Developmental changes in children's understandings of intelligence and thinking skills

Lynsey A. Burke, Joanne M. Williams

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Research on children's concepts of intelligence has not considered how children conceptualise specific thinking skills. This study extends previous research on the development of children's concepts of intelligence and produces novel data on children's understandings of effective thinking and thinking skills. Seventy-five children were sampled from four primary schools in central Scotland, with 25 children from each of the following ages: five years (M = 5, 5; 10 boys, 15 girls); seven years (M = 7, 4; 13 boys, 12 girls) and 11 years (M = 11, 5; 10 boys, 15 girls). During semi-structured individual interviews, children were asked questions regarding their understandings of intelligence and thinking, the relation between effort and ability, the stability of intelligence and their knowledge of specific thinking skills. Data were coded using content analysis and analysed using non-parametric statistics to reveal age trends. Results showed developmental trends in children's understandings of intelligence and specific thinking skills. There were no age trends found in children's definitions of effective thinking and consequently no correlations found between children's views of intelligence and effective thinking. The findings support previous research by demonstrating developmental trends in children's concepts of intelligence. The results will contribute to school-based interventions aimed to improve thinking skills among children.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)949-968
    Number of pages20
    JournalEarly Child Development and Care
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


    • Conceptions of intelligence
    • Developmental changes
    • Education
    • Thinking skills

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Pediatrics


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