Chapter 8. Higher order cognition: Language and Intelligence

Globe with the word "Hello" it different languages arranged in speech bubbles around it

Chess board with black pawn in center wearing a gold crown.Cognitive psychologists study a wide range of mental processes. We have already delved into the subfields of sensation and perception, attention, and learning and memory. In this chapter, we will focus on other higher aspects of cognition: language and intelligence, and we will briefly discuss how language can affect thinking. Language is a remarkable human ability that lies at the heart of our communication and cognitive processes. Moreover, language and culture are inextricably entwined. In this chapter, we will explore the use and development of language, and how language shapes our identities and how we think. We will also look at the various ways that psychologists have conceptualized and measured intelligence. We will discuss psychology’s abhorrent role in the eugenics movement, where misguided theories of intelligence and biased testing were used to justify discriminatory practices that unjustly marginalized women, BIPOC individuals, sexual minorities, and those with mental illness.

Learning Objectives

  • Define language and demonstrate familiarity with the components of language
  • Explain the development of language
  • Discuss the cultural and social aspects of language including how language shapes cultural identity
  • Compare and contrast some pragmatic language differences, such as differences in expressing gratitude, making requests, and refusing invitations.
  • Describe the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism
  • Describe the ways that language can influence metacognition, self-evaluation, perceptions, and attributions.
  • Define linguistic racism and describe its impact
  • Describe the influence of cultural values on the conceptualization of intelligence.
  • Compare and contrast theories of intelligence
  • Describe how the eugenics movement used pseudoscientific information about intelligence to oppress large groups of marginalized people
  • Explain why race is not a biological construct and describe its social construction.
  • Analyze the impact of genes and environment on IQ scores and understand the complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors.
  • Describe the roles of academic social activists in challenging the discriminatory practices associated with intelligence testing.
  • Critically analyze the limitations and cultural biases present in intelligence tests, highlighting the need for more diverse and culturally sensitive assessments.
  • Recognize the phenomenon of stereotype threat and its influence on test performance, particularly for marginalized groups, and explore strategies to mitigate its effects.
  • Describe alternative theories of intelligence, including Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory and Robert Sternberg’s triarchic theory, and understand how these theories broaden the understanding of intelligence beyond traditional IQ tests.
  • Describe the concept of emotional intelligence and its relevance in social relationships and job performance, while acknowledging the challenges in measuring and studying emotional intelligence.


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Introduction to Psychology (A critical approach) Copyright © 2021 by Jill Grose-Fifer; Rose M. Spielman; Kathryn Dumper; William Jenkins; Arlene Lacombe; Marilyn Lovett; and Marion Perlmutter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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