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Intelligence and the Ability to Learn

Duncanson, James P.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research, Princeton University, Academic Ability, Cognitive Ability, Factor Structure, Intelligence


Nine learning tasks and a battery of ability tests were administered to 102 sixth-grade children. The tasks were of three types, concept formation, paired associates, and rote memory, each type including one task with verbal, one with numerical, and one with figural material. The ability measures included intelligence, scholastic achievement, associative memory, memory span, number facility, perceptual speed, reasoning, and vocabulary. Each learning task was subjected to a separate factor analysis in order to determine the number of factors necessary to describe the learning performances of the subjects on the task. Factor scores were then calculated for the subjects, and the factor scores of all the subjects on all the tasks were entered in a factor analysis together with the scores on the ability measures. Seven factors were extracted and rotated to an equamax solution. One factor was found to be specific to the ability measures: a speed factor. Three factors were common to the ability and learning measures: verbal ability, rote-memory ability, and reasoning ability. Three factors were specific to the learning measures: verbal learning, nonverbal learning, and concept formation. It was concluded that (a) measured abilities are related to measured learning performance, (b) learning performance depends upon factors which are independent of ability measures, (c) learning in one task is related to learning in others, and (d) performance in concept-formation tasks is not related to the ability measures used or to performance in rote-memory tasks.

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