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mental quality consisting of the ability to learn from experience, solve problems, and use knowledge to adapt to new situations.

factor analysis

a statistical procedure that identifies clusters of related items (called factors) on a test; used to identify different dimensions of performance that underlie one's total score.

general intelligence

a general intelligence factor that according to Spearman and others underlies specific mental abilities and is therefore measured by every task on an intelligence test.

savant syndrome

a condition in which a person otherwise limited in mental ability has an exceptional specific skill, such as in computation or drawing.

emotional intelligence

the ability to perceive, understand, manage, and use emotions.


the ability to produce novel and valuable ideas.

intelligence test

a method for assessing an individual's mental aptitudes and comparing them with those of others, using numerical scores.

mental age

a measure of intelligence test performance devised by Binet; the chronological age that most typically corresponds to a given level of performance. Thus, a child who does as well as the average 8-year-old is said to have a mental age of 8.


the widely used American revision (by Terman at Stanford University) of Binet's original intelligence test.

intelligence quotient

defined originally as the ratio of mental age (ma) to chronological age (ca) multiplied by 100 (thus, IQ = ma/ca × 100). On contemporary intelligence tests, the average performance for a given age is assigned a score of 100.

aptitude test

a test designed to predict a person's future performance; aptitude is the capacity to learn.

achievement test

a test designed to assess what a person has learned.

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale

the WAIS is the most widely used intelligence test; contains verbal and performance (nonverbal) subtests.


defining meaningful scores by comparison with the performance of a pretested standardization group.

normal curve

the symmetrical bell-shaped curve that describes the distribution of many physical and psychological attributes. Most scores fall near the average, and fewer and fewer scores lie near the extremes.


the extent to which a test yields consistent results, as assessed by the consistency of scores on two halves of the test, on alternate forms of the test, or on retesting.


the extent to which a test measures or predicts what it is supposed to. (See also content validity and predictive validity.)

content validity

the extent to which a test samples the behavior that is of interest (such as a driving test that samples driving tasks).


the behavior (such as future college grades) that a test (such as the SAT) is designed to predict; thus, the measure used in defining whether the test has predictive validity.

predictive validity

the success with which a test predicts the behavior it is designed to predict; it is assessed by computing the correlation between test scores and the criterion behavior. (Also called criterion-related validity.)

mental retardation

a condition of limited mental ability, indicated by an intelligence score of 70 or below and difficulty in adapting to the demands of life; varies from mild to profound.

Down syndrome

a condition of retardation and associated physical disorders caused by an extra chromosome in one's genetic makeup.

stereotype threat

a self-confirming concern that one will be evaluated based on a negative stereotype.

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