Example of cross-cultural research: the influence of culture on the perception of intelligence research paper


Intelligence cannot be understood or fully explained outside the cultural context. Culture influences our perceptions of intelligence (Matsumoto, 2001). There is more to intelligence than just Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and calculating the IQ without regarding the culture an individual belongs to will result in biased results. Culture is a part of our day to day lives and is reflected in our shared behavioral patterns, values, beliefs, perception of intelligence and it grants our lives meaning. Behavior that is considered smart or intelligent in one culture won’t necessarily be considered smart in another culture. For example, some cultures appreciate it when politicians are honest about their views whereas others do not value it. The following essay considers influences culture has on intelligence perception and what is regarded as intelligent in the middle class American and in the Canary Islands.


Intelligence can be defined as a set of cognitive abilities, knowledge about the world and problem solving skills, capacity to acquire and apply knowledge or as an ability that enables us to adapt, understand, overcome obstacles and learn (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2004). Different cultures have different perceptions of intelligence and it is important to note this differences since cultures tend to view people from other cultures through their own cultural filters (Matsumoto, 2001).
The early inhabitants of Canary who are referred to as the Guanches islands descended from North Africa. The culture found in the Canary Islands is Spanish with a lot of influence from Cuba and Venezuela. Like other Spaniards, the people of Canary Island love to party. Their businesses usually close in the afternoon for a siesta. Business in the Canary Island has a huge potential of growing since the place is still underdeveloped. To the residents of Canary Island, work falls in second place to enjoyment. In the Canary Island, education is not emphasized. The view of intelligence in the Canary Island has a lot to do with verbal skills and their naturalistic abilities. Their view of intelligence has little to do with obtaining certificates, degrees and PhD’s. The residents of Canary do not pursue education to high levels as is the case in the American who lives in the Northern States.
Americans living in the northern states idea of intelligence involves having acquired high levels of education. For the residents of the northern states of America, for one to be considered intelligent one has to have at least reached the college level of education. Women and men are accorded equal opportunities for studying and also in places of work.

Cultural factors that might influence how intelligence is perceived in the two cultures

Various cultural factors bring about their different perceptions of intelligence in different cultures. The American culture in the northern states is based on individualism. That is the northern states of America are individualistic. On the other hand the Canary Islands have a collectivist culture. The residents of Canary uphold working together whereas the residents of the northern states put their individual needs ahead of their own. The fact that the American culture in the Northern states is individualistic means that the residents place their own well-being above the well-being of the society. People strive to succeed in order to place themselves in good positions and to manage to live a better lifestyle. In the Canary island land is an important asset which ought to be preserved.
In the North American culture, land is used for construction of homes and businesses. As a result of the north states of America being individualistic, a lot of emphasis is placed on education. The residents are subjected to a series of tests right from elementary school, middle school and college. The performance of an individual in a test is normally what determines whether the individual moves on to the next step in life. In some jobs, employers subject their potential employees to aptitude tests as a part of the interview. IQ tests are also available to the residents in the north state. Due to those factors intelligence is perceived in form of educational level in the northern states.
Another factor that has influenced the difference in perception of intelligence between the Northern states and Canary Islands is the level of technology. Northern states of America are well advanced in technology as compared to Canary Islands. In northern America the development of technology has reached a point where people hardly communicate face to face but do so through the use of the numerous communication gadgets available in the market. Canary Islands are not well developed and have a great room for development. They also have numerous business opportunities. The difference in levels of technology influences the perception of intelligence. The higher developed a culture is in terms of technology the more likely it is for that culture to view education as the determinant of intelligence.
The third cultural factor that has contributed to the differences in the perception of intelligence between Canary Islands and America’s north states is the model of equal opportunities. In the Canary Islands, women are still looked upon as the weaker sex. In the North states of America, women and men are considered equal and are accorded equal opportunities in both the job and education sector. Women in Canary are expected to be submissive and to not question men. Aside from equality to gender individuals who are physically or mentally challenged are also accorded equal opportunities in the north states. In Canary Islands people with disabilities are tended to at homes whereas in the north states they fight for opportunities in the job market. This is the reason why education is valued highly in the northern states but in the Canary Islands their perception of intelligence is on knowledge about their environment. It has been contended that culture is what draws the line between animal intelligence and human intelligence. Cultural adaptations play a great role in an individual’s life after birth and aid the development of the abilities a person acquires as he grows.

Testing for intelligence

Different tests are used to measure intelligence levels. Methods that do not consider culture while testing for intelligence levels are biased (Matsumoto, 2001). A cultural fair test is a test that considers the culture of an individual when testing for intelligence levels (Bryne & van de Vijver, 2010). A culture free test pays no regard to the culture; one belongs to when testing for intelligence levels. Culture free test are liable to culture bias since they assume that intelligence is perceived in the same way in all cultures. Culture fair tests make minimal use of language and facts.
Howard Gardner suggested that there are eight different types of intelligence that are referred to as multiple intelligence. The eight forms of intelligence are; verbal skills, mathematical skills, body kinesthetic, spatial skills, naturalistic skills, musical skills, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2004). While testing for intelligence in Canary Islands I would use observation method whereby one observes the interpersonal skills, body kinesthetic and naturalistic skills to range get the level of intelligence of an individual (Bryne & van de Vijver, 2010). This is the preferred method since the residents of Canary Islands perceive intelligence in form of the ability of a person to relate with others and the physical abilities an individual possesses. In the case of a resident of the north states of America, I would administer a test of his/her educational level in order to assess the intelligence of that individual. I selected this method because education in the North states is considered as the measure of intelligence.


Intelligence and culture are inextricably intertwined (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2004). Culture plays a great role in defining intelligence perception. In our bid to study intelligence of individuals there is the danger of the imposition of the researcher’s view of the world on the individual being studied. Intelligence is something that many people aspire to have and many of the cultures that perceive education as their measure of intelligence tend to look down upon those who don’t. People need to realize that different cultures perceive intelligence differently. Despite the differences in intelligence perception, many cultures around the world who earlier disregarded education now embrace it.


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