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Primary Mental Abilities

  1. K. Warner Schaie

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0706

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Schaie, K. W. 2010. Primary Mental Abilities. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Pennsylvania State University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


One of the earliest accomplishments of the science of psychology was the objective measurement of mental abilities. In 1904, the British psychologist Charles Spearman argued that intelligence could be characterized as comprising a general factor (g), common to all meaningful activity, and of specific factors (s) that are unique to the different tasks used to measure intelligence. Binet and Simon (1905) in France and Terman (1916) in the United States introduced test instruments that applied the concept of general intelligence. However, American psychologists engaged in educational and occupational selection activities found the concept of general intelligence not very useful for predicting success in specific jobs or other life roles. In addition, the work of Thorndike and Woodworth (1901) on transfer of training had suggested that the notion of generalizability of a single ability dimension was not justified.


  • abstract intelligence;
  • clerical aptitude testing;
  • factor analysis;
  • Schaie Thurstone Adult Mental Abilities Test (STAMAT);
  • structure of intellect model;
  • testing methods