Intelligence in Everyday Life • The Big Picture: A Life-Span View • Research Approaches to Intelligence • Discovering Development: How Do People Show Intelligence?


The Measurement of Intelligence • Age-Related Changes in Primary Abilities

• Secondary Mental Abilities • Moderators of Intellectual Change • Current Controversies: Problems in Detecting Lifestyle Effects on Intellectual Functioning

• Modifying Primary Abilities


Piaget’s Theory • Going Beyond Piaget: Post-Formal Thought


Decision Making • Problem Solving • Expertise • How Do We Know? The Role of Emotionality in Solving Real-Life Problems • Wisdom


Summary • Review Questions • Integrating Concepts in Development • Key Terms • Resources

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, was the recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, and is

recognized as a leader in Buddhist philosophy, human rights, and global environmental problems. He has reached this stature as a simple Buddhist monk, in which he claims he is "no more, no less.” To the world, the Dalai Lama is recognized for his wisdom. A sample of this wisdom is in his plea for "a new way of thinking. . . for responsible living and acting. If we maintain obsolete values and beliefs, a fragmented consciousness and a self-centered spirit, we will continue to hold to outdated goals and behaviors. Such an attitude by a large number of people would block the entire transition to an interdependent yet peaceful and cooperative global society.” He also states that as a Buddhist monk, he tries to develop compassion within, not simply as religious practice, but at a human level. To facilitate this he "sometimes finds it helpful to imagine himself standing as a single individual on one side, facing a huge gathering of all other human beings on the other side. Then he asks himself, ‘Whose interests are more important?’ To him it is quite clear that however important he feels he is, he is just one individual while others are infinite in number and importance.”

The Dalai Lama drives home the point that wisdom has long been associated with age. Surprisingly, psychologists have only recently become interested in wisdom, perhaps because they have been busy studying a related topic—intelligence. Another reason for not researching wisdom was the widespread belief that it would be a waste of time. At one time researchers and theorists were convinced that all intellectual abilities inevitably declined as people aged, because of biological deterioration. For instance, Wechsler (1958) wrote that "nearly all studies have shown that most human abilities decline progressively after reaching a peak somewhere between ages 18 and 25” (p. 135).

In the decades since Wechsler stated this pessimistic view, many things have changed. Researchers have discovered that intellectual development is an extremely complex process. We cannot give a simple yes or no answer to the question "Does intelligence decline with age?” And we continue to move farther away, rather than closer to, a simple answer. Controversy is now quite common. The controversy was accelerated in the 1970s. Considering methodolog­ical comparisons between cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, Baltes and Schaie (1974) concluded that "general intellectual decline is largely a myth” (p. 35). Botwinick (1977) coun­tered that "decline in intellectual ability is clearly a part of the aging picture” (p. 580).


Who is right? Where do we stand now? Does intelligence decline, or is that a myth? Does wis­dom come with age? Answering these questions will be our goal in this chapter. Such widely divergent conclusions about age-related changes in intelligence reflect different sets of assumptions about the nature of intelligence, which are then translated into different theoretical and methodological approaches. We will examine three avenues of research on intelligence and age: the psychometric approach, the life-span approach, and the cognitive-structural approaches. Along the way we look at some attempts to modify intellectual abilities through training programs. But first we need to consider what intelligence is.