The Structure of Intellect
Model of Human Intelligence
History of the Structure of Intellect
. . . had its beginnings during World War II. At that time the US Air Force was part of the Army. The Army needed men for it’s air force quickly to meet the challenge presented by the country’s sudden entry into the war.
The Army was using some standard tests to select men for training as pilots, navigators and bombardiers. However, they were experiencing very high failure rates among the men their instruments were selecting.
J.P. Guilford (see bio) was selected to work on developing a method for improving their selection of candidates for training.
Guilford identified eight specific abilities need for flying air planes. Through his work the failure rate for trainees was reduced to below 10%.
He continued his research into individual intellectual abilities for the next twenty years at the University of Southern California.
Guilford tended to view the benefits of his work applying to matching individuals abilities to careers and jobs. However, one of his students, Mary Meeker, an educational psychologist, saw the educational implications of the model.
Using the Stanford Benet and Wechsler intelligence tests she developed a series of templates to translate the test items of the the two standardized instruments into Structure of Intellect profiles.
She along with her husband, Robert Meeker, developed the SOI Learning Abilities Test for students and adults in the mid seventies.
J. P. Guilford graduated from the University of Nebraska before studying under Edward Titchener at Cornell. He held a number of posts at Nebraska and briefly at the University of Southern California. In 1941 he entered the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and served as Director of Psychological Research Unit No. 3 at Santa Ana Army Air Base. There he worked on the selection and ranking of aircrew trainees as the Army Air Force investigated why a sizable proportion of trainees was not graduating.
Promoted to Chief of the Psychological Research Unit at the U.S. Army Air Forces Training Command Headquarters in Fort Worth, Guilford oversaw the “Stanines Project,” which identified eight specific intellectual abilities crucial to flying a plane. (Stanines, now a common term in educational psychology, was coined during Guilford’s project). Over the course of World War II, Guilford’s use of these eight factors in the development of the two-day Classification Test Battery was significant in increasing graduation rates for aircrew trainees.
Discharged as a full Colonel after the War, Guilford joined the Education faculty at the University of Southern California and continued to research the factors of intelligence. He published widely on what he ultimately named the Structure of Intellect theory. His post-War research identified a total of 90 discrete intellectual abilities and 30 behavioral abilities.
Guilford’s 20 years of research at Southern California were funded by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Education of the former Health, Education and Welfare Department, and the Office of Naval Research. Although Guilford’s subjects were recruits at the Air Force Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, the Office of Naval Research managed this research.
Guilford’s post-War research led to the development of classification testing that, modified in different ways, entered into the various personnel assessments administered by all branches of the U.S. Armed Services. Thus, in a generic manner, all U.S. Military qualifying exams of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s may be said to have descended from Guilford’s research.
Mary Meeker was born in Port Arthur, Louisiana, and grew up in Louisiana and Texas. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Meeker subsequently moved to California, and began graduate studies in educational psychology at University of Southern California, where she met J.P. Guilford, whose work would be central to her career. She received a Master of Science, Master of Education, and in 1971 a Ph.D. in Education from U.S.C. In 1975, Mary Meeker and her husband Robert Meeker opened the SOI Institute, a business producing tests and educational materials based on the Structure of Intellect theory, and conducting training for educators and related research.
Meeker saw the potential of applying Guilford’s theory to education. Her doctoral dissertation focused on applying the Guilford model to create assessment and curriculum materials for use in early childhood through adult education. She called her application of Guilford’s theory “SOI.” The premise of Meeker’s application of the Structure of Intellect theory is that intelligence can be precisely measured using a test that identified a subject’s ability level associated with each of the individual abilities, and remediated or improved using corresponding learning materials that targets weak abilities.
She posited that intelligence, rather than being an immutable quality, could be shaped and improved by proper training, and that curricula that targeted specific abilities could change an individual’s intelligence profile to allow him or her to perform intellectual tasks.
Meeker developed a wide reputation in the field of educational psychology, and particularly in the field of gifted education. She was engaged as a consultant by many state departments of education throughout the country.
The Meekers founded the SOI Institute in El Segundo, CA in the early 80’s. The institute eventually became SOI Systems and relocated in 1986 to Vida Oregon, near Eugene.