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Intelligence: Pre-Theory and Post-Theory
Department of Psychology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Received: 12 December 2013; in revised form: 21 January 2014 / Accepted: 29 January 2014 / Published: 12 February 2014
Abstract: Defining “intelligence” exemplifies a mistake that has historical precedent: confusing the role of pre-theory and post-theory definitions. In every area, pre-theory concepts give broad directions for investigation: are the movements of heavenly bodies affected by the existence of other heavenly bodies? Post-theory concepts add precision and predictability. The mistake occurs when a successful theory like Newton’s demands that its peculiar and precise theory-imbedded concept forbids competing theories: Einstein was impossible (warping of space) so long as it was assumed that all theories must be in accord with Newton’s concept (attraction across space). In psychology, Arthur Jensen made the same mistake. He gave his theory-embedded concept of g the role of executioner: the significance of every phenomenon had to be interpreted by its compatibility with g; and thus trivialized the significance of IQ gains over time. This is only one instance of a perennial demand: give us a precise definition of “intelligence” to guide our research. However, precision comes after research has generated a theory and its very precision stifles competing research. Be happy with a broad definition on the pre-theory level that lets many competing theories bloom: pre-theory precision equals post-theory poverty.
Keywords: intelligence; two definitions; causes of confusion; perils of precision; Jensen’s mistake; new definitions not needed
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Cite This Article
MDPI and ACS Style
Flynn, J.R. Intelligence: Pre-Theory and Post-Theory. J. Intell. 2014, 2, 6-7.
Flynn JR. Intelligence: Pre-Theory and Post-Theory. Journal of Intelligence. 2014; 2(1):6-7.
Flynn, James R. 2014. "Intelligence: Pre-Theory and Post-Theory." J. Intell. 2, no. 1: 6-7.