What is General Intelligence or Ability?
Intelligence is one of the most discussed subjects within psychology and whilst there is no absolute definition of what exactly constitutes 'intelligence’, there is a wide consensus that General Intelligence is thought to be comprised of the following components:
1. Our knowledge base (crystallised intelligence)
2. Our thinking skills (fluid intelligence)
3. Our cognitive efficiency or ‘brain power’
Psychologists tend to talk about intelligence or cognition whilst HR and L&D professionals are more familiar with term General Ability.
Crystallised intelligence is defined as the ability to use learned knowledge and experience. It is measured by nearly all recruiters via academic qualifications and attainment levels, evidence of previous experience and by skills tests (e.g. a typing speed test, error checking test or filing test etc).
Fluid intelligence is defined as the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations, identify patterns and to manipulate visual images to solve problems. Recruiters measures fluid intelligence by using ability (often called reasoning) tests.
Cognitive ability tests have been shown to be predictive of task performance – especially new tasks and problems encountered for the first time.
Examples include higher level verbal, critical thinking, numerical, mechanical and inductive (also called abstract) ability tests and instruments measuring spatial awareness.
Cognitive efficiency is determined by brain processing speed and working or short term memory. Working memory and processing speed are rarely measured by recruiters for job roles. They are used more in a clinical context.
Many theorists believe you are born with fluid intelligence, maintaining that you cannot develop it to any great extent. Having high crystallised intelligence does not necessarily mean you have high fluid intelligence. Recent research in the USA showed that interventions which improved the academic performance did not lead to a corresponding rise in inductive (abstract) reasoning.
In general, fluid intelligence levels decline slowly from around 20 years old, whilst crystallised intelligence levels increase until approximately aged 70. This might account in part for the fact that many people find it harder to learn new things (for example a new language) as they get older.
Only measuring prior knowledge and experience (crystallised intelligence) gives an incomplete picture
Both crystallised AND fluid intelligence levels are important for numerous roles in the workplace. Research studies show that tests measuring fluid reasoning are powerful predictors of performance at work in many roles.
As an additional point, recent academic research is re-iterating the importance of involving measurements of Personality within selection processes.
Measuring General Ability does not give a complete picture. Other instruments used by recruiters are measures of personality, behaviours and values (required for a role and for organisational fit), job simulations, motivation and various assessment centre exercises.
The purpose of tests and assessments is to gain as much information as possible about a candidate to make an informed hiring decision.
It is therefore recommended that a holistic approach is adopted; with several assessments, measuring both general ability and personality, underpinning a recruitment process.
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