NCERT Class 12 Psychology Variations In Psychological Attributes

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If you observe your friends, classmates or relatives, you will find how they differ from each other in the manner they perceive, learn, and think, as also in their performance on various tasks. Such individual differences can be noticed in every walk of life. That people differ from one another is obvious. In Class XI, you have learnt about psychological principles that are applied to understand human behaviour. We also need to know how people differ, what brings about these differences, and how such differences can be assessed. You will recall how one of the main concerns of modern psychology has been the study of individual differences from the time of Galton. This chapter will introduce you to some of the fundamentals of individual differences.

One of the most popular psychological attributes which has been of interest to psychologists is Intelligence. People differ from each other in their ability to understand complex ideas, adapt to environment, learn from experience, engage in various forms of reasoning, and to overcome obstacles. In this chapter, you will study the nature of intelligence, changing definitions of intelligence, cultural differences in intelligence, range and variations in the intellectual competencies of people, and the nature of special abilities or aptitudes.


Individual variations are common within and across all species. Variations add colour and beauty to nature. For a moment, think of a world around you where each and every object is of the same colour, say red or blue or green. How would the world appear to you? Certainly not a beautiful one! Would you prefer to live in such a world? In all likelihood, your answer will be ‘no’. Like objects, people too possess different combinations of traits. Variability is a fact of nature, and individuals are no exception to this. They vary in terms of physical characteristics, such as height, weight, strength, hair colour, and so on. They also vary along psychological dimensions.

They may be intelligent or dull, dominant or submissive, creative or not so creative, outgoing or withdrawn, etc. The list of variations can be endless. Different traits can exist in varying degrees in an individual. In this sense, each one of us is unique as she exemplifies a typical combination of various traits. The question which you may like to pose is how and why people differ. This, in fact, is the subject matter of the study of individual differences. For psychologists, individual differences refer to distinctiveness and variations among people’s characteristics and behaviour patterns.

While many psychologists believe that our behaviours are influenced by our personal traits, some others hold the view that our behaviours are influenced more by  situational factors. This latter view is known as situationism, which states that situations and circumstances in which one is placed influence one’s behaviour.

A person, who is generally aggressive, may behave in a submissive manner in the presence of her/his top boss. Sometimes, the situational influences are so powerful that individuals with differing personality traits respond to them in almost the same ways. The situationist perspective views human behaviour as resulting from interaction of external and internal factors.


Review Questions

1. How do psychologists characterise and define intelligence?

2. To what extent is our intelligence the result of heredity (nature) and environment (nurture)? Discuss.

3. Explain briefly the multiple intelligences identified by Gardner.

4. How does the triarchic theory help us to understand intelligence?

5. “Any intellectual activity involves the independent functioning of three neurological systems”. Explain with reference to PASS model.

6. Are there cultural differences in the conceptualisation of intelligence?

7. What is IQ? How do psychologists classify people on the basis of their IQ scores?

8. How can you differentiate between verbal and performance tests of intelligence?

9. All persons do not have the same intellectual capacity. How do individuals vary in their intellectual ability? Explain.

10. Which of the two, IQ or EQ, do you think would be more related to success in life and why?

11. How is ‘aptitude’ different from ‘interest’ and ‘intelligence’? How is aptitude measured?

12. How is creativity related to intelligence?


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