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The Intelligence Model of Cyrill Burt

A theory about the hierarchical structure of intelligence based on the works of Spearman.

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In differential psychology, models of intelligence can be divided into two: factorial (hierarchical) or multifactorial (consider intelligence as a set of independent skills among themselves).

In this article we will analyze in detail a hierarchical model, Burt’s Intelligence Model. Cyrill Burt based on the theory of Charles Spearman and added some changes. To explain intelligence, Burt establishes four primary factors and a general intelligence that encompasses them (G factor).

Burt’s intelligence model: features

Hierarchical intelligence theories divide their components into (from more specific to more general): specific factors (concrete tests), minor group factors, major group factors and finally, at the top of the “pyramid”, we find the known factor G.

Cyrill Burt (1883-1971) was an English psychologist who made contributions to educational psychology and statistics. He was one of the most successful disciples or successors of Charles Spearman (1863 – 1945). His intelligence model is a synthesis of the work done by his predecessors, and influenced the work of Cattell and Vernon.

He developed the so-called intelligence model of Burt, a hierarchical model of intelligence, where he established different levels, “links” or hierarchically organized factors. It focused on the existence of a structure formed by four primary factors and a general intelligence that subsumes them.

The Burt Intelligence Model is a structural model that starts from a hierarchical ordering of the intelligence factors. Defend the supremacy of genetic variables to explain differences in intelligence.

Burt’s theory

Burt develops his theory through a hypothesis that he establishes in 1945, where he postulates differences in intellectual development. According to him, at the intellectual level, gradually the hierarchical structure of intelligence is reached, where all skills occupy a specific place. These skills are distributed from a level of undifferentiation (g) to a detailed level of specialization (s).

Thus, in 1949 the Burt Intelligence Model developed. It recognizes the existence of 18 group factors located below the general intelligence factor “g”, in different hierarchical levels.

Burt states that there is an undoubted “g” factor, since the correlations between cognitive tests are positive, but they are not hierarchical because there are factors that are common to certain types of tests but not to all.

Structure of intelligence

In Burt’s Intelligence Model, the author organizes the structure of intelligence in 5 increasingly complex levels, ranging from the capture of stimuli to their processing and linkage with other cognitive elements (as we will see in the next point).

According to C. Burt, intelligence is the general capacity whose structure is a hierarchical system of mental levels. As we have seen, Burt was Spearman’s successor, and completes Spearman’s model with two other factors: group factors and accidental factors.

Differences and similarities with Charles Spearman

As we have seen, Burt accepts from Spearman the idea of ​​the existence of a universal capacity (which he calls General Intelligence). Its G factor or General Intelligence, on the other hand, is practical and not intellectual in nature.

In addition, Burt’s Intelligence Model differs from that of Spearman in that it gives importance to a series of group factors that would be found between the “g” factor and Spearman’s “s” factors.

The existence of these group factors coincides with the data provided by the evolutionary studies that showed that a more intelligent intelligence generated a set of more specific skills until the development of skills or skills very specific to certain tasks.

Hierarchical levels

The hierarchical levels that are established in Burt’s Intelligence Model are levels proper to mental processes.

These levels are differentiated by their degree of specificity, their content and the operations they include. They are the following (ordered from more complex, general or hierarchical unless):

1. General factor

We start at the most general level (the fifth level). It is Spearman’s G factor, that is, general intelligence. This factor allows, includes and encompasses the other four levels. In addition, it influences and affects them.

2. Relationship

They are the relational processes that we put into practice in our reasoning. They include the different processes that allow us to coordinate and manage the different mental processes.

3. Association

They are the associative processes related to memory and the formation of habits. That is to say, they include the capacities of association, and they also allow us to relate elements, recognize them, memorize them and form habits with them.

4. Perception

These are complex cognitive processes related to the perception and coordination of movements. These processes allow the passage to the cognition of the information captured.

5. Feeling

It is the most basic and simple level. It includes the different basic sensory and motor skills or abilities that we have.

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