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It is self-evident that different occupations require different skills, competencies and abilities. It is also the case that individuals vary with regard to their mental abilities and the extent to which they apply them at work. The ‘happy’ scenario is that a match should occur between the individual’s abilities and their occupation, but reality suggests that this is not always the case. The extremes include employees bored rigid with a simple task who become ‘shoddy’ in their attitude and make a succession of mistakes, and the employees who have been promoted beyond their capability.

The result of this mismatch between the individual’s abilities and their occupation could be stress either for the individuals or the project, unable to cope or their work colleagues who are picking up the debris left behind. It can be assumed that a person’s ability is dependent upon his or her intelligence, but the study of intelligence has revealed a number of controversies and sensitivities.

Different schools of thought have emerged with regard to the study of abilities. Similar debates to the ones that surround the study of personality have also swirled around the research on intelligence: –

  • Is intelligence inherited? Is it constant throughout life? Is it dependent upon our life’s experiences, our culture, our education, etc.?
  • What is the nature of intelligence? Can it be measured and how?

Binet and Simon working in France were the first psychologists to measure ability in a systematic and structured way. The ideas of Binet were advanced and developed an intelligence test known as the Stanford – Binet test which was designed to measure intelligence across a wide scale. The tests were able to provide a ‘score’ of the child’s intelligence. The Intelligence Quotient (or IQ) was the calculation of the:

Mental age / Actual Age * 100 = Intelligence Quotient

Hence a child who is 10 years and has a mental age of 10 will have an IQ score of 100; a child of 10 years with a mental age of 12 will have an IQ score of 120; and a child if 10 years with a mental age of 8 will have an IQ score of 80. General ability can be seen as a kind of powerhouse which releases some of its energy into the child’s ability at mathematics.

A model was identified which identified 120 different abilities and suggested that intellectual ability requires individuals to think in one of three dimensions.

  • Content: – What must the individual think about (for example, meaning of words or numbers)?
  • Operations: – What kind of thinking is the individual required to do (for example, recognising items, solving a problem, evaluating an outcome)?
  • Products: – What kind of outcome or answer is required (for example, classifying o reordering items)?

This has identified the key characteristics as

  • Abilities such as being able to motivate one and persist in the face of frustration
  • control impulse and delay gratification
  • to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think
  • to emphasise and to hope.

So in the space of this article / post, what am I trying to say … do we understand what a person’s ability is and how to measure it. In a simple world, ability is based on the content, operations and product but this doesn’t factor in the external environment and the cultural pressures.

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