Adult intelligence:  The construct and the criterion problem

Over 100 years have passed since Binet and Simon proposed scales for assessment of intelligence of children to predict academic success and failure. The extension of these assessments to adults largely resulted from efforts of psychologists to provide insights for military selection in World War I. At the time, relatively little thought was given to how adult intelligence might differ from child and adolescent intelligence. Traditional approaches for assessing adult intelligence have largely survived. However, there is little reference to adult intellectual functioning outside of laboratory-based tasks and clinical assessments of pathology. The result is that there are insufficient criterion measures for adult intelligence. Moreover, researchers have shifted from treating intelligence tests as predictors to treating them as criterion measures. The result is a disconnection between basic research on one hand and understanding adult intelligence on the other hand. This lack of connection is a serious impediment for predicting individual differences in performance on tasks which adults perform in their day-to-day work and nonwork lives. This article explores how the field has come to the current situation, and what remedies might be explored. Ultimately, a fundamental reexamination of how adult intelligence is studied and applied is suggested.