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The Relativity of "Intelligence" in Psychology and Its Adverbial Function in Ordinary Language

Jorge M. Oliveira-Castro and Karina M. Oliveira-Castro
Behavior and Philosophy
Vol. 31 (2003), pp. 1-17
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27759444
Page Count: 17
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The Relativity of "Intelligence" in Psychology and Its Adverbial Function in Ordinary Language
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Abstract

Psychological interpretations of intelligence have varied considerably. Theoretical approaches have differed, among other things, with respect to the number, type, and level of abilities implied by the concept. Recent investigations have suggested, moreover, that people's conception of intelligence is, at least in part, culturally determined, depending upon one's country of origin or ethnic group. In the present paper, we suggest that this theoretical and cultural relativity of the concept is related to the logic of its use in ordinary language. An analysis of the use of intelligence in ordinary language indicated that the concept has an adverbial function, which characterizes an action as successful or well executed under certain conditions. In addition to this, the concept is used at different levels, functioning as an adverbial summary of an individual's actions in general or specific abilities. This adverbial function may be related to the theoretical relativity of intelligence found in psychology, since the concept may be used at various different levels of analysis. Considering that each culture or group may adopt different criteria to identify successful actions, the cultural relativity of intelligence is compatible with its use in ordinary language.

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