What is it about?

Is "intelligence" a valid concept for non-Western cultures? If "intelligence" refers to what a particular believes is useful behavior, then no. Such a definition of "intelligence" would be culturally bound. But if "intelligence" is defined as a general mental ability that is observed by identifying the common variance across a series of mental tasks (called "g" or a general factor), then this study shows that intelligence IS universal. My co-author and I looked for g in places that it would be least likely to appear if it were a culturally-bound, Western trait: in unindustrialized, non-Western nations. Because g showed up in these populations over 95% of the time, it indicates that a general mental ability is probably present in all human groups. The does not indicate which countries are smarter than others. The results from this study only indicate that intelligence (as defined by "g") exists in all groups. Testing across cultures still requires careful adaptation to different languages, cultures, and contexts. THIS IS AN OPEN ACCESS ARTICLE, WHICH MEANS ANYONE CAN READ IT FOR FREE. CLICK ON THE LINK ABOVE TO ACCESS THE FULL ARTICLE.

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Why is it important?

Because intelligence tests were created by people in Western cultures and most research on intelligence comes from Western nations, some people claim that "intelligence" is a narrow, culturally-bound scientific idea. These theorists claim that other cultures' views of intelligence are equally valid (or perhaps more valid) ways of defining the concept. In this study, we found archival data from 97 datasets collected from over 50,000 people in 31 non-Western, non-industrialized countries. A general mental ability appeared in 94 of the 97 datasets (96.9%), which is strong evidence that humans in most--perhaps all--cultures use a general mental ability to solve cognitive tasks.


This study is the first to show that g is likely a universal trait in humans. This opens the door to more cross-cultural research on intelligence and how it manifests itself in different contexts. There is still a lot of work to be done on cross-cultural comparisons, but this study puts to rest the argument that cultural differences are so vast among humans that intelligence testing will always be meaningless for some groups.

Dr Russell T. Warne
Independent Scholar

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Spearman’s g found in 31 non-Western nations: Strong evidence that g is a universal phenomenon., Psychological Bulletin, January 2019, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/bul0000184.
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