Intelligence and Perception

  • E. N. Dunkin
Part of the Psychology for Professional Groups book series (PPG)


Before leaving the topic of learning and teaching, it would be useful to consider intelligence and the ways in which thinking varies from one person to another. Intelligence is a word that has been in general use for nearly a century, but very few laymen or psychologists have managed to say what they really mean when they describe someone as intelligent. We accept that some people are more intelligent than others, that some people learn more rapidly (and apparently more easily) than others, and at times we are tempted to dismiss the debate on intelligence with the comment that it is all a matter of having more, or less, ‘common sense’. Just as there was with the fundamental word ‘psychology’, there seems to be a serious problem in finding an exact definition. A quick look at some of the statements made about intelligence by psychologists who have been particularly concerned with measuring differences of intelligence may be the best, and indeed the only, way to sharpen our own ideas on the subject.


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  1. Heim, A. (1970) Intelligence and Personality. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  2. Hudson, L. (1967) Contrary Imaginations. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar

Annotated reading Intelligence

  1. Bruner, J. et al (1956) A Study in Thinking. New York: Wiley. Bruner applies perceptual principles to learning, thinking and other aspects of behaviour: his analyses of these processes are made in a stimulating style.Google Scholar
  2. Butcher, H.J. (1968) Human Intelligence: its nature and assessment. London: Methuen. This book presents arguments for intelligence being far more than achievement in intelligence tests. It argues that intelligence is not narrow and exclusive, and stresses the need for research to bridge the gaps between psychological, philosophical and sociological factors of the intelligence of individuals. The book also offers a survey of research already done on intelligence and ability.Google Scholar
  3. Heim, A. (1970) The Appraisal of Intelligence. Slough: National Federation of Educational Research. This is a more advance text, assuming familiarity with psychometric terminology. It voices criticisms of the idea that intelligence is a unitary trait that can be quantified and emphasizes the complex nature of intelligence. It also calls attention to the effects of education within a culture and to general environmental features.Google Scholar
  4. Vernon, P.E. (1979) Intelligence, Heredity and Environment. San Francisco: Freeman. A useful book dealing with the interrelationship between intelligence in the dual framework of the nature/nurture debate.Google Scholar
  5. Vernon, P.E. (1979) Intelligence testing and the nature/nurture debate 1928–1978: what next? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 49, 1–14. An article reviewing the debate on the same topic as presented in the book.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Wiseman, S. (ed.) (1973) Intelligence and Ability: Selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin. A collection of extracts covering 100 years of speculation, theory and research, the selection of these being made against many years of experience in this field of psychology.Google Scholar


  1. McKellar, P. (1957) Imagination and Thinking: A psychological analysis. London: Cohen & West. An early text dealing with creative thinking, giving examples and written in an easy style.Google Scholar
  2. Vernon, P.E. (ed.) (1970) Creativity: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Organized in six parts and covering empirical studies, introspection, theories, psy chome try and personality, this set of readings makes stimulating reading.Google Scholar


  1. Coren, S., Porac, C. and Ward, L.M. (1978) Sensation and Perception. New York: Academic Press. A recent text: comprehensive cover of these allied topics. It is easy to read and very clear: the writers involve their readers in thinking about the issues discussed.Google Scholar
  2. Dodwell, R.C. (ed.) (1970) Perceptual Learning and Adaptation. Harmondsworth: Penguin. A collection of readings dealing with the question of the influence of experience on perception. Development and cognition are covered by Hebb, Reisen and Tinbergen: theoretical considerations are discussed by Fantz and Piaget. General issues debated by the Gibsons, Postman and Selfrage.Google Scholar
  3. Held, R. and Richards, W. (1971) Perception: Mechanisms and models. San Francisco: Freeman. This is another set of readings, each with a detailed introduction. The papers are selected from areas that have either increased the scientific understanding of perception or that suggest fresh ways of approaching that greater understanding.Google Scholar
  4. Vernon, M.D. (1966) Experiments in Visual Perception. Harmondsworth: Penguin. An alternative selection of readings (over 30 contributions) dealing with perception of form, space and distance, constancy and movement. The book also includes details on variations of visual perception between and within individuals.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The British Psychological Society 1981

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  • E. N. Dunkin

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