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Psychol Rev. 2002 Jan;109(1):116-36.

Understanding the nature of the general factor of intelligence: the role of individual differences in neural plasticity as an explanatory mechanism.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


The nature of the general factor of intelligence, or g, is examined. This article begins by observing that the finding of a general factor of intelligence appears to be inconsistent with current findings in neuroscience and cognitive science, where specific connections are argued to be critical for different intellectual abilities and the brain is argued to develop these connections in response to environmental stimuli. However, it is then observed that if people differed in neural plasticity, or the ability to adapt their connections to the environment, then those highly developed in one intellectual ability would be highly developed in other intellectual abilities as well. Simulations are then used to confirm that such a pattern would be obtained. Such a model is also shown to account for many other findings in the field of intelligence that are currently unexplained. A critical period for intellectual development is then emphasized.

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