Intelligence needs to be understood in the cultural contexts in which it is displayed. For one thing, people in different cultures have different conceptions (implicit theories) of what intelligence is. Asian and African cultures tend to have broader and more encompassing views of intelligence than do Western cultures. Asians and Africans place less emphasis on mental speed and more emphasis on social and emotional aspects of behavior, as well as on wisdom. These implicit theories are important because in everyday life, people’s behavior is guided not so much by scores on standardized or other tests but rather by people’s implicit theories. For example, hiring and promotion decisions are usually based on such implicit theories, not on test scores. Studies of performances by people, especially children, in different cultures suggest that the strengths of individuals across cultures are not necessarily well represented by conventional intelligence tests. For example, in some cultures, knowledge of herbal medications used to combat parasitic illnesses, or knowledge of hunting and gathering, or knowledge of how to effectively ice fish, can be more important to assessing intelligence than scores on a standardized test. Eskimo children may know how to navigate across the frozen tundra in the winter without obvious landmarks, yet they may not be able to attain high scores on conventional intelligence tests. Some of those who would score highly on such tests would be unable to do such navigation, to their peril. There is no such thing as a culture-free test of intelligence, and there probably is no test that is genuinely culture-fair either. At best, tests should be culture-relevant, measuring the cognitive and other skills relevant to effectively adapt to particular cultures. These skills are likely to be partially but not fully overlapping across cultures. Thus, intelligence needs to be understood in its cultural contexts, not divorced from such contexts.
Robert J. Sternberg
Igor Grossmann and Franki Kung
The concept of wisdom is ancient and deeply embedded in the cultural history of humanity. However, only since 1980s have psychologists begun to study it scientifically. Taking a culturally and philosophically informed perspective, this article integrates insights from the quantitative science of wisdom. Analysis of epistemological traditions and research on folk theories of wisdom suggest cultural similarities in the domain of cognition (e.g., wisdom as reasoning ability and knowledge). These similarities can be contrasted with cultural differences concerning folk-theoretical affective and prosocial themes of wisdom, as well as expression of various wisdom-related themes, rooted in distinct sociocultural and ecological environments. Empirical evidence indicates that wisdom is an individually and culturally malleable construct, consistent with an emerging constructionist account of wisdom and its development. Future research can benefit from integration of ecological and cultural-historical factors for the meaning of wisdom and its expression.
Jarred Gallegos, Julie Lutz, Emma Katz, and Barry Edelstein
The assessment of older adults is quite challenging in light of the many age-related physiological and metabolic changes, increased number of chronic diseases with potential psychiatric manifestations, the associated medications and their side effects, and the age-related changes in the presentation of common mental health problems and disorders. A biopsychosocial approach to assessment is particularly important for older adults due to the substantial interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors that collectively produce the clinical presentation faced by clinicians. An appreciation of age-related and non-normative changes in cognitive skills and sensory processes is particularly important both for planning the assessment process and the interpretation of findings. The assessment of older adults is unfortunately plagued by a paucity of age-appropriate assessment instruments, as most instruments have been developed with young adults. This paucity of age-appropriate assessment instruments is an impediment to reliable and valid assessment. Notwithstanding that caveat, comprehensive and valid assessment of older adults can be accomplished through an understanding of the interaction of age-related factors that influence the experience and presentation of psychiatric disorders, and an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment instruments that are used to achieve valid and reliable assessments.