The relationship between speed of information processing and cognitive ability

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Bowling, AC & Mackenzie, BD 1996, 'The relationship between speed of information processing and cognitive ability', Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 775-800.

Publisher version of article available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0191-8869(96)00022-0

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Speed of information processing as measured by various reaction time and inspection tasks has been shown to correlate with psychometric intelligence, and it has been suggested that general intelligence (g) is determined to some degree by the speed that information is processed. If this is so, then various measures of speed of information processing should correlate substantially with each other, and each should also correlate with a wide range of psychometric tests that load on g. Alternatively, intelligence may be considered to be a multi-faceted complex of partially related abilities with specific abilities being dependent upon specific cognitive processes. If this is the case, it should be possible to discover independent cognitive processes, some of which correlate with one facet or broad ability and some with another. This paper presents three experiments in which the relationship between intellectual ability and four speed of information processing measures was examined. These were rate of memory scanning, rate of retrieval of information from long term memory, speed of stimulus-response mapping and inspection time (IT). Results showed that correlations between IT and most reaction time measures of speed of information processing were low, and that correlations between different versions of IT were negligible. In addition, some cognitive tasks with verbal material (memory scanning rate for digits and Posner letter matching IT) correlated most substantially with Verbal Reasoning whereas non-verbal (two-line) IT consistently correlated with tests loading on g. It was thus suggested that while non-verbal IT may be a measure of a perceptual speed attribute that contributes to mental functioning, other “speed of information processing” parameters may be more specific to a subset of abilities.

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