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COURSE NOTES: Introductory Psychology

Psych101 graphic

Chapter 9:

Thinking, Language, and Intelligence

Notes for Psychology 101: based on Myers's text, Exploring Psychology, with supplements and modifications by the instructor, Prof. Cloninger.

term denotes a term that you should know how to define, and to recognize and give examples.

person denotes an important person. You should remember this person's name and what (s)he has done.

findingdenotes an important research finding.

issuedenotes an issue that you should be able to discuss or explain.


cognitive psychologists


termconcepts: "mental groupings of similar objects, events, and people"

examples (from Zimbardo video):

  • all examples of a physical object (shoes)
  • events (walking)
  • living organisms (a person)
  • attribute (fast)
  • abstractions (love)

Concept problem (from Zimbardo video)

Which of these does not belong?

  • "Sun shines."
  • "Stars twinkle."
  • "Bats sleep."

issueMight more than one answer be correct?
Might ambiguities like this cause bias in testing?

termprototype: a best example of a particular category

robin (not turkey) as a prototypical bird

Solving Problems

termalgorithm: "a step-by-step procedure that guarantees a solution"

ex: following a mathematical formula or procedure

termheuristics: "simple rule-of-thumb strategies"

ex: "control the center of the board" as a strategy in playing chess

terminsight: "sudden flashes of inspiration"

ex: Köhler's apes

Obstacles to Problem Solving

termconfirmation bias: "searching for information that confirms our ideas"
termfixation: "the inability to see a problem from a fresh perspective"

How would you arrange 6 matchsticks to form 4 equilateral triangles?

termfunctional fixedness: "our tendency to perceive the functions of objects as fixed and unchanging

With a candle, thumbtacks, and a box of wooden matches, how would you mount the candle on a bulletin board?

Making Decisions and Forming Judgments

Using and Misusing Heuristics

termThe Representativeness Heuristic

"to judge the likelihood of things in terms of how well they represent particular prototypes"
A short, slim person who likes to read poetry is more likely to be:
a. a professor of classics at an Ivy League university
b. a truck driver

termThe Availability Heuristic

"when we base our judgments on the availability of information in our memories"
Is K more often the first or the third letter of words in English?


"a tendency to overestimate the accuracy of our knowledge and judgments"

Framing Decisions

termframing: "the impact of the way we present an issue"
example: termanchoring (length of Mississippi river)

termThe Belief Perseverance Phenomenon

"our tendency to cling to our beliefs in the face of contradictary evidence"
People who listen to mixed information about the death penalty continue to believe what they already believed (Lord et al, 1979; cited in Myers, p. 301).

Remedy: Consider the opposite!


termlanguage: "our spoken, written, or gestured words and the ways we combine them as we think and communicate"

Language Includes Various Abilities

Clinical cases of language disturbances make this point emphatically. Consider the 70-year-old man who developed great difficulty printing lower-case letters, but who was unimpaired in printing upper-case letters, or in writing cursively regardless of case.

Language Development

findingvocabulary is, on average, 80,000 words by high school graduation, or about 13 new words each day from age 1 to 18

Acquiring Language: stages

  1. babbling stage
    begins universally
    resembles family language by about 10 months (losing unused sounds)
  2. one-word stage: age 1
  3. two-word stage: telegraphic speech
  4. longer phrases

Explaining Language Development

issuenature-nurture debate
nurture: person Skinner (operant learning)
nature: personChomsky (inborn universal grammar)
cognitive scientists: statistical learning
deaf children

Experience Influences Biology!

Brain waves confirm what behavior also shows: that native speakers of Japanese do not distinguish English language "r" and "l" sounds (which are not present in the Japanese language). Researchers believe that the brain structure and functioning has been affected by the presence or absence of the "r" and "l" stimuli heard by young children (Buchwald et al, 1994).

Thinking and Language

issueWhat is the relationship between thinking and language? (ideas and words)

Language Influences Thinking

personWhorf's linguistic relativity hypothesis: "Language itself shapes a man's basic ideas"
gender of pronouns
bilingual advantage on intelligence tests

deaf sign language
Sign Language is Real Language!

When deaf people communicate using sign language, we might wonder whether they are using the same language centers in the brain that speaking people use. It appears that they do. The left hemisphere is dominant for signs, as it is for spoken words (Hickok, Bellugi, & Klima, 1996).

Thinking in Images

mental practice of music, athletics
some cognition occurs without language

Animal Thinking and Language

The Case of Apes

Washoe learned 181 signs by age 31 (Gardner & Gardner)
Washoe, Koko and Lana used creative phrases: "water bird" for swan; "elephant baby" for Pinocchio doll; "apple which-is orange" for orange (fruit)"

issueBut can apes really talk?

limited vocabulary
questionable syntax
merely imitation?
semantic understanding is suggested by Savage-Rumbaugh's pygmy chimpanzees (understanding "make the dog bite the snake" as shown by behavior with stuffed animals)


termintelligence: "the mental abilities needed to select, adapt to, and shape environments" (Sternberg's definition)
abilities measured by intelligence tests, including verbal and mathematical abilities, memory, and others

Intelligence has implications for important aspects of life, such as careers.

Intelligence in Various Careers [supplementary graphic presented in class]
(based on white data)
Source: Herrnstein & Murray, 1994, p. 488 (adapted)

The Origins of Intelligence Testing

personAlfred Binet: Predicting School Achievement

Binet and Simon
termmental age (MA)

personLewis Terman: The Innate IQ

Stanford-Binet test
IQ: intelligence quotient

IQ = (MA/CA) * 100
100 is average
2/3 of people score between 85 and 115

What is Intelligence?

One General Ability? or Several Specific Abilities?

factor analysis
personSpearman's termg: general intelligence

but g has been criticized as too restricted to academic intelligence

personHoward Gardner: termmultiple intelligences

termsavant syndrome

Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner's theory)

linguistic intelligence

ex: poetry
highly valued in our culture

logical-mathematical intelligence

ex: math; science
highly valued in our culture

spatial intelligence

ex: navigators; sculptors

musical intelligence

ex: composers; musicians

bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

ex: dancers; athletes

interpersonal intelligence

ex: salespeople; politicians

intrapersonal intelligence

ex: introspective people

Robert Sternberg: 3 aspects of intelligence

one more model of intelligence
academic problem-solving skills
practical intelligence
creative intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

social intelligence (Cantor & Kihlstrom, 1987)
emotional intelligence (Salovey & Mayer, 1990): "the ability to perceive, express, understand, and regulate emotions"

Creativity and Intelligence

termcreativity: "the ability to produce ideas that are both novel and valuable"

findingcorrelated with intelligence to about IQ of 120

components of creativity

imaginative thinking skills
venturesome personality
intrinsic motivation
creative environment

Assessing Intelligence

termaptitude tests: to predict ability to learn a new skill

termachievement tests: to reflect what you've learned

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS): most widely used

11 subtests
separate "verbal" and "performance" scores

Principles of Test Construction


How does the individual compare with other people who have taken the test?
normal curve (normal distribution, "bell curve")


Is the person's score stable, or does it fluctuate too much to trust it?



Does the test measure what it claims to measure?

content validity (Do the questions look reasonable?)
criterion (Does the score correlate with something as it should?)
predictive validity (Does the score predict the criterion in advance?)

Extremes of Intelligence

gifted: IQ over 135 (Terman)

findinghealthy, well-adjusted, academically successful

mental retardation: IQ below 70 and difficulty adapting to normal demands of independent living (1% of population)

Down syndrome: extra chromosome
Degrees of Mental Retardation
(graphic in class, based on Myers, p. 283)

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Intelligence

Genetic Influences

findingidentical twins more similar in IQ than fraternal twins, even if reared apart

Correlations Between Relatives: Evidence for Heredity of IQ
(graphic presented in class; Source: Daniels, Devlin, & Roeder, in Intelligence, Genes, and Success, p. 56)

genes shape experiences; genes and experiences interact


"Heritability" estimates genetic effects in populations.
findingEven if heritability is high, intervention programs can have a substantial effect.

Environmental Influences

deprived children in orphanages
Project Head Start

Effect of Adoption on WISC IQ [graphic presented in class]

Impoverished Children Who Stayed at Home or Were Adopted into Professional Homes
Source: p. 76 of Wahlsten in Intelligence, Genes, and Success

Intervention Programs Raise IQ
Source: Wahlsten, pp. 82-83

Group Differences in Intelligence Test Scores

Ethnic Similarities and Differences

race differences
IQ's impact on education and income
issueIs the racial gap caused by genetics or environment?

Gender Similarities and Differences

Math and Spatial Abilities

findingmales do better on spatial abilities and math SAT
mental rotation test
females remember locations better
prenatal hormones enhance spatial skills
cultural influences

Emotion-Detecting Ability

      findingfemale advantage

The Question of Bias

Are intelligence tests biased and discriminatory?

reflect experience
statistical prediction: not biased
conditions at test taking influence performance

Changes in SAT scores over time [graphic presented in class; Source: The Bell Curve, p. 425]

Intelligence test scores reflect only one aspect of personal competence.

Web Links:

Students: You can also use resources for this text supplied by the publisher. These include a chapter overview, self-tests, and other resources.

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© by Macmillan Digital Publishing USA.
Ch. 1: Introduction
Ch. 2: Neuroscience
Ch. 3: Nature & Nurture
Ch. 4: Development
Ch. 5: Sensation & Perception
Ch. 6: Consciousness
Ch. 7: Learning
Ch. 8: Memory
Ch. 9: Thinking
Ch. 10: Motivation
Ch. 11: Emotion
Ch. 12: Personality
Ch. 13: Disorders
Ch. 14: Therapy
Ch. 15: Social
additional notes