Special Issue "How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems"

A special issue of Journal of Intelligence (ISSN 2079-3200).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Robert J. Sternberg
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Interests: intelligence; creativity; wisdom; thinking styles; leadership; teaching and learning; love; jealousy; envy and hate
Prof. Dr. Andrew R. A. Conway
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Division of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA 91711-6175, USA
Interests: working memory; general intelligence; fluid intelligence; latent variable models; neuroimaging; fMRI
Prof. Dr. Diane Halpern
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA 91711, USA
Interests: sex differences in cognitive abilities; critical thinking; human cognition

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The idea of the proposed symposium is to ask major contributors to the field of intelligence to take one consequential real-world problem—a problem of their choice—and to write about how what we know about intelligence could help us to solve the problem. What is, has been, or could be the role of human intelligence in solving a consequential problem the world faces?

A large proportion of intelligence research is devoted to basic issues; for example, what is the psychometric structure of intelligence? What are the cognitive bases of intelligence? What are the brain-based correlates (or even causes) of intelligence? What does intelligence predict? What are the validity and reliability of a certain kind of intelligence test, compared with those of other such tests? What makes a particular theory valid?

Such research is needed, but there are also problems larger than those presented in intelligence tests, including problems of today. Some of those larger problems have also become world problems. Here is a sample of such problems, some of which are new, while other problems are not: the pandemic, polarization and immobilization in democratic systems, human-rights violations, unequal opportunities, social media as a possible outlet for disinformation, air pollution, water pollution, violence, terrorism, wars, starvation, racism and xenophobia, the use of technology for surveillance, etc. Intelligence has traditionally been defined as the ability to adapt to the environment, so how can intelligence enlighten societies’ approaches to defining and solving these pressing world problems?  Are the intellectual and other mechanisms different for individual versus group adaptation?

One of the goals of the symposium would be to show that intelligence research can rise to the challenge of addressing real-world problems (a point that Ulric Neisser made years ago), and another goal would be to show that different investigators, despite their rather radical differences in approaches, can come together to address the role of intelligence in addressing everyday problems of scope and importance.

The idea would be to keep this symposium completely nonideological with respect to the theories of and methods for studying intelligence. That is, it would not be the place to argue for the superiority of this theory or that theory but rather a place to take whatever theory one has or, really, no theory at all and address how research on intelligence can help us understand the problem, how to approach it, and possibly how to reach a solution. The arguments should be about solving real-world problems through intelligence, however defined, not academic problems regarding theories, methods, or research paradigms.

The symposium would also be nonideological with regard to political issues, recognizing that people have different values that lead to different political choices. The goal would be to take on world problems that can be scientifically and objectively defined, such as climate change (rising temperatures, melting ice, and otherwise inexplicable increases in very rare weather events), income disparities (Gini coefficient), air pollution (the density of PM2.5 particles in the air), or pandemics (the number of cases of illness per 100,000 population or excess death rate since the inception of the pandemic).

The contributions would be theory- and research-based.  That is, the authors would be asked to base their papers on the existing body of scholarly literature. In particular, the contributors would be asked to address, at a minimum:

  1. What is the problem you seek to address?
  2. Why is the problem important to the world?
  3. What theory of, and research on, intelligence would you use to address it?
  4. How would intelligence address the problem?

All contributions must be original—that is, not previously published elsewhere or submitted elsewhere.

All contributions would be peer-reviewed, of course. The authors would be expected to revise as needed. The authors would understand that there is a possibility that their paper would be declined, as is the case for any peer-reviewed paper, but we would try to see the paper through to publication if possible.

The paper should not be used as an attempt to argue for one position on intelligence as opposed to another, but rather, it should focus on how intelligence can be used to solve the chosen problem. Neither should the paper take a political or ideological stand.

The papers would be short, with a recommended word length of 2000–3000 words. Thus, the idea would not be to expatiate but, rather, to succinctly state the problem, applicable theory and research, and where it leads in terms of defining the problem, addressing it, and solving it. 

We would request a title and abstract within 1 month. These would be evaluated to ensure they fit the symposium.  Papers would then be due 8 months after the invitation is issued. This is sufficient time, given the length of the papers.

Co-authors would be allowed, but the invitee must be the senior author.

James Flynn, a “giant” in the field of intelligence and its application to the everyday world, is very ill (probably terminally so), and I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate the symposium to him.

Prof. Dr. Robert J. Sternberg
Prof. Dr. Andrew Conway
Prof. Dr. Diane Halpern
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Journal of Intelligence is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Beyond IQ: The Importance of Metacognition for the Promotion of Global Wellbeing
J. Intell. 2021, 9(4), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9040054 - 18 Nov 2021
Viewed by 327
Abstract
Global policy makers increasingly adopt subjective wellbeing as a framework within which to measure and address human development challenges, including policies to mitigate consequential societal problems. In this review, we take a systems-level perspective to assemble evidence from studies of wellbeing, of collective [...] Read more.
Global policy makers increasingly adopt subjective wellbeing as a framework within which to measure and address human development challenges, including policies to mitigate consequential societal problems. In this review, we take a systems-level perspective to assemble evidence from studies of wellbeing, of collective intelligence, and of metacognition and argue for a virtuous cycle for health promotion in which the increased collective intelligence of groups: (1) enhances the ability of such groups to address consequential societal problems; (2) promotes the wellbeing of societies and the individual wellbeing of people within groups; and, finally, (3) enables prosocial actions that further promote collective problem-solving and global wellbeing. Notably, evidence demonstrates that effective collaboration and teamwork largely depend on social skills for metacognitive awareness—the capacity to evaluate and control our own mental processes in the service of social problem-solving. Yet, despite their importance, metacognitive skills may not be well-captured by measures of general intelligence. These skills have instead been the focus of decades of research in the psychology of human judgment and decision-making. This literature provides well-validated tests of metacognitive awareness and demonstrates that the capacity to use analysis and deliberation to evaluate intuitive responses is an important source of individual differences in decision-making. Research in network neuroscience further elucidates the topology and dynamics of brain networks that enable metacognitive awareness, providing key targets for intervention. As such, we further discuss emerging scientific interventions to enhance metacognitive skills (e.g., based on mindfulness meditation, and physical activity and aerobic fitness), and how such interventions may catalyze the virtuous cycle to improve collective intelligence, societal problem-solving, and global wellbeing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)
Article
The Precipitous Decline in Reasoning and Other Key Abilities with Age and Its Implications for Federal Judges
J. Intell. 2021, 9(4), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9040052 - 25 Oct 2021
Viewed by 431
Abstract
U. S. Supreme Court justices and other federal judges are, effectively, appointed for life, with no built-in check on their cognitive functioning as they approach old age. There is about a century of research on aging and intelligence that shows the vulnerability of [...] Read more.
U. S. Supreme Court justices and other federal judges are, effectively, appointed for life, with no built-in check on their cognitive functioning as they approach old age. There is about a century of research on aging and intelligence that shows the vulnerability of processing speed, fluid reasoning, visual-spatial processing, and working memory to normal aging for men and women at all levels of education; even the maintained ability of crystallized knowledge declines in old age. The vulnerable abilities impact a person’s decision-making and problem solving; crystallized knowledge, by contrast, measures a person’s general knowledge. The aging-IQ data provide a rationale for assessing the key cognitive abilities of anyone who is appointed to the federal judiciary. Theories of multiple cognitive abilities and processes, most notably the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) model, provide a well-researched blueprint for interpreting the plethora of findings from studies of IQ and aging. Sophisticated technical advances in test construction, especially in item-response theory and computerized-adaptive testing, allow for the development of reliable and valid theory-based tests of cognitive functioning. Such assessments promise to be a potentially useful tool for evaluating federal judges to assess the impact of aging on their ability to perform at a level their positions deserve, perhaps to measure their competency to serve the public intelligently. It is proposed that public funding be made available to appoint a panel of experts to develop and validate an array of computerized cognitive tests to identify those justices who are at risk of cognitive impairment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)
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Article
How Wisdom Emerges from Intellectual Development: A Developmental/Historical Theory for Raising Mandelas
J. Intell. 2021, 9(3), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9030047 - 21 Sep 2021
Viewed by 770
Abstract
This paper invokes cognitive developmental theory as a means for preparing citizens to deal with and resolve conflicts within or across nations. We take the centuries-old Greek–Turkish dispute as an example. We first outline a theory of intellectual development postulating that mental changes [...] Read more.
This paper invokes cognitive developmental theory as a means for preparing citizens to deal with and resolve conflicts within or across nations. We take the centuries-old Greek–Turkish dispute as an example. We first outline a theory of intellectual development postulating that mental changes emerge in response to changing developmental priorities in successive life periods, namely, interaction control in infancy, attention control and representational awareness in preschool, inferential control and cognitive management in primary school, and advanced forms of reasoning and self-evaluation in adolescence. Based on this model, we outline a control theory of wisdom postulating that different aspects of wisdom emerge during development as different levels of control of relations with others: trust and care for others in infancy, taking the other’s perspective, reflectivity, and empathy in preschool, rationality and understanding the rules underlying individual and group interactions in primary school, and understanding the general principles of societal operation explaining the differences in approach and interest between groups in adolescence and early adulthood. We also outline the educational implications of this theory for the education of citizens by capitalizing on intellectual strengths at successive developmental periods to comprehensively understand the world and to act prudently when dealing with interpersonal and social or national conflict. Finally, the paper discusses the political constraints and implications of this theory. This is the first attempt to derive wisdom from the development of cognitive and personality processes from infancy through early adulthood and to connect it to serious world problems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)
Article
Improving Gifted Talent Development Can Help Solve Multiple Consequential Real-World Problems
J. Intell. 2021, 9(2), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9020031 - 13 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1010
Abstract
Fully developing the talents of all students is a fundamental goal for personal well-being and development and ultimately for global societal innovation and flourishing. However, in this paper we focus on what we believe is an often neglected and underdeveloped population, that of [...] Read more.
Fully developing the talents of all students is a fundamental goal for personal well-being and development and ultimately for global societal innovation and flourishing. However, in this paper we focus on what we believe is an often neglected and underdeveloped population, that of the gifted. We draw from the cognitive aptitude and gifted education research literatures to make the case that solutions to consequential real-world problems can be greatly enhanced by more fully developing the talents of the intellectually gifted population, which we operationalize in this paper as roughly the top 5% of cognitive talent. Should well-supported high achievers choose to solve them, these problems span health, science, economic growth, and areas unforeseen. We draw from longitudinal research on intellectually precocious students and retrospective research on leaders and innovators in society, showing that mathematical, verbal, and spatial aptitudes are linked to societal innovation. We then discuss two remaining fundamental challenges: the identification of disadvantaged and marginalized groups of students who have traditionally been neglected in selection for gifted programming suited to their current developmental needs, and the building of skills beyond academic ones, specifically in the related areas of open-minded thinking and intellectual humility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)

Review

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Review
Critical Thinking: A Model of Intelligence for Solving Real-World Problems
J. Intell. 2021, 9(2), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9020022 - 07 Apr 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1384
Abstract
Most theories of intelligence do not directly address the question of whether people with high intelligence can successfully solve real world problems. A high IQ is correlated with many important outcomes (e.g., academic prominence, reduced crime), but it does not protect against cognitive [...] Read more.
Most theories of intelligence do not directly address the question of whether people with high intelligence can successfully solve real world problems. A high IQ is correlated with many important outcomes (e.g., academic prominence, reduced crime), but it does not protect against cognitive biases, partisan thinking, reactance, or confirmation bias, among others. There are several newer theories that directly address the question about solving real-world problems. Prominent among them is Sternberg’s adaptive intelligence with “adaptation to the environment” as the central premise, a construct that does not exist on standardized IQ tests. Similarly, some scholars argue that standardized tests of intelligence are not measures of rational thought—the sort of skill/ability that would be needed to address complex real-world problems. Other investigators advocate for critical thinking as a model of intelligence specifically designed for addressing real-world problems. Yes, intelligence (i.e., critical thinking) can be enhanced and used for solving a real-world problem such as COVID-19, which we use as an example of contemporary problems that need a new approach. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)

Other

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Perspective
Intelligence Can Be Used to Make a More Equitable Society but Only When Properly Defined and Applied
J. Intell. 2021, 9(4), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9040057 (registering DOI) - 25 Nov 2021
Viewed by 147
Abstract
In the US, undeniable evidence shows that socioeconomic inequities explain a high proportion of individual differences in school achievement. Although not all countries show this same effect due to socioeconomic status, it is consistently found that social inequities lead to achievement gaps. These [...] Read more.
In the US, undeniable evidence shows that socioeconomic inequities explain a high proportion of individual differences in school achievement. Although not all countries show this same effect due to socioeconomic status, it is consistently found that social inequities lead to achievement gaps. These achievement gaps then manifest into trajectories that set some individuals on a path of lower incomes, poorer health and higher mortality, lower wellbeing, and other poor adult outcomes. Like James Flynn so handily reminded the scientific literature that achievement gaps are explainable by environmental factors, the inequities we see around the world are based on environments some children are exposed to. In his work, Flynn stated his belief that the suppression of scientific work on intelligence would continue to lead to social inequities. We wish to take this idea and move it forward. We believe that the scientific construct of intelligence plays a key role in helping create a more equitable society through science. We also believe that the poor perception of intelligence, rooted in historical realities, means that it will continue to be misunderstood, feared, and misused, limiting how effective it could be in helping to close gaps in achievement and in creating a more equitable society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)
Essay
Two Cheers for the Cognitive Irregulars: Intelligence’s Contributions to Ageing Well and Staying Alive
J. Intell. 2021, 9(3), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9030041 - 18 Aug 2021
Viewed by 839
Abstract
Here, intelligence is taken to mean scores from psychometric tests of cognitive functions. This essay describes how cognitive tests offer assessments of brain functioning—an otherwise difficult-to-assess organ—that have proved enduringly useful in the field of health and medicine. The two “consequential world problems” [...] Read more.
Here, intelligence is taken to mean scores from psychometric tests of cognitive functions. This essay describes how cognitive tests offer assessments of brain functioning—an otherwise difficult-to-assess organ—that have proved enduringly useful in the field of health and medicine. The two “consequential world problems” (the phrase used by the inviters of this essay) addressed in this article are (i) the ageing of modern societies (and the resulting increase in the numbers of people with ageing-related cognitive decrements and dementias) and (ii) health inequalities, including mortality. Cognitive tests have an ubiquitous place in both of these topics, i.e., the important fields of cognitive ageing and cognitive epidemiology, respectively. The cognitive tests that have sprouted in these fields are often brief and not mainstream, large psychometric test batteries; I refer to them as ‘irregulars’. These two problems are not separate, because results found with mental/cognitive/intelligence tests have produced a growing understanding that intelligence and health have a reciprocal, life-long relationship. Intelligence tests contribute to the applied research that is trying to help people to stay sharp, stay healthy, and stay alive. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)
Commentary
It Requires More Than Intelligence to Solve Consequential World Problems
J. Intell. 2021, 9(3), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9030038 - 19 Jul 2021
Viewed by 785
Abstract
What are consequential world problems? As “grand societal challenges”, one might define them as problems that affect a large number of people, perhaps even the entire planet, including problems such as climate change, distributive justice, world peace, world nutrition, clean air and clean [...] Read more.
What are consequential world problems? As “grand societal challenges”, one might define them as problems that affect a large number of people, perhaps even the entire planet, including problems such as climate change, distributive justice, world peace, world nutrition, clean air and clean water, access to education, and many more. The “Sustainable Development Goals”, compiled by the United Nations, represent a collection of such global problems. From my point of view, these problems can be seen as complex. Such complex problems are characterized by the complexity, connectivity, dynamics, intransparency, and polytely of their underlying systems. These attributes require special competencies for dealing with the uncertainties of the given domains, e.g., critical thinking. My position is that it is not IQ, but complex problem-solving competencies for dealing with complex and dynamic situations, that is important for handling consequential global problems. These problems require system competencies, i.e., competencies that go beyond analytical intelligence, and comprise systems understanding as well as systems control. Complex problem solving is more than analytic intelligence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)
Essay
Transformational vs. Transactional Deployment of Intelligence
J. Intell. 2021, 9(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9010015 - 16 Mar 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1130
Abstract
The late James Flynn, to whom this Special Issue is dedicated, suggested that what will matter most to the future of the world is not levels of intelligence but rather how intelligence is deployed. In this article, I argue that we can distinguish [...] Read more.
The late James Flynn, to whom this Special Issue is dedicated, suggested that what will matter most to the future of the world is not levels of intelligence but rather how intelligence is deployed. In this article, I argue that we can distinguish between transactional and transformational deployments of intelligence. Loosely following Flynn, I suggest that we need to pay much more attention to the latter rather than the former. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems)
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