Andreas Demetriou (2000) Self-awareness and the Psychological Marking of g. Psycoloquy: 11(002) Intelligence g Factor (23)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 11(002): Self-awareness and the Psychological Marking of g

Review of Jensen on Intelligence-g-Factor

Andreas Demetriou
Department of Educational Sciences
University of Cyprus
P.O. Box 53
1678 Nicosia, CYPRUS


Jensen's model of intelligence is contrasted with a cognitive-developmental model in which accurate self-representation of cognitive processes is a basic characteristic of human thinking and intelligence. This is ignored in Jensen's model. However, there is evidence that content-free processes pertinent to g, such as speed of processing, are directly recorded in one's self-image. This, in turn, influences one's thinking style, the disposition to be open to experience, and thus intellectual functioning itself. Hence g is a psychological construct, despite its strong dependence on biological processes.


behavior genetics, cognitive modelling, evoked potentials, evolutionary psychology, factor analysis, g factor, heritability, individual differences, intelligence, IQ, neurometrics, psychometrics, psychophyiology, skills, Spearman, statistics
1. The model of mind suggested by modern cognitive developmental research is only partially consistent with the model proposed by Jensen (1998, 1999). According to both models, the mind is hierarchically organized. However, there are considerable differences as to what are involved, according to the two models, in the hierarchical levels and how the levels are interrelated. According to cognitive developmental research, the mind is a three-level hierarchy. Two of the levels involve knowing processes and the third involves general-purpose functions (such as working memory) and possibilities (such as speed and efficiency of processing) that define the functioning of each of the two knowing levels and their interaction. Specifically, the first of the knowing levels involves cognitive systems oriented to knowing different types of relations in the environment (e.g., quantitative, spatial, prepositional, categorical, social thought etc.). These systems are computationally and procedurally distinct and they are biased to different symbol systems. The second knowing level involves self-oriented processes as well as functions involved in knowing and regulating the environment-oriented systems and processing potentials and functions. In fact, this level involves maps of mental functions and abilities which represent the condition and organization of the other two levels accurately, although precision in what is involved in these maps increases with development (Demetriou, 1998a, 1998b, in press; Demetriou & Efklides, 1989, 1994; Demetriou, Efklides, & Platsidou, 1993; Demetriou & Kazi, 2000; Demetriou, Kazi, Georgiou, 1999).

2. The environment-oriented level of knowing and the general-purpose level of processing potentials may be taken to correspond, by and large, to Jensen's second-order (that is, the various broad abilities) and third-order factors (that is, g), respectively. However, the psychometric model does not involve a self-knowing and self-regulation system as such. Positing this system has some important implications for the nature and operation of the two other levels of the mind. Here we will focus only on the implications of this model for Jensen's conception of g as a primarily biological rather than a psychological construct.

3. In Jensen's words, "g cannot be described in terms of knowledge content of mental test items, or in terms of skills, or even in terms of theoretical cognitive processes. It is not fundamentally a psychological or behavioral variable, but a biological one." (p. 578). I suggest, based on the evidence to be summarized below, that this interpretation of g may be valid only insofar as the relation of g to the environment-oriented systems is concerned. It is invalid for the relations of g to the self-oriented level of the mind. Epistemologically speaking, this implies that Jensen's claim that g cannot be defined psychologically cannot be accepted.

4. Specifically, if g is "thought of as a distillate of the common source of individual differences in all mental tests, completely stripped of their distinctive features of information content, skill, strategy, and the like" (p.74) then, by definition, g becomes a construct that can not be defined in reference to the actual computational, processing, or procedural characteristics that define each of the various domains of cognitive activity (or ability), such as spatial or numerical ability that are built onto it. Naturally, under these conditions g must be conceived of as something like the central processing unit of a computer and defined accordingly (in reference to its speed of operation, probably the RAM or ROM that it is available for its operation).

5. Moreover, it might be the case that g is without content even from the point of view of the thinking person himself. In a study that attempted to specify the relationships between actual cognitive abilities (domain-specific abilities, such as mathematical, causal, spatial, and social thought, and general abilities, such as memory, speed of processing, inference, self-monitoring, and self-regulation) and their self-representation, we have shown that all but one of these abilities stand out in both actual performance and self-representation as distinct abilities. It is only speed of processing that is not recorded as an autonomous dimension of the mind by the self-monitoring system. Instead, it seems to be recorded in its relationships to the domain-specific systems it supports. That is, the more effort required in the functioning of a domain-specific system the more this system requires the various functions of the processing system, such as speed of processing. Mathematical thought is a particularly important example of these privileged relationships to processing speed and other parameters of g, such as efficiency for inhibition. This is of course consistent with the claim that general processing ability is "empty" or without content (Demetriou & Kazi, 2000).

6. This is only half of the story, however. If the actual computational or operating processes of g are associated with the various domain-specific abilities then g cannot be specified psychologically. However, g does acquire psychological and subjective meaning once (and to the degree that) it is recorded by the self-awareness system and comes under the control of self-regulation processes. Specifically, we have also shown that g is directly and in an almost linear fashion related to self-representation of logicality. This evidence suggests that the faster individuals are in processing, and the more able in analogical reasoning, the more logical (and, to a lesser extent, the better able to learn) they think they are (Demetriou & Kazi, 2000). In fact, we have also shown that fast processing and high analogical reasoning with ensuing self-representations are positively and systematically related to the dimension of openness to experience, one of the Big Five factors of personality (Demetriou, in press). These findings suggest that the projection of processing power (or g) into one/s self-image of cognitive efficiency shapes general mental self-worth and self-esteem. Through this g shapes decisions about what tasks one is to work on and how. In turn, this grafting of g into the self-representation system influences the person's problem-solving strategies and thinking styles. This is obviously a psychological marking of g by any definition. Even more: in the long run, it contributes to the formation of g because the more one has of it the more one works to augment and differentiate it.

7. In conclusion, g is recorded in the thinker's self-representations. This, in turn, influences the thinking and personality dispositions of the individual to relate to the environment in particular ways. Thus, g, from this point of view, is a psychological construct. This does not imply that g is not primarily determined by biological factors. It only means that those factors acquire psychological meaning and effects through self-representation. Hence a g nexus suggested by Jensen himself, namely, the study of the relationships between g and personality in order to understand how g contributes to shaping the person's everyday life, leads to an interpretation of the nature of g that deviates from Jensen's preferred one.


Demetriou, A. (1998a). Nooplasis: 10 + 1 Postulates about the formation of mind. Learning and Instruction: The Journal of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction, 8, 271-287.

Demetriou, A. (1998b). Cognitive development. In A. Demetriou, W. Doise, K. F. M. van Lieshout (Eds.), Life-span developmental psychology (pp 179-269). London: Wiley.

Demetriou, (in press). Self-formations: The interleaving of mind, personality, and self during the life span. Journal of Adult Development.

Demetriou A., & Efklides, A. (1989). The person's conception of the structures of developing intellect: Early adolescence to middle age. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 115, 371-423.

Demetriou, A., & Efklides, A. (1994). Structure, development, and dynamics of mind: A meta-Piagetian theory. In A. Demetriou & A. Efklides (Eds.), Mind, intelligence, and reasoning: Structure and development (pp. 75-109). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Demetriou, A., Efklides, A., & Platsidou, M. (1993). The architecture and dynamics of developing mind: Experiential structuralism as a frame for unifying cognitive developmental theories. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 58 (5, Serial No. 234).

Demetriou, A., & Kazi, S. (2000). Unity and modularity in the mind and the self: Studies on the Relationships between Self-awareness, Personality, and Intellectual Development from Childhood to Adolescence. London: Routledge

Demetriou, A., Kazi, S., & Georgiou, S. (1999). The emerging self: The convergence of mind, personality, and thinking styles, 2:4, 387-422.

Jensen, A. R. (1998). The g factor: The science of mental ability. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger

Jensen, A. (1999) Precis of: "The G Factor: The Science of Mental Ability" PSYCOLOQUY 10(23). psyc.99.10.023.intelligence-g-factor.1.jensen

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