The myth of intelligence

Since the beginning of the 20th century, intelligence has been conceptualized as a qualitatively unique faculty (or faculties) with a relatively fixed quantity that individuals possess and that can be tested by conventional intelligence tests. Despite the logical errors of reification and circular reasoning involved in this essentialistic conceptualization, this view of intelligence has persisted until the present, with psychologists still debating how many and what types of intelligence there are. This paper argues that a concept of intelligence as anything more than a label for various behaviors in their contexts is a myth and that a truly scientific understanding of the behaviors said to reflect intelligence can come only from a functional analysis of those behaviors in the contexts in which they are observed. A functional approach can lead to more productive methods for measuring and teaching intelligent behavior.