The twentieth century saw the greatest advances in the understating of individual differences, especially with respect to mental and cognitive attributes. This is referred to as Differential Psychology and it consists of “psychometric assessment of abilities, personality, and vocational interests, with special emphasis devoted to their real-world significance and their developmental antecedents” (Boulding, 1998). Over the years, newly gathered empirical evidence has made it obvious that differential psychology can help us understand the mechanics of academic achievement, the specific nature of intellectual development, “creativity, crime and delinquency, educational and vocational choice, health-risk behaviour, income and poverty, occupational performance, social stratification, clinical prediction, and life-span development” (Boulding, 1998). Thus, the scope and application of differential psychology is quite broad indeed.
As further advancements happen in differential psychology, more fields of specialization sprung up. At this juncture, the study of individual differences is unlikely to be seen as a “cohesive body of knowledge”. In recent years, researchers have contained their analysis of individual differences to “specific classes of attributes: e.g. either human abilities, interests, personality, or their biological and environmental antecedents” (Stanovich, 2009). And by clubbing together independent variables to model human behaviour, understanding their operation becomes easier. And finally,
“Although marked group differences in “people interests” across psychological specialties are conspicuous and familiar, ability profiles often vary too, sometimes in level (in contrast to Wilson’s view), but more often in pattern (something not considered by Wilson). Indeed, it appears that group differences within the main historical branches of psychology, across people and their intellectual products, become more understandable by considering individual differences profiles. Further, it is suggested that people attracted to certain specialties tend to approach problems with different criteria for what constitutes a satisfying explanation. This has intensified to the point of becoming scientifically problematic.” (Stanovich, 2009)
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Scarr, S. (1991). Race, Social Class, and Individual Differences in I.Q. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Stanovich, K. E. (2009). Who Is Rational? Studies of Individual Differences in Reasoning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.