The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Cognitive Ability

  • William T. Dickens
Reference work entry


Modern psychological theory views cognitive ability as multidimensional while acknowledging that the many different abilities are themselves positively correlated. This positive correlation across abilities has led most psychometricians to accept the reality of a general cognitive ability that is reflected in the full scale score on major tests of cognitive ability or IQ. This article provides an introduction to the history of cognitive testing and some of its major controversies. Evidence supporting the validity of measures of cognitive ability is presented and the nature and implications of group differences are discussed along with evidence on its malleability.


Ability tests Achievement tests Cognitive ability Cultural bias External validity Factor analysis Heritability IQ Intelligence Stereotype threat 

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • William T. Dickens
    • 1
  1. 1.