The concept of intelligence was only deciphered about a century ago although the name comes from the ancient Latin origins. While this interest in intelligence has been around for a while, it is Alfred Binet who first coined the work intelligence when he was commissioned to identify different students who required education assistance (Flanagan & Harrison, 2005). Today, the concept of intelligence assessment is used in many applications including job recruitments and college admission. The assessment standards have been improved with time and have been under scrutiny to ensure every element involved is does not mislead. This paper explores the history of intelligence and explains on the impacts of intellectual functioning in one’s success.          

History of Intellectual Assessment

The original practical objective of intellectual assessment involved the detection of what would in the modern day be known as mental retardation. Today, this form of assessment is used among a variety of assessment problems. Binet, Simon was the first psychologist to work on intelligence measurement in 1899 (Cherry, 2011). In 1904, Binet later joined the French National Commission where he was missioned to develop the objective method used for diagnosing mental retardation (Flanagan & Harrison, 2005). Binet’s work was needed by that time since the teacher ratings which existed then were highly unreliable and were mainly based on the socio-economic status of individuals. In 1905, the Binet-Simon scale was made to be a standard method of diagnosing mental retardation and in 1908; the mental age of item concept was introduced. The item’s mental age was defined as the age where most children could do items and the mental age of a child calculated by finding the weighted sum of all the items a child could answer accurately.

In 1916, while at Stanford University, Terman came up with a new scale which was later known as Terman’s Stanford-Binet. In this scale, newer and more varied items were specified and the standard was known to be “school-centric”. Individuals from the age of 3 to adult could be assessed using the same standard. The scale standardized 1000 children and 400 adults and was later revised in 1937, 1960, 1986 2000 and 2003.  However, the 1986 revisions showed similarities with the Wechsler in terms of score styling (Cherry, 2011).  

The formulation of the IQ concept known to-date was influenced by Stern in 1912 who proposed the Stern’s “mental quotient” where by the mental quotient (MQ) was equivalent to the mental age divided by the chronological age (CA). Intelligence quotient (IQ) also became to be calculated as the mental quotient multiply by 100 and the mean IQ assumed to be 100 and the standard deviation assumed to be 16 for most of the age groups (Cherry, 2011). 

The standards developed prior to 1939 failed to address some key elements and David Wechsler formulated his test which required more “top” adults and it needed a score and above since score discrepancies could index brain abnormalities (Flanagan & Harrison, 2005). In 1939, the Wechsler-Bellevue was published but borrowed heavily from the subtests measures from the WWI Army groups. In total, there were 11substests among 2 different categories: the verbal and performance categories. After the 1939 Wechsler-Bellevue I, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) was established in 1949 and in 1976, another version of Wechsler Test known as the Wechsler Pre-school and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) was formulated (Cherry, 2011).

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Today the common tests in use include the Stanford-Binet of 2003 (5th edu); the WPPSI-II, WISC-IV, WAIS-III; Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (ABC); Learning disability-related tests such as reading tests and Neuropsychological tests which are sensitive to some forms of brain damage and which are often little top and lots of bottom. (Cherry, 2011)

Impact of Intellectual Functioning on Success

Research has indicated that the intelligence functioning of an individual plays a critical role in several valued life outcomes of an individual (Artmann, 2006). Apart from academic performance, research now shows that IQ can correlate well with job performance, socioeconomic advancement such as occupation, level of education and income, social pathology such as poverty, adult criminality, and dependence on welfare, unemployment and wed-lock children. In addition, there is a correlation between general intelligence and longevity, health and functional literacy. In general, the correlations between life outcomes and intelligence have become pervasive although the IQ and happiness show no correlation. IQ shows more correlation with school performances well as job performance but shows less correlation with occupational prestige and moderate correlation with income and a very small degree of correlation with law-abidingness (Artmann, 2006).

Some studies have however questioned the relevance of the measured parameters with the real-life events with the IQ tests. IQ can be seen to correlate by a larger margin with school performance although this correlation seems to decrease as closer as one gets closer to a sixth of income variance. Also comparing the school grades, other factors will always explain most of the variance. One study has shown that the economic inequality will still persist as along as IQ is controlled across the whole population. Another study has also reported that race, wealth and schooling are important factors to the inheritance of economic status. However, IQ is not seen to be a major contributor to economic status. The genetic transmission of IQ remains to be less significant. Some critics have argued that IQ is used as a mere excuse to shy away from reducing poverty or even improve the living standard of all people. Low intelligence has been used for a long time in the past to make justification to the feudal system and the unequal treatment of female individuals. However, a majority of studies carried on both women and men have failed to show any difference in IQ among women and men.


Since its development, the subject of human intelligence has posed a lot of controversies on how individuals differ and how their different IQs make them fall prey to a number of social and political systems which distort even well-established scientific findings. Media has also portrayed intelligence research as something which is exactly the opposite of what the majority experts in intelligence experts agree on. For this and other several reasons, the public understanding on intelligence has always fallen short of the public concern even to an extent of IQ experts getting doubts while discussing issues related to human intelligence. The study of intellectual assessment started several decades ago and still continues to be expanded as humans get more sophisticated. IQ assessments are always used in the recruitment sections when candidates are selected depending on how much they score in terms of IQ. These standards will continue to be used until other newer standard are developed.

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