A lot of authors have put the word "intelligence" in their book titles over the past years. This includes my own new book, “Personal Intelligence,” and scores more. I decided to find out more about the kinds of intelligences that are being discussed.
Last week, I discussed the fact that intelligence researchers study many broad intelligences. These include verbal intelligence, perceptual-organizational intelligence, and spatial intelligence, as well as emotional intelligence and now, personal intelligence. A number of those broad intelligences are part of a standard model of intelligence used by intelligence researchers called the three-stratum model (see last week’s post). My impression is that book authors have—for whatever reason—written about a lot more intelligences than those that are included in the standard model.
So, are intelligence researchers missing something? To find out, I scoured the New York Public Library online card catalog for books with intelligence in the title—and also looked at Amazon.com. Here’s what I found:
Group 1. Titles on National and Organizational Intelligence Gathering and Analysis
First, the word intelligence is used is multiple ways, and there are a number of book titles that focus on national security (and organizational security)—that is, on intelligence gathering. I’ll designate that as the first group of intelligences outside the three-stratum model. It’s perfectly legitimate to use “intelligence” to refer to collecting intelligence—spying, that is. This is the intelligence of the KGB, the CIA, the British Secret Service, and the like. Some sample titles:
Bottom line: These are serious works, and the intelligence-gathering community has an equal right to use the term “intelligence” as do psychologists. These books aren’t relevant to the three-stratum model and vice versa—no problem.
Group 2. Non-Human Intelligences
A second group of intelligences concern the ability of non-human entities to solve problems. Animals, plants and machines each have their own forms of intelligence and I’ve placed books that cover these intelligences in the category "non-human intelligence." Here are some examples of relevant titles:
Then there is the intelligence of machines:
And “emergent intelligences” (because they emerge from multiple organisms):
Bottom Line: I’ve divided this group of intelligences into three areas : A) living, B) machine, and C) emergent. Regarding animals, most people would agree that dogs and horses have their own special intelligences. Computers emulate human intelligences and sometimes use other processes to solve problems with intelligence. In the third area are “swarm” intelligences—that is, intelligences that emerge from many different organisms. None of this conflicts with—or necessarily directly informs—the three-stratum model of human intelligence. These intelligences are interesting to consider alongside human intelligences.
Group 3: Casual Uses of Intelligence to Refer to Talents, Training, Adaptations, Skills, and Expertise
Some authors use the term intelligence in a more casual than technical sense. Their books address knowledge in a specific area without claiming that a specific aptitude exists. A few examples:
Bottom Line: Once again, there is no need to connect these uses of intelligence with the three-stratum model.
Group 4: Intelligences that Are Included in or Being Considered for the Three-Stratum Model
In addition to all the books in Groups 1 to 3 above, there are books about intelligences that are examined or being seriously considered as candidates for the three-stratum model—at least in the sense of having research studies about them. Here are some books that describe a few actively-researched intelligences:
Bottom Line: Researchers examine the intelligences above, and if their findings seem promising, a given intelligence may become a candidate for inclusion in the three-stratum model. For example, in a recent article, researchers studied the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) to see whether emotional intelligence was ready for inclusion within the model. (They argued that it was). I’m a fan of the test and theory (I’m a co-developer of both). That said, I think over time personal intelligence may supplant emotional intelligence as a broad intelligence, with emotional intelligence being seen as a more specific ability within the realm of personal intelligence.
Group 5: Interesting new suggestions for intelligences
A number of authors have offered additional suggestions for broad intelligences. Here are a few of note:
Morality and Ethics
Body, Sensory, and Sexual Intelligences
Bottom Line: Human beings may possess broad intelligences that have not yet been adequately studied. This fifth group of books raises some interesting ideas in this regard. Some are plainly outside the sphere of the natural sciences (Unbound intelligence), but others could be further developed. If intelligence researchers take these authors seriously, they might want to explore ideas of moral/ethical intelligences, spiritual intelligences, and a physical intelligences. In another instance, Judith Glaser, the CEO of “Creating We” presents a plausible reframing of verbal and social intelligence in the idea of a conversational intelligence. The idea of a cultural intelligence also holds interest because of its potential importance in today’s world.
So, why do authors use "intelligence" in so many of their book titles? Well, the word "intelligence" has more than one meaning, of course. That acknowledged, "intelligence" is widely used to describe broad mental abilities. Maybe intelligence is an optimistic concept: Whether you agree or not that new intelligences are worth exploring, there are more human intelligences than the commonly measured abilities of verbal and perceptual-organizational intelligences. We also employ spatial intelligence, processing-speed intelligence, and personal intelligence to think in wide and flexible ways. A broader consideration of these mental capacities might inspire us to develop more of our talents—and reassure us that we have many talents to draw on. Although we each possess all-too-human frailties, we may also have more mental abilities available to us than we have yet to imagine—abilities we can use to help both ourselves and humanity.
Copyright © 2014 by John D. Mayer