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How Specific Abilities Might Throw ‘g’ a Curve: An Idea on How to Capitalize on the Predictive Validity of Specific Cognitive Abilities

Psychological Institute, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
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Received: 12 March 2018 / Revised: 5 July 2018 / Accepted: 17 July 2018 / Published: 7 September 2018
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Abstract

School grades are still used by universities and employers for selection purposes. Thus, identifying determinants of school grades is important. Broadly, two predictor categories can be differentiated from an individual difference perspective: cognitive abilities and personality traits. Over time, evidence accumulated supporting the notion of the g-factor as the best single predictor of school grades. Specific abilities were shown to add little incremental validity. The current paper aims at reviving research on which cognitive abilities predict performance. Based on ideas of criterion contamination and deficiency as well as Spearman’s ability differentiation hypothesis, two mechanisms are suggested which both would lead to curvilinear relations between specific abilities and grades. While the data set provided for this special issue does not allow testing these mechanisms directly, we tested the idea of curvilinear relations. In particular, polynomial regressions were used. Machine learning was applied to identify the best fitting models in each of the subjects math, German, and English. In particular, we fitted polynomial models with varying degrees and evaluated their accuracy with a leave-one-out validation approach. The results show that tests of specific abilities slightly outperform the g-factor when curvilinearity is assumed. Possible theoretical explanations are discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: g-factor; specific abilities; scholastic performance; school grades; machine learning; curvilinear relations; ability differentiation g-factor; specific abilities; scholastic performance; school grades; machine learning; curvilinear relations; ability differentiation
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Ziegler, M.; Peikert, A. How Specific Abilities Might Throw ‘g’ a Curve: An Idea on How to Capitalize on the Predictive Validity of Specific Cognitive Abilities. J. Intell. 2018, 6, 41.

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