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Multidirectional Intelligence

Not Just Increase or Decrease

Topics in Psychology
Robert C. Gates

    Contemporary researchers believe that since intellectual abilities are multidirectional, it is misleading to ask whether intelligence, in general, either increases or decreases.

    Life-span View:
  •     For most of the 20th century, researchers believed that intellectual ability peaks during adolescence, then declines steadily as age advances. More recently, researchers have begun to doubt whether there is an inevitable decline in cognitive functioning with age.
  •     Schaie developed the cross-sequential research design. Each time his original subjects were retested (every 7 years in this longitudinal design), he also tested a new group of adults at each age interval and then followed them longitudinally as well.
  •     Schaie’s findings in the Seattle Longitudinal Study indicate that from age 20 until the late 50s, cognitive abilities are more likely to increase than decrease, with the exception of arithmetic skills , which begin to shift slightly downward by age 40. Not until the 80s does performance fall below the middle range of performance for young adults.

Human Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates