Scholarship 14

14th Annual Scholarship (April 2013)

​             made to  Dr. Sophie Von Stumm from England

on the subject of Intelligence-Personaltiy Associations: A psychometric experimental approach

Report Abstract (763 words):

Investment theories suggest that cognitive growth is a product of people’s intelligence and their propensity to apply and invest that intelligence over time (Ackerman, 1996; Cattell, 1943). To date, empirical evidence for investment theories has been almost exclusively derived from cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that followed correlational research approaches (e.g. von Stumm & Ackerman, 2013; von Stumm & Deary, 2013). By comparison, support from experimental studies is largely missing, which may explain why currently little is known about the behavioural manifestations of investment traits. Specifically, it is unclear if investment is associated with individual differences in engaging in seeking out learning opportunities (e.g. frequency of going to the museum or theatre) or with constructing experiences across situations, including those of extraordinary cognitive stimulation as well as mundane, everyday events (von Stumm, 2012).  In line with Eysenck’s (1997) hypothetico-deductive model, this gap was addressed here with an experimental study that tested associations between investment traits and information-engagement, -access and -processing.

Overall 201 British adults were recruited from the London metropolitan area. They were tested individually in designated research cubicles at Goldsmiths and University College London between August and December 2013. After completing two intelligence tests, participants were informed that there was a 5 minute break during which they were free to do whatever they wished, including the possibility to engage with looking at information about the Plitvice Lakes, which are a natural sight in Croatia and part of the UNESCO world heritage. The Plitvice Lakes main page with an image of the Lakes appeared; underneath five links were shown that could be accessed and revealed further information about the Lakes. Within four of these links, another three links were accessible that contained additional information. In other words, the experimental stimulus resembled a wikipedia- page that offers information, as well as including links that lead to further information. After the 5 minute period, the experiment resumed, and participants were asked to answer a series of knowledge questions about the Plitvice Lakes (i.e. information that they had potentially accessed during the break). Throughout, we recorded how much time participants spent reading information about the Plitvice Lakes, the number of information pages they accessed, and the number of questions that they answered correctly, incorrectly and with “don’t know”. Afterwards, participants completed measures of personality, including investment traits, and demographic background information.

Preliminary analyses of the data revealed the following: out of 191 participants with valid data, 7 did not engage with the Plitvice Lakes at all; 41 engaged with the Plitvice Lakes for up to one third of the time; 57 participants engaged for up to two thirds of the time; 86 participants spent almost the entire 5 minutes engaging. Furthermore, 56 participants accessed 5 or fewer pages; 59 participants accessed between 6 and 11 pages; and 69 participants accessed between 12 and 17 pages.

A series of regression models found neither a main effect of investment on engaging with the Plitvice Lakes nor on the extent of engagement (i.e. time spent browsing and number of pages accessed). This finding suggests that the association between cognitive growth and investment is not attributable to individual differences in the frequency and intensity of engaging in cognitively demanding activities. Additional analyses investigated the association between investment and recall – that is, the number of correctly answered questions about the Plitvice Lakes. Here, higher investment was found to be significantly associated with better information recall, and this effect was robust after adjusting for several confounding variables, including gender, age, and intelligence. Overall then, this study’s findings suggest that associations between cognitive growth and investment result from individual differences in constructing/ internalizing experiences, rather than from engaging in learning opportunities per se.

The Eysenck memorial fund supported the development and design of the experimental stimulus, the monetary compensation for the study participants, and the help of my research assistant Barnaby Brien. 


Ackerman, P. L. (1996). A theory of adult intellectual development: Process, personality, interests, and knowledge. Intelligence, 22, 227–257.

Cattell, R. B. (1943). The measurement of adult intelligence. Psychological Bulletin, 40, 153-193.

Eysenck, H. J. (1997). Personality and experimental psychology: The unification of psychology and the possibility of a paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1224-1237.

von Stumm, S. (2012). Investment Trait, Activity Engagement, and Age: Independent Effects on Cognitive Ability. Journal of Aging Research, 2012,1-7. doi:10.1155/2012/949837.

von Stumm, S., & Ackerman, P. L. (2013). Investment and Intellect: A Review and Meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 139, 841-869.

von Stumm, S. & Deary, I. J. (2013). Intellect and Cognitive Performance in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. Psychology & Aging, 28(3), 680-684.