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A new method for representing mental growth.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Louisville, Kentucky.


A new method is described for plotting the growth in mental development from birth to adolescence. Using data from a large sample of twins followed since birth, a dimension of mental growth was constructed by arraying all tests in order of difficulty, then computing the average gain from age to age. The gain was expressed in standard-deviation units, which reflected the upward shift in the score distribution from time X to time X + 1. When cumulated over ages, the scores generated a mental growth curve for the sample as a whole, as well as for each case individually. The curves displayed a very rapid gain in mental growth over the first 24 months of life, with the complexity of mental functions advancing by nearly 20 standard deviations from birth to two years. Thereafter the gain progressively tapered off until reaching a final increment of 0.5 SD gain between 15 years and adulthood. At this point, the terminal level of mental growth reached an average value of 31 SD units, with a spread of individual differences equal to +/- 3 SD units. The scores at each age represented a combination of base level plus gain from the preceding age, and during infancy the gain scores were large in relation to base. At later ages, however, the gain scores were comparatively small, both in absolute terms and in relation to base. These characteristics help explain the typical low-order correlations obtained among mental test scores during infancy, vs the progressively larger correlations obtained at later ages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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