Critically evaluate the claim that general cognitive ability word Essay Sample

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The claim that general cognitive ability is shaped by the environment is supported by various psychologists who believe our interactions with our surroundings enable us to develop certain cognitive abilities including intelligence. These abilities can often be influenced by our family environment, the type of education in which we receive and various other environmental interactions. Psychologist often examine an individual’s socioeconomic status (SES) which measures a person’s family economic and social position in comparison other’s in society, directly assessing the influence of the environment. Although a contradicting statement to this claim would suggest general cognitive abilities are based on our biological capabilities inherited through our genes.

There is some research evidence that has highlighted there to be intelligent behaviour in the lateral prefrontal cortex and of other areas of the brain: further supporting the notion that intelligence is correlated to biological traits. One of the first psychologists to provide statistical evidence for the inheritance of genes was Sir Francis Galton who conducted identical and non identical twin studies to investigate cognitive ability assessing how we develop these abilities. Further research by psychologists Binet and Simon (1905-1908) exemplified how cognitive abilities including intelligence could be measured. The stimuli used focused mainly on areas such as attention, problem solving and memory dismissing topics in which are taught on the school syllabus. The Binet-Simon scale developed by both psychologists became the basis for many various intelligence tests used today.

Many have contributed to the nature versus nurture debate and have concluded that it is not each variable which is responsible for the entirety of what makes one intelligent but the interaction between both genes stimulated by the environment which enable the individual to reach their full cognitive potential. Though the definition of intelligence has been debated by many psychologists the constant change in classifying what is deemed to be intelligent can lead to the conclusion that the concept of human intelligence is far too complex to measure. Psychologists have often argued that similarities in cognitive ability amongst twins is a result of environmental influences, suggesting the way they are reared can lessen or enhance intelligence. Research had been carried out using the Weschsler Intelligence scale (Wechsler, 1949) assessing the scores of twins ages seven in relation to their social economic status.

Many children from the sample had a low socioeconomic status and were living below or near to the poverty line and the results showed there to be 60% variance in IQ scores due to shared environment and the contribution of genes being almost zero. Intelligence stimuli are useful for assessing variables on a large scale, this study identifies a clear correlation between intelligence and socioeconomic status. The overall conclusion being that low socioeconomic status is linked to a lower degree of intelligence. However it can be criticised that this study only identifies a cause and effect relationship and other factors such a biology have not been taken into consideration. For instance the child from a low socioeconomic background may lack financial aids to fulfil their cognitive potential although they may not have inherited any gene which would have enabled them to develop regardless of a stimulated external environment.

Further Research into the relationship between socioeconomic status, intelligence has been conducted to assess how external influences can affect intelligence. [10.] A study with a sample of pupils of low socioeconomic status (SES) was carried out under two conditions. (Croizet and Dutrevis, 2008) First participants were informed they were not of intellectual ability. In this condition they had low test scores. However when they were not told they were intellectually incapable they performed just as well as the pupils who were of high social economic status. The conclusion which can be drawn from this study is that social economic status is not what influences cognitive ability though this study explicitly demonstrates how external environmental factors can influence an individual. For instance being told you are not very intelligent or lack of stimulation can effect the development of the mind and thus restrict the self motivation to develop any cognitive abilities.

Although further research into child development and day care entry has shown a direct relationship between socio-economic status and ability. Evidence has concluded that children aged 8-13 developed better if the child had entered daycare before the age of 1 (Andersson, 1992) The influence of development was suggested to be due to external factors such as family type, family socio-economic status and the mother’s educational level. Overall these studies suggest external environmental factors influence development and cognitive abilities suggesting biological factors have little impact on our intellectual development. Genes and inheritance has therefore been assessed by psychologists as an alternative explanation for the underlying cause of human intelligence. Sir Francis Galton initially begun research into the relationship between inheritance of characteristics such as personality and intelligence carrying them out on twins.

He believed in twins looked alike they should exhibit the same behaviours, he assessed 35 pairs of identical and 23 pairs of fraternal twins to gather details of their similarities and differences. Galton (1876,1883) as one of the first psychologists to use statistical correlations and argued for IQ to be entirely genetic there correlation between the two variables would be 1.00. However there were many flaws in his research for instance the correlation is of no significance as there were only 116 participants meaning the correlation produced is unreliable. However the basic hypothesis for his research that if IQ is genetic those with similar or the same genes should have the same level of intelligence. This hypothesis has been tested out further by many psychologists assessing the relationship between IQ and genes. Later more modern research investigating IQ in twins using intelligence tests has found high correlations between twins and IQ scores.

Identical twins living in the same home .86, identical twins raised in different homes .72 and fraternal twins .60. (Bouchard & McGue, 1981) The high and close correlation between the different variable in which IQ is measured shows a strong evidence that genes are linked to IQ. This is shown more explicitly in the little difference between identical twins raised at home and those who are raised in separate homes. Though it can be criticised as evidence is not 100% suggesting that the remaining 14-40% not accountable for genes could consequently be due to external factors, this suggesting that intelligence still has some influence in an individuals environment supporting the notion cognitive ability is shaped by out environment. The claim that general cognitive ability is shaped by our environment has been argued throughout the historically throughout science and psychology.

Evidence has supported this claim suggesting external factors can have a impact on an individuals intellectual development these including; education, parental education, parental social status and family environment. This argument is strong and various evidence suggests finance can play a huge role in intelligence as we would need the resources to access the best means of education which would allow us to reach our full potential. However biological theories of psychology would counter this argument implying that intelligence is inherited through our genes which therefor enable us able to excel and develop our general cognitive ability. Those without this gene often struggle more than those with the gene.Though evidence from both arguments suggest there is a biological or an external drive that influences intelligence, the nature versus nurture debate has left many psychologist to argue against the idea that it is not one singular factor which is responsible for our general cognitive ability.

To conclude as the evidence above suggest it is not one hundred percent the environment, nor biology which enables cognitive ability. However it is an interaction between these two variables which allow one to develop generally building from their genetic inheritance and stimulating the gene through their environment and full fill their cognitive potential deeming them intelligent. Though as stated previously the definition of intelligence has been debated by many psychologists, and methods used to measure intelligence such as intelligence quizzes often only examine on particular branch of intelligence it could therefore be argued that the like of consensus as to what intelligence is only leads to subjective measures in which intelligence is used to be measured.


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