Joy Paul Guilford was born on a farm near Marquette, Nebraska, on March 7, 1897. He was impressed with the unevenness of children's abilities in different areas, something he had already noticed while comparing his own and his brother's aptitudes. He became convinced that intelligence was not one monolithic, global attribute but a composite of different abilities. At this point in his training, therefore, he was already showing a strong interest in what was to be the dominant focus of his professional career—individual differences.
By the early 1950s Guilford began to feel the need to develop a system for classifying the many mental abilities that had been and were continuing to be discovered. The first version of his now-famous Structure of Intellect (SOI) model was presented in 1955 to an international conference on factor analysis in Paris. From its first formulation, the SOI model became the main focus of Guilford's research and writing. He used the model to suggest where new abilities might be discovered, much as the periodic table had been used earlier to locate new chemical elements.
The number of possible abilities represented by the model has increased over the years, and in the latest version (described below) there are 180. As the SOI model developed, Guilford became more and more interested in applying it to improve education.
He believed that human abilities are differentiated into increasingly complex systems as a function of more and more education. He believed that children can be trained to be smarter; "Intelligence education is intelligent education" became his motto.
In his final version of the SOI, "Some Changes in the Structure-of-Intellect Model "Educational and Psychological Measurement, 1988, vol. 48, pp. 1-4, Guilford described intelligence as being a systematic collection of a large number of abilities for processing different kinds of information in various ways.
In Guilford’s Structure of Intellect (SI) theory, intelligence is viewed as comprising operations, contents, and products. There are 5 kinds of operations (cognition, memory, divergent production, convergent production, evaluation), 6 kinds of products (units, classes, relations, systems, transformations, and implications), and 5 kinds of contents (visual, auditory, symbolic, semantic, behavioural). Since each of these dimensions is independent, there are theoretically 150 different components of intelligence.
Guilford researched and developed a wide variety of psychometric tests to measure the specific abilities predicted by SI theory. These tests provide an operational definition of the many abilities proposed by the theory. Furthermore, factor analysis was used to determine which tests appeared to measure the same or different abilities.
Parenthetically, it is interesting to note that a major impetus for Guilford’s theory was his interest in creativity (Guilford, 1950). The divergent production operation identifies a number of different types of creative abilities.
SI theory is intended to be a general theory of human intelligence. Its major application (besides educational research) has been in personnel selection and placement. Meeker (1969) examines its application to education.
- Reasoning and problem-solving skills (convergent and divergent operations) can be subdivided into 30 distinct abilities (6 products x 5 contents).
- Memory operations can be subdivided into 30 different skills (6 products x 5 contents).
- Decision-making skills (evaluation operations) can be subdivided into 30 distinct abilities (6 products x 5 contents).
- Language-related skills (cognitive operations) can be subdivided into 30 distinct abilities (6 products x 5 contents).
- Guilford, J.P. (1967). The Nature of Human Intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Guilford, J.P. & Hoepfner, R. (1971). The Analysis of Intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Guilford, J.P. (1982). Cognitive psychology’s ambiguities: Some suggested remedies. Psychological Review, 89, 48-59.
Dr. Deepak Pancholi, Assistant Professor