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Language, Thinking, and Intelligence



Language is a system of symbols used to represent and communicate information.

  1. Elements of all language

    1. Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound in language

    2. Morpheme: The smallest sound unit that carries meaning

    3. Syntax: The way in which words are arranged into phrases and sentences. Two types of structure:

      1. Surface structure: The way words are organized

      2. Deep structure: The meaning of sentences

    4. Language acquisition: Learning occurs in stages

      1. Babies innately practice with phonemes (babbling)

      2. Telegraphic speech: Using short phrases to form primitive sentences

  2. Language disorders (aphasias): Absence of some part of the ability to use language

    1. Broca’s aphasia: Inability to produce fluent speech

    2. Wernicke’s aphasia: Inability to comprehend speech



Thinking refers to mental activities used to reason or reflect.

  1. Mental representations: Representations of knowledge and thought. Two types:

    1. Analogical: The representation has some of the qualities of the thing it represents

    2. Symbolic: The representation has none of the qualities of the thing it represents

  2. Visual (mental) imagery: Representations of sensory experience that occur in the brain, without the presence of sensory input

  3. Concept formation: Mental classification of objects and events based on common features

    1. Concept: A class or category with individuals or subtypes (birds)

    2. Prototype: The best example of a concept (sparrow)

  4. Problem solving: The use of a set of information to achieve a goal. Two main strategies:

    1. Algorithm: A systematic step-by-step method of trying every possible solution

    2. Heuristic: Use of a rule of thumb that worked in the past; does not guarantee a solution

      1. Availability heuristic: Judging a situation based on the frequency with which similar situations come to mind

      2. Representativeness heuristic: Judging a situation based on how similar it is to a prototypical situation, regardless of how common the situation is

  5. Decision making: The process of choosing between options

    1. Framing: The way a problem is posed affects the perception of how it is best solved

  6. Reasoning: The determination of the conclusions that can be drawn from examples or assertions

    1. Inductive reasoning: The construction of conclusions from particular examples

    2. Deductive reasoning: The process of deciding whether a conclusion can be drawn from the premises or facts



  1. Theories of intelligence

    1. Spearman: One basic factor in intelligence, called g factor. Performance based on g and ability specific to a skill (writing test score depends on g and verbal skill)

    2. Sternberg: Three types of intelligence: analytic, practical, and experiential

    3. Gardner: Seven types of intelligence: linguistic, logical, musical, spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal

  2. Ways of measuring intelligence

    1. Intelligence quotient (IQ) test: Calculates the difference between a person’s mental and chronological age. IQ = (100 x mental age) / chronological age

      1. Normal: 90–110; mental retardation: 70 and below

    2. Stanford-Binet scale: Tests verbal, abstract/visual, and quantitative reasoning, along with short-term memory

    3. Weschler adult scale: Tests general knowledge, verbal, mathematical, spatial skills

  3. Intelligence testing guidelines

    1. Intelligence tests are standardized, which means that uniform procedures are used when administering and scoring tests

    2. When scoring tests, researchers use norms, which provide information about how a person’s test score compares with the scores of other test-takers