Critical Evaluation of the PASS Theory

The theories of Spearman, Thorndike, Thomson, and Thurstone that we discussed above, and other similar ones, are based on isolating factors after administering several intelligence tests over a large sample of subjects. They did not take into account how an input, e.g. a test item is received and processed and how a cognitive reorganization takes place prior to giving a response. Das, Nagliery, and Kirby (1994) have developed a theory-based, multidimensional view of intelligence with constructs borrowed from contemporary research in neuropsychology, information processing, and human cognition.

Attentional processes are engaged when a multidimensional stimulus array is presented to the subject, and the task requires selective attention to one dimension, and the inhibition of response to other, often more salient stimuli. Luria stated that only under optimal conditions of arousal can the more complex forms of attention involving “selective recognition of a particular stimulus and inhibition of responses to irrelevant stimuli” occur (Luria, 1973, p.271). Moreover, Luria also maintains that only when sufficiently aroused and when attention is adequately focused can an individual utilise processes within the second and third functional units.

About the second functional unit, Luria described “two basic forms of integrative activity of the cerebral cortex” which are responsible for “receiving, analysing, and storing information” through the use of simultaneous and successive processing.

Simultaneous processing is associated with the occipital-parietal areas of the

The essential aspect of simultaneous processing is surveyability; that is, each element is related to every other element. Das (2004) has explained this with the help of the following example.

“To produce a diagram correctly when given the instruction, “draw a triangle above a square that is to the left of a circle under a cross,” the relationships among the shapes must be correctly comprehended” (Das, 2004, p. 9).

Successive processing is associated with the frontotemporal areas of the brain
and involves the integration of stimuli into a specific serial order where each
component is related to the next. That is, in successive synthesis, “each link integrated into a series can evoke only a particular chain of successive links
following each other in serial order”. For example, in language processing,
successive processes involved are decoding and producing syntax and
articulating speech.

The third functional unit is located in the prefrontal divisions of the frontal lobes of the brain (Luria, 1980). Luria stated that “the frontal lobes synthesize the information about the outside worlds . . . and are the means whereby the behaviour of the organism is regulated in conformity with the effect produced by its actions” (p.263).

Planning processes provide for the programming, regulation and verification of behaviour and are responsible for behaviours, such as asking questions, problem-solving, and the capacity for self-monitoring. Other activities of the third functional unit include the regulation of voluntary activity, impulse control, and various linguistic skills, such as spontaneous conversation. The third functional unit provides for the most complex aspects of human behaviour including personality and consciousness.

All four processes of the PASS theory have been operationally defined by Das, Nagliery and Kirby (1994). Planning processes are required when a test demands that the individual makes some decisions about how to solve a problem, execute an approach, activate attentional, simultaneous, and successive processes, monitor the effectiveness of the approach and modify it as needed.

Planning processes are involved when a person is asked to decide how to perform a test and is inhibited by the imposition of strict rules about how to perform. For example, writing a composition involves the generation of a plan, organisation of the ideas, control over what is presented when, examination of the product, and revisions to make the final result consistent with the intended goal.

Planning is clearly associated with the frontal lobes, especially the prefrontal cortex. It has connections with the rest of the brain as described before, including the parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes that are responsible for information coding (simultaneous and successive processing), as well as with subcortical areas that determine the level of arousal and affective reactions to different conditions on the basis of past experiences.

Taking the lead of Das and using the multivariate techniques of cluster analysis, Ronning (2004) developed ability/achievement normative taxonomies for reading and mathematics of children in the age group of 8 to 17 years. The core profiles that emerged provided important comparisons for evaluating individual profiles, as well as added to the information explaining common variability in the child population. The taxonomies were based on 711 children in the 8 to a 17-year-old portion of the standardisation sample of the Cognitive Assessment System (CAS) who were co-administered with the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement–Revised (WJ-R ACH). Ability/reading and ability/mathematics normative taxonomies were developed from the Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive scales of the Cognitive Assessment System (Das, Nagliery, & Kirby, 1994) in conjunction with four reading and three math WJ-RACH subscales. Eight reading and five math clusters were identified and described using demographics and overall ability and achievement levels, which enabled Ronning (2004) to develop an intervention programme also.

The PASS theory has provided a novel approach to assessing intelligence. It is
cognitive in orientation and it bases its tests on neuropsychological theories of
Luria. Of great importance to Das, Nagliery, and Kirby (1994) was to move
away from conventional tests of intelligence and provide a theory-based
a multidimensional view of intelligence that is built on contemporary research on human cognition. It has a practical utility also. Undoubtedly all tests of intelligence attempt at tapping cognitive aspects. However, most of them approximate the underlying processing of informational input.

Another attribute of this theory is that it has developed a Cognitive Assessment
System (CAS) test also, offers a unique opportunity to examine the relative contribution of cognitive processes as a testee undergoes a testing scenario. CAS has four subscales, named after PASS, and the test items are specially designed to assess a testee’s proficiency in each of them separately as well as collectively.

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