J. P. Guilford

From New World Encyclopedia

Joy Paul Guilford (March 7, 1897 – November 26, 1987) was an American psychologist, one of the leading American exponents of factor analysis in the assessment of personality. He is well remembered for his psychometric studies of human intelligence and creativity. Guilford was an early proponent of the idea that intelligence is not a unitary concept. Based on his interest in individual differences, he explored the multidimensional aspects of the human mind, describing the structure of the human intellect based on a number of different abilities. His work emphasized that scores on intelligence tests cannot be taken as a unidimensional ranking that some researchers have argued indicates the superiority of some people, or groups of people, over others. In particular, Guilford showed that the most creative people may score lower on a standard IQ test due to their approach to the problems, which generates a larger number of possible solutions, some of which are original. Guilford's work, thus, allows for greater appreciation of the diversity of human thinking and abilities, without attributing different value to different people.


Joy Paul Guilford, known as J. P. Guilford, was born on March 7, 1897 in Marquette, Nebraska. His interest in individual differences started in his childhood, when he observed the differences in ability among the members of his own family.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska, he worked as an assistant in the psychology department. While in graduate school at Cornell University, from 1919 to 1921, he studied under Edward Titchener. He conducted intelligence testing on children. During his time at Cornell, he also served as director of the university's psychological clinic.

From 1927 to 1928, Guilford worked at the University of Kansas, after which he became Associate Professor at University of Nebraska, remaining there from 1928 to 1940. In 1940 he was appointed a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, where he stayed until 1967.

During World War II, Guilford worked for the US Air Force Psychological Research Unit, as the Director of Psychological Research #3 at Santa Ana Army Air Base. He formed the Aptitude Project at the University of Southern California, and worked on the selection and ranking of aircrew trainees.

After the war, Guilford continued to work on the intelligence tests, focusing particularly on divergent thinking and creativity. He designed numerous tests that measured creative thinking.

Guilford retired from teaching in 1967, but continued to write and publish. He died on November 26, 1987 in Los Angeles, California.


Throughout his whole career Guilford was interested in individual differences in people. He was best known for his work in intelligence and creativity. Unlike many researchers who generated great controversy by suggesting that different groups ranked higher or lower on a measurement scale of intelligence (notably Hans Eysenck, Cyril Burt and others who suggested differences in intelligence among races), Guilford valued the differences. His research sought ways to uncover and understand the diverse ways the human intellect functions, recognizing that differences in scores on a test did not necessarily imply quantitative differences in a single ability, but rather qualitatively different abilities.

Divergent thinking

Guilford first proposed the concept of "divergent thinking" in the 1950s, when he noticed that creative people tend to exhibit this type of thinking more than others. He thus associated divergent thinking with creativity, appointing it several characteristics:

  1. fluency (the ability to produce great number of ideas or problem solutions in a short period of time);
  2. flexibility (the ability to simultaneously propose a variety of approaches to a specific problem);
  3. originality (the ability to produce new, original ideas);
  4. elaboration (the ability to systematize and organize the details of an idea in a head and carry it out).

Guilford believed that standard intelligence tests do not favor divergent thinking, working better for convergent thinkers:

[o]rdinary IQ scales assess only a limited number of . . . [one's abilities], usually those most important for learning in school . . . [and one] may be high in some, medium in others, and low in still others (Guilford 1977, p. 13).

During his tenure at the University of Southern California, Guilford devised several tests to measure the intellectual ability of creative people. Many of his divergent thinking tests have been adapted for use in schools and other educational settings to measure the ability of gifted students in placing them in special programs.

Structure of the intellect

Building upon the views of L. L. Thurstone, Guilford rejected Charles Spearman's view that intelligence could be characterized by a single numerical parameter ("general intelligence factor" or g). He argued that intelligence consists of numerous intellectual abilities. He first proposed a model with 120, then 150, and finally 180 independently operating factors in intelligence.

Guilford proposed a three-dimensional cubical model to explain his theory of the structure of the intellect. According to this theory, an individual's performance on an intelligence test can be traced back to the underlying mental abilities, or "factors" of intelligence. These factors (abilities) were then organized along three dimensions: operations, content, and products.

The Operation Dimension

This consists of five (later six when memory was separated into recording and retention) kinds of operations or general intellectual processes:

  1. Cognition - The ability to understand, comprehend, discover, and become aware.
  2. Memory - The ability to encode information and recall information. Later divided into
    • Memory Recording - The ability to encode information.
    • Memory Retention - The ability to recall information.
  3. Divergent Production - The process of generating multiple solutions to a problem
  4. Convergent Production - The process of deducing a single solution to a problem.
  5. Evaluation - The process of judging whether an answer is accurate, consistent, or valid.

Cognition—The ability to understand, comprehend, discover, and become aware of information.

The Content Dimension

This dimension includes the broad areas of information in which operations are applied. It was divided into four categories, later five when auditory and visual were separated:

  1. Figural - Information that is non-verbal or pictorial. Later divided into
    • Auditory - Information perceived through hearing.
    • Visual - Information perceived through seeing.
  2. Symbolic - Information perceived as symbols or signs that have no meaning by themselves; for example, Arabic numerals or the letters of an alphabet.
  3. Semantic - Information perceived in words or sentences, whether oral, written, or silently in one's mind.
  4. Behavioral - Information perceived as acts of an individual or individuals.

The Product Dimension

As the name suggests, this dimension contains results of applying particular operations to specific contents. There are six kinds of products, they are:

  1. Unit - Represents a single item of information.
  2. Class - A set of items that share some attributes.
  3. Relation - Represents a connection between items or variables; may be linked as opposites or in associations, sequences, or analogies.
  4. System - An organization of items or networks with interacting parts.
  5. Transformation - Changes perspectives, conversions, or mutations to knowledge; such as reversing the order of letters in a word.
  6. Implication - Predictions, inferences, consequences, or anticipations of knowledge.

Therefore, according to Guilford there are 6 x 5 x 6 = 180 intellectual abilities or factors. Each ability stands for a particular operation in a particular content area and results in a specific product, such as Comprehension of Figural Units or Evaluation of Semantic Implications.

Guilford's original model was composed of 120 components because he had not separated Figural Content into separate Auditory and Visual contents, nor had he separated Memory into Memory Recording and Memory Retention. When he separated Figural into Auditory and Visual contents, his model increased to 5 x 5 x 6 = 150 categories. When Guilford separated the Memory functions, his model finally increased to the final 180 factors (Guilford 1980).


Guilford was one of the first psychologists, together with L. L. Thurstone, who perceived intelligence not as a unitary concept, which could be captured in a single score, but as a set of possibly independent factors. Research from different fields, such as developmental psychology, artificial intelligence, and neurology, shows that the mind consists of several independent (albeit interdependent) modules or "intelligences."

Although his theory of intelligence factors has been superseded by more developed theories of multiple intelligence (most notably by those of Robert Sternberg and Howard Gardner), Guilford left a significant mark on research into intelligence. Many tests that are still used in modern intelligence testing were modified and developed under his guidance.


  • Guilford, J.P. 1939. General Psychology. Van Nostrand.
  • Guilford, J.P. 1950. Creativity. American Psychologist 5: 444-454.
  • Guilford, J.P. 1954. Psychometric Methods. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0070251290
  • Guilford, J.P. 1956. A Factor-analytic Study of Verbal Fluency: Studies of Aptitudes of High-level Personnel. University of Southern California.
  • Guilford, J.P. 1956. Fourteen Dimensions of Temperament. American Psychological Association.
  • Guilford, J.P. 1959. Traits of creativity in Creativity and its Cultivation. pp. 142-161. Harper and Row.
  • Guilford, J.P. 1967. The Nature of Human Intelligence. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0070251355
  • Guilford, J.P. 1968. Intelligence, Creativity and their Educational Implications. Robert R. Knapp.
  • Guilford, J.P. 1971. Analysis of Intelligence. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0070251371
  • Guilford, J.P. 1977. Way beyond the IQ. Creative Education Foundation. ISBN 0930222016
  • Guilford, J.P. 1980. Intelligence Education is Intelligent Education. International Society for Intelligence Education. ISBN 4924416010
  • Guilford, J.P. 1980. Some changes in the structure of intellect model. Educational and Psychological Measurement 48: 1-4.
  • Guilford, J.P. 1982. Cognitive psychology's ambiguities: Some suggested remedies. Psychological Review 89: 48-59.
  • Guilford, J.P., and B. Fruchter. 1973. Fundamental Statistics in Psychology and Education. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0070251487

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Divergent Thinking. BookRags.com. Retrieved on March 9, 2007.
  • Fancher, Raymond E. 1985 (ed.). The Intelligence Men: Makers of the IQ Controversy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393955257
  • Li, Rex. 1996 (ed.). A Theory of Conceptual Intelligence: Thinking, Learning, Creativity, and Giftedness. Westport: Praeger. ISBN 0275953262
  • Jay Paul Guilford. Psychology Department, University of Sydney. Retrieved on March 9, 2007.
  • Sternberg, Robert J. 1994. Encyclopedia of Human Intelligence. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0028974077

External links

All links retrieved March 11, 2018.


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