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Joy Paul Guilford (March 7, 1897, Marquette, Nebraska – November 26, 1987, Los Angeles) was a US psychologist, best remembered for his psychometric study of human intelligence, including the important distinction between convergent and divergent production.

Developing the views of L. L. Thurstone, Guilford rejected Charles Spearman's view that intelligence could be characterized in a single numerical parameter and proposed that three dimensions were necessary for accurate description: content, operations, and productions.

Guilford's career

Guilford graduated from the University of Nebraska before studying under Edward Titchener at Cornell. In 1938 Guilford became the 3rd President of the Psychometric Society, following in the footsteps of its founder Louis Leon Thurstone and of EL Thorndike who held the position in 1937. Guilford held a number of posts at Nebraska and briefly at the University of Southern California. In 1941 he entered the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and served as Director of Psychological Research Unit No. 3 at Santa Ana Army Air Base. There he worked on the selection and ranking of aircrew trainees as the Army Air Force investigated why a sizable proportion of trainees was not graduating.

Promoted to Chief of the Psychological Research Unit at the U.S. Army Air Forces Training Command Headquarters in Fort Worth, Guilford oversaw the "Stanines Project," which identified eight specific intellectual abilities crucial to flying a plane. (Stanines, now a common term in educational psychology, was coined during Guilford's project). Over the course of World War II, Guilford's use of these eight factors in the development of the two-day Classification Test Battery was significant in increasing graduation rates for aircrew trainees.

Discharged as a full Colonel after the War, Guilford joined the Education faculty at the University of Southern California and continued to research the factors of intelligence. He published widely on what he ultimately named the Structure of Intellect theory, and his post-War research identified a total of 90 discrete intellectual abilities and 30 behavioral abilities.

Guilford's 20 years of research at Southern California were funded by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Education of the former Health, Education and Welfare Department, and the Office of Naval Research. Although Guilford's subjects were recruits at the Air Force Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, the Office of Naval Research managed this research.

Guilford's post-War research led to the development of classification testing that, modified in different ways, entered into the various personnel assessments administered by all branches of the U.S. Armed Services. Thus, in a generic manner, all U.S. Military qualifying exams of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s may be said to have descended from Guilford's research.

Guilford's Structure of Intellect

According to Guilford's Structure of Intellect (SI) theory, an individual's performance on intelligence tests can be traced back to the underlying mental abilities or factors of intelligence. SI theory comprises up to 150 different intellectual abilities organized along three dimensions—Operations, Content, and Products.

Operations dimension

SI includes six operations or general intellectual processes:

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

Memory recording—The ability to encode information.

Memory retention—The ability to recall information.

Divergent production—The ability to generate multiple solutions to a problem; creativity.

Convergent production—The ability to deduce a single solution to a problem; rule-following or problem-solving.

Evaluation—The ability to judge whether or not information is accurate, consistent, or valid.

Content dimension

SI includes five broad areas of information to which the human intellect applies the six operations:

Visual—Information perceived through seeing.

Auditory—Information perceived through hearing.

Kinesthetic—Information perceived through one's own physical actions.

Symbolic—Information perceived as symbols or signs that have no meaning by themselves; e.g., Arabic numerals or the letters of an alphabet.

Semantic-Which is concerned with verbal meaning and ideas.

Behavioral—Information perceived as acts of people.

Product dimension

As the name suggests, this dimension contains results of applying particular operations to specific contents. The SI model includes six products, in increasing complexity:

Units—Single items of knowledge.

Classes—Sets of units sharing common attributes.

Relations—Units linked as opposites or in associations, sequences, or analogies.

Systems—Multiple relations interrelated to comprise structures or networks.

Transformations—Changes, perspectives, conversions, or mutations to knowledge.

Implications—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, J.P. (1988). Some changes in the structure of intellect model. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 48, 1-4.]


Guilford's approach is rejected by intelligence researchers who support the existence of a general factor of mental ability. For example, according to Jensen (1998), Guilford's contention that a g-factor was untenable was probably influenced by his observation that a considerable number of cognitive tests of U.S. Air Force personnel did not show correlations that were significantly different from zero. However, Jensen states that according to later reanalyses, this resulted from artifacts such as sampling errors, restriction of range, and measurement errors. With proper corrections for these artifacts, all of the correlations in Guilford's data sets are positive.[1]

Several researchers have criticized the statistical techniques used by Guilford. In one analysis, which used Guilford's own data and factorial procedures, randomly generated factorial theories were found to be as well supported as his own theory.[2]

Guilford's Structure-of-Intellect model of human abilities has few supporters today. Carroll (1993) summarized the view of later researchers:[3]

"Guilford's SOI model must, therefore, be marked down as a somewhat eccentric aberration in the history of intelligence models; that so much attention has been paid to it is disturbing, to the extent that textbooks and other treatments of it have given the impression that the model is valid and widely accepted, when clearly it is not."

Preceded by:
Ernest Hilgard
J. P. Guilford elected APA President
Succeeded by:
Robert R. Sears

See also



  • Guilford, J.P. (1967) The Nature of Human Intelligence
  • Guilford, J.P. & Hoepfner, R. (1971) The Analysis of Intelligence

Book Chapters


  • Guilford, J.P. (1982). Cognitive psychology's ambiguities: Some suggested remedies. Psychological Review, 89, 48-59.
  • Guilford, J.P. (1950) Creativity, American Psychologist, vol5, pp444-454.

External links

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  1. Jensen 1998, 115–117.
  2. Mackintosh 1998, 214–215.
  3. Carroll 1993, 60. For a more detailed critique of the Structure-of-Intellect model, see 57–60.