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General knowledge has been defined in differential psychology as "culturally valued knowledge communicated by a range of non-specialist media" and encompassing a wide subject range. This definition excludes highly specialized learning that can only be obtained with extensive training and information confined to a single medium. General knowledge is an important component of crystallized intelligence and is strongly associated with general intelligence, and with openness to experience.
Studies have found that people who are highly knowledgeable in a particular domain tend to be knowledgeable in many. General knowledge is thought to be supported by long-term semantic memory ability.
A number of studies have found that males tend to have greater general knowledge than females, perhaps due to gender differences in interests rather than memory ability. Recent studies have found that general knowledge is associated with exam performance in schoolchildren and proofreading skills.
Differential psychology researchers define general knowledge as "culturally valued knowledge communicated by a range of non-specialist media." The scope of this definition includes all areas of knowledge available to laypersons without requiring extensive training. The definition excludes "ephemera", or information confined to a single medium, such as television sitcoms. Researchers have identified 20 domains of knowledge that meet the above criteria:
Researchers have acknowledged that other domains of general knowledge may exist. Factor analysis suggested that the 20 domains could be categorised into six factors: current affairs, fashion, family, physical health and recreation, arts, and science. All six of these factors were highly intercorrelated (i.e. people who scored high in a particular domain tended to score highly in most other domains) and were all related to a single higher-order general knowledge factor. The existence of a single general factor suggests that individual differences across a range of knowledge domains may have both common causes and specific influences; interest in a particular area and educational course content appear to be important contributors.
High scorers on tests of general knowledge tend to also score highly on intelligence tests. IQ has been found to robustly predict general knowledge scores even after accounting for differences in age, sex, and five factor model personality traits. In the Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory of intelligence, general knowledge is considered a component of crystallized intelligence. Standardized IQ tests may therefore include measures of general knowledge, such as in the information subtest of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.
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