Classification of Intelligence According to Thorndike

Operational Approach

Operational approach is important to understand the concept of intelligence in clear and definite terms. Scientific terms are not defined in terms of isolation but by stating the observable conditions under which the statement is true or false. Instead of defining the word itself it should be defined under conditions in which it occurs.

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A close look at all the above definitions suggest that intelligence is the ability to do a thing. Intelligence is the capacity to acquire knowledge, but it is not knowledge. Intelligence is not thought but the capacity to think. Intelligence is not a skill but is a capacity to acquire skill.


Thus the nature of intelligence may help us to desire a workable definition of intelligence in the following form- ‘Intelligence is the mental ability of an individual which helps him to cope with the new life situations effectively and efficiently.’

Classification of Intelligence according to Thorndike

Types of Intelligence

Thorndike has classified intelligence into 3 categories namely


1. Abstract Intelligence

It is the ability to understand words, numbers and letters and to use them effectively abstract intelligence is required in ordinary academic subjects in schools such as reading, writing a solving academic problems. The highest level of abstract intelligence is manifested in the thoughts of poets, philosophers and writers.

2. Social Intelligence

It is the ability of an individual to deal effectively and efficiently with his social and cultural environment. Social intelligence is revealed when a person is able to establish and develop desirable social relations in conformity with his social and cultural norms.


3. Concrete Intelligence

It is the ability to understand and deal with things as in skilled trades or scientific appliances this is also known as mechanical or motor intelligence. In education concrete intelligence is required in learning dances and participating in games and sports.

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