Challenging the 'Law of diminishing returns'

Fogarty, Gerard J. and Stankov, Lazar (1995) Challenging the 'Law of diminishing returns'. Intelligence, 21 (2). pp. 157-176. ISSN 0160-2896


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[Abstract]: 'The Law of Diminishing Returns' (Spearman, 1927) states that the size of the average correlation between cognitive tasks tends to be relatively small in high ability groups and relatively high in low ability groups. Studies supporting this finding have tended to contrast very low ability subjects (IQ < 78) with subjects from higher ability ranges and to use tests that have poor discriminatory power among the higher ability levels. In the first study described in this paper, tasks that provide good discrimination among the higher ability levels were used. A sample of High ability (N = 25) and of Low ability (N = 20) 15-years old boys completed four single tests, two
with low and two with high g saturations, and two competing tasks formed from these single tests. The results indicated that, contrary to the predictions of the Law of
Diminishing Returns, the amount of common variance was greater in the High ability group. It is suggested that the Law of Diminishing Returns does not take into account
the factor of task difficulty and that there are situations where the exact reverse of this law holds. A second study again compared correlations obtained with extreme groups
(N=28 & N=29), this time on measures of Perceptual Speed, which are easy for all ability levels. Results indicated that correlations among the Perceptual Speed measures were the same for both groups. In neither of these studies was there any support for the Law, which seems to be dependent on the very high correlations obtained from samples at the extreme lower end of the ability continuum.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Deposited according to the Publisher's requirements.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Psychology (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Psychology (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:31
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:35
Uncontrolled Keywords: law of diminishing returns, average correlation, compared correlations, cognitive tasks, cognitive abilities, ability levels
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130309 Learning Sciences
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170103 Educational Psychology
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390409 Learning sciences
52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology > 520102 Educational psychology

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