4.Word Fluency(W)
7.Perceptual Ability(P)

6. Kelley’s Multifactor Theory:

According to Kelley intelligence consists of five mental abi­lities. These are:

1. Skill of comprehension

2. Memory

3. Spatial Ability

4. Numerical Ability

5. Perceptual Ability.

Even Thurstone reached at the multifactor theory, when he gave 52 tests to seven thousand students of 11 + age. He discovered important group factors, as mentioned above. That way the primary mental abilities that he describes are nothing but group factors. Thurstone found overlapping even in the specific factors, Si, S2, S3, etc.

Thompson gives a more comprehensive view of the various factors of intelligence. He lists one ‘g’ factor (as did Spearman), some group factors (as did (Thurstone and Kelley) and some specific factors. Thus, according to him I=g+G+S, i.e. Intelligence consists of general factor, some group factors and some specific factors.

Vernon endorses the analysis of Thompson and adds one more unique factors, ‘X’ factor, which represents the general emotional and volitional factor (enthusiasm, will, drive, push) that affects intelligence. He mentions the following group factors: (1) V: Ed (Verbal and Educational). (2) K: m (mechanical); (3) F (practical), (4) N (numeral) and (5) (Scientific and Mathematical).


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