We use the term concepts to refer to things (both living and inanimate), to events
(things in action), and to relationships among things or events, as well as to
their characteristics (Marx, 1963). “Dog” is a concept, as is “barking,” and so is
“obedience.” Concepts are the symbols by which we ordinarily communicate.
Clear, unambiguous communication of ideas requires that we clearly defi ne
In everyday conversation we often get by without worrying too much about
how we defi ne a concept. Many words, for instance, are commonly used and apparently understood even though neither party in the conversation knows
exactly what the words mean. That is, people ...view middle of the document...
An operational definition
explains a concept solely in terms of the observable procedures used to produce and measure it. Intelligence, for instance, can be defi ned operationally by using
a paper-and-pencil test emphasizing understanding of logical relationships,
short-term memory, and familiarity with the meaning of words. Some may not
like this operational defi nition of intelligence, but once a particular test has been
identifi ed, there can at least be no argument about what intelligence means
according to this defi nition. Operational defi nitions facilitate communication, at
least among those who know how and why they are used.
Although exact meaning is conveyed via operational defi nitions, this approach
to communicating about constructs has not escaped criticism. One problem has
been alluded to already. That is, if we don’t like one operational defi nition of
intelligence, there is nothing to prevent us from giving intelligence another
operational defi nition. Does this mean that there are as many kinds of intelligence
as there are operational defi nitions? The answer, unfortunately, is that we