Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) Theory of Cognitive Abilities:
Past, Present and Future
Kevin S. McGrew
University of Minnesota
One of the most successful undertakings attributed to modern
psychology is the
measurement of mental abilities. Though rarely appreciated outside academe, the
breakthrough in objectively gauging the nature and range of mental abilities is a
pivotal development in the behavioral sciences. While this accomplishment has far-
reaching implications for many areas of society, the full meaning of the test data
has lacked a comprehensive theory that accounts for several major developments
over the years. The track of data left by researchers remains diffuse without a
clear signpost in the broad landscape of mental abilities........Lamb,
Since the beginning of our existence, humans have searched
for order in their world. Today
classification is an activity that is essential to all scientific work (Dunn & Everitt,
reliable and valid classification of entities, and research regarding these entitites and newly
proposed entities, requires a guide or taxonomy (Bayley, 1984; Prentky, 1994). Although
Lambs (1994) lament about the lack of a clear signpost in the broad landscape of mental abilities
had been true for decades, the crystallization of an empirically-based psychometric taxonomy of
human cognitive abilities finally occurred in the late 1980s to early 1990s.
1997, it was predicted that progress in intelligence testing was being, and would continue to be
energized, as a result of the articulation of this new consensus taxonomy of human cognitive
abilities. The detailed description and articulation of the psychometric table of human
elements in John Jack Carrolls (1993) Human cognitive abilities: A survey
analytic studies, which concluded that the Cattell-Horn Gf-Gc theory was the most empirically
grounded available psychometric theory of intelligence, resulted in McGrew (1997)
recommending that all scholars, test developers, and users of intelligence tests need to become
familiar with Carrolls treatise on the factors of human abilities (p. 151).
It was further
suggested that practitioners heed Carrolls suggestion to use his map of known
abilities to guide their selection and interpretation of tests in intelligence batteries (p. 151).
was the purpose of the chapter to contribute, albeit in a small way, to the building of a bridge
between the theoretical and empirical research on the factors of intelligence and the development
and interpretation of psychoeducational assessment batteries (p. 151).
current document continues to focus on the construction of the theory-to-practice bridge,
a bridge grounded in the Cattell- Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory of cognitive abilities. The
goals of this document are to: (1) describe the evolution of contemporary CHC theory, (2)
describe the broad and narrow CHC abilities, including, where appropriate, the integration of
factor analytic research (since 1993) that suggests possible refinements to the taxonomy, and (3)
review structural evidence that supports the broad strokes of CHC theory.