PASS theory of intelligence

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The Planning, Attention-Arousal, Simultaneous and Successive (PASS) theory of intelligence, first proposed in 1975 (Das, Kirby, and Jarman, 1975),[1] and later elaborated by Das, Naglieri & Kirby (1994)[2] and Das, Kar & Parrila, (1996)[3] challenges g-theory on the grounds that the brain is made up of interdependent, but separate, functional systems. Neuroimaging studies and clinical studies of individuals with brain lesions make it clear that the brain is modularized; for example, damage to a very specific area of the left temporal lobe will impair the production (but not the comprehension) of spoken and written language. Damage to an adjacent area will have the opposite impact, preserving the individual's ability to produce, but not understand speech and text.


Based on A. R. Luria's (1966) work on modularization of brain function, and supported by decades of neuroimaging research, the PASS Theory of Intelligence[2] proposes that cognition is organized in three systems and four processes[clarification needed]. The first process is Planning, which involves executive functions responsible for controlling and organizing behavior, selecting and constructing strategies, and monitoring performance. The second is the Attention process, responsible for maintaining arousal levels and alertness, and ensuring focus on relevant stimuli. The two processes, Simultaneous Processing and Successive Processing encode, transform, and retain information. Simultaneous processing is engaged for determination of the relationship between items integration into whole units of information is required. Examples of this include recognizing figures, such as a triangle within a circle vs. a circle within a triangle. Successive processing is required for organizing separate items in a sequence such as remembering a sequence of words or actions exactly in the order in which they had just been presented. These four processes are hypothesized to functions of four areas of the brain. Planning is broadly located in the front part of our brains, the frontal lobe. Attention and arousal are combined functions of the frontal lobe and the lower parts of the cortex, although the parietal lobes are also involved in attention as well. Simultaneous processing and Successive processing occur in the posterior region or the back of the brain. Simultaneous processing is broadly associated with the occipital and the parietal lobes while Successive processing is broadly associated with the frontal-temporal lobes. The PASS (Planning/Attention/Simultaneous/Successive) theory is heavily indebted to both Luria (1966, 1973), and studies in cognitive psychology involved in promoting a different look at intelligence.[4]

Assessment of PASS processes[edit]

The PASS Theory of Intelligence.jpg

The PASS theory provides the theoretical framework for a measurement instrument called the Das-Naglieri Cognitive Assessment System (CAS), published in 1997.[5] This test, now in a Second Edition (CAS2; 2014, Naglieri, Das & Goldstein) is designed to provide an assessment of intellectual functioning redefined as four brain-based cognitive processes (Planning, Attention, Simultaneous and Successive), providing information about cognitive strengths and weaknesses in each of the four processes. This emphasis on processes (rather than traditional abilities) is said to make it useful for differential diagnosis; diagnosing learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Intellectual disabilities, cognitive changes in aging and Down syndrome, changes due to brain impairment in Stroke and fair and equitable assessment of diverse populations. Its usefulness as a theory and measurement instrument for Planning and Decision making in management has also been demonstrated.[3]

Links to general intelligence[edit]

Contemporary theories about intelligence can be divided into two classes, psychometric and cognitive. The quantitative approach to intelligence is better reflected in psychometric theories of which Charles Spearman's is an early example. In contrast, cognitive theories such as PASS theory are both qualitative and quantitative. Such theories advance the idea that intelligence has multiple neurocognitive processes. For example, both Robert Sternberg and Howard Gardner view intelligence as neither a single nor biologically determined factor, but as a number of domains that represent the interaction of the individual's biological predispositions with the environment and cultural context. PASS theory builds upon these principles.[2] In a study by Keith et al. (2001) the g-factor derived via factor-analysis from the Woodcock–Johnson III, a standard IQ-test, correlated almost perfectly (r = 0.98) with the g-factor derived from the CAS.[6]

Links to brain activity[edit]

The core ideas that cognitive functions can be organized in terms of broad functions of the brain received some support in a recent study (Okuhata et al.) that investigated the psychophysiological basis of two different types of information processing (simultaneous and successive). The authors, investigated EEG coherence patterns during six tasks of Das-Naglieri Cognitive Assessment System.[5] They analyzed beta (12.5 – 25Hz) coherence while 18 volunteers performed three simultaneous and three successive tasks. The results revealed two significantly distinguishable coherence patterns corresponding to simultaneous and successive processing. The linking of PASS processes to brain becomes helpful, for example, in understanding the loss of sequential and planning functions due to aging in a study of individuals with Down syndrome. In this study, using single positron emission topography, Das[7] found that aging individuals with Down syndrome show a bilateral decreased cerebral blood flow in the temporal-parietal region of the brain. The significance of cognitive profiling studies both in impaired and intact brains awaits further discussion in the broader context of the biology of intelligence.

Remediation and cognitive enhancement[edit]

One unusual property of the PASS theory of cognitive processes is that it has proven useful for both intellectual assessment (e.g. the CAS) and educational intervention. The theory provides the theoretical framework for the PASS Reading Enhancement Programme, a remediation curriculum designed to improve the planning, attention and information processing strategies that underlie reading. A related school-readiness program aims at improving the foundations of cognitive processes in preparation for schooling (Das, 2009). Both are evidence-based intervention programs.[8]


A frequently cited criticism is based on the factor analysis of the test battery. In particular, are Attention and Planning two distinct factors? Kranzler, Keith & Flanagan (2000)[9] found only a marginal fit for the four-factor model; the attention and planning factors were indistinguishable. Recent research on intelligence tests confirm that the most valid score on, for example, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fifth Edition (Canivez, Watkins, & Dombrowski, 2017), Stanford-Binet Fifth Edition (Canivez, 2008), Differential Abilities Scales (Canivez & McGill, 2016), and the Woodcock-Johnson Fourth Edition (Dombrowski, McGill & Canivez, 2017) is the total score that estimates g. That is, the scores which represent the factor based scales these tests provide do not have enough specific variance to be considered interpretable. In fact, a recent reanalysis of Carroll’s survey of factor-analytic studies by Benson, Beaujean, McGill, and Dombrowski (2018) concluded that nearly all of the specified abilities presented by Carroll “have little-to-no interpretive relevance above and beyond that of general intelligence (p. 1028).” The only exception to these finding is research reported by Canivez (2011) regarding the Cognitive Assessment System (Naglieri & Das, 1997).


  1. ^ Das, J. P.; Kirby, J. R.; Jarman, R. F. (1975). "Simultaneous and successive syntheses: An alternative model for cognitive abilities". Psychological Bulletin. 82: 87–103. doi:10.1037/h0076163.
  2. ^ a b c Das, J. P., Naglieri, J. A., & Kirby, J. R. (1994). Assessment of Cognitive Processes. Allyn & Bacon, Publishers, Needham Heights: MA, USA.
  3. ^ a b Das, J. P., Kar, B. C., & Parrila, R. K. (1996 ). Cognitive planning. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
  4. ^ Das, J.P. (2002). "A Better look at Intelligence". Current Directions in Psychology. 11 (1): 28–32. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00162. S2CID 146129242.
  5. ^ a b Naglieri, J, A., & Das, J. P. (1997). Das-Naglieri Cognitive Assessment System. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.
  6. ^ Keith, Timothy Z.; Kranzler, John H.; Flanagan, Dawn P. (2001-03-01). "What Does the Cognitive Assessment System (CAS) Measure? Joint Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the CAS and the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability (3rd Edition)". School Psychology Review. 30 (1): 89–119. doi:10.1080/02796015.2001.12086102.
  7. ^ Das, J. P. (2003). "Cognitive aging and Down Syndrome: An interpretation". International Review of Research in Mental Retardation. 26: 261–306. doi:10.1016/S0074-7750(03)01007-3. ISBN 9780123662262.
  8. ^ Hayward, D.; Das, J.P.; Janzen, T. (2007). "Innovative Programs for Improvement in Reading Through Cognitive Enhancement: A Remediation Study of Canadian First Nations Children". Journal of Learning Disabilities. 40 (5): 443–457. doi:10.1177/00222194070400050801. PMID 17915499. S2CID 24824094.
  9. ^ Kranzler, J.H.; Keith, T.Z.; Flanagan, D.P. (2000). "Independent examination of the factor structure of the Cognitive Assessment System (CAS): Further evidence challenging the construct validity of the CAS". Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment. 18 (2): 143–159. doi:10.1177/073428290001800204. S2CID 144282540.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alabau-Bofill J. (2003) Estudi dels processos emocionals en nens/nes amb dificultats d'aprenentatge i la seva relació amb els processos cognitius basats en la teoria PASS de la inteligel.lència [tesi doctoral]. UdG Girona.
  • Das, J. P., Kar, R., & Parrila, R. K. (1996). Cognitive planning. The psychological basis of intelligent behavior. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Das, J. P., Naglieri, J. A., & Kirby, J. R. (1994). Assessment of cogni- tive processes. The PASS theory of intelligence. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon, Inc.
  • Das, J.P. (1998). Dyslexia & Reading Difficulties. An interpretation for teachers. Edmonton, Canada: University of Alberta.
  • Das, J. P., Garrido, M. A., González, M., Timoneda, C., & Pérez- Álvarez, F. (1999). Dislexia y dificultades de lectura. Barcelona: Ediciones Paidós Ibérica SA.
  • Das, JP (1999). "A neo-Lurian approach to assessment and remediation". Neuropsychology Review. 9 (2): 107–115. doi:10.1023/A:1025611924842. PMID 10509733. S2CID 23209148.
  • Das, J.P. (2000). "PREP: A cognitive remediation program in theory and practice". Developmental Disabilities Bulletin. 28: 83–95.
  • Das, J.P., Parrilla, R.K., & Papadopoulos, T.C. (2000). Cognitive education and reading disability. In A. Koulin & Y. Rand (Eds.), Experience of mediated learning (pp. 274–291). Oxford, UK: Pergamon.
  • Das, J.P. (2004). The Cognitive Enhancement Training Program (COGENT). Edmonton, Canada: Developmental Disabilities Centre, University of Alberta.
  • Das, J. P.; Hayward, D.; Samantaray, S.; Panda, J. J. (2006). "Cognitive Enhancement Training (COGENT©): What is it? How does it work with a group of disadvantaged children?". Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology. 5 (3): 328–335. doi:10.1891/194589506787382440. S2CID 147243827.
  • Das, J.P.; Janzen, T.; Georgiou, G. (2007). "Correlates of Canadian native children's reading performance: From cognitive style to cognitive processes". Journal of School Psychology. 45 (6): 589–602. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2007.06.004.
  • Hayward, D.; Das, J.P.; Janzen, T. (2007). "Innovative Programs for Improvement in Reading Through Cognitive Enhancement: A Remediation Study of Canadian First Nations Children". Journal of Learning Disabilities. 40 (5): 443–457. doi:10.1177/00222194070400050801. PMID 17915499. S2CID 24824094.
  • Mc Crea, S. M. (2009). "A review and empirical study of the composite scales of the Das-Naglieri cognitive assessment system". Psychology Research and Behavior Management. 2: 59–79. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S5074. PMC 3218775. PMID 22110322.
  • Naglieri, J. A., & Das, J. P. (1997). Cognitive assessment system. Roll- ing Meadows, IL: Riverside Publishing.
  • Naglieri, J. A.; Das, J. P. (1995). "A reply to Kranzler and Weng's shooting in the dark". Journal of School Psychology. 33 (2): 159–167. doi:10.1016/0022-4405(95)00005-7.
  • Naglieri, J.A.; Rojahn, J.; Matto, H.C. (2007). "Hispanic and non-Hispanic children's performance on PASS cognitive processes and achievement". Intelligence. 35 (6): 568–579. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2006.11.001.
  • Papadopoulos, T.; Das, J.P.; Rauno, K.; Parrila, R.K.; Kirby, J. (2003). "Children at Risk for Developing Reading Difficulties: A Remediation study". School Psychology International. 24 (3): 340–366. doi:10.1177/01430343030243006. S2CID 144555015.
  • Perez-Alvarez, F.; Serra-Amaya, C.; Timoneda-Gallart, C. (2009). "Cognitive versus behavioral ADHD phenotype: What is it all about?". Neuropediatrics. 40 (1): 32–38. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1231055. PMID 19639526.
  • Pérez-Álvarez F, Timoneda Gallart C. (2004). Learning Both in Attention Deficit Disorder and Dyslexia in the light of PASS Neurocognitive Dysfunction. In: HD Tobias (ed.).Focus on Dyslexia Research. pp. 173–179. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., ISBN 1-59033-950-9
  • Pérez-Álvarez F, Timoneda Gallart C. (2005). Attention Deficit / Hyperactive Disorder as Impulsivity Disorder according to PASS Neurocognitive Function. In: P. Larimer (ed.) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Research Developments. pp 173–184. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., ISBN 1-59454-157-4
  • Perez-Alvarez, F; Timoneda, C; Baus, J (2006). "Topiramate and epilepsy in the light of DN:CAS, Das-Naglieri Cognitive Assessment System". Revista de Neurología. 42: 3–7. doi:10.33588/rn.4201.2005300.
  • Timoneda C., Pérez-Alvarez F. (2003). DN-CAS en català. Girona: Fundació Carme Vidal Xifre de Neuropsicopedagogia.
  • Benson, N. F., Beaujean, A. A., McGill, R. J, & Dombrowski, S. C. (2018). Revisiting Carroll’s Survey of Factor-Analytic Studies: Implications for the Clinical Assessment of Intelligence. Psychological Assessment, 30, 8, 1028–1038.
  • Canivez, G. L., Watkins, M. W., & Dombrowski, S. C. (2017). Structural validity of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Fifth Edition: Confirmatory factor analyses with the 16 primary and secondary subtests. Psychological Assessment, 29, 458-472.
  • Canivez, G. L., & McGill, R. J. (2016). Factor structure of the Differential Ability Scales–Second Edition: Exploratory and hierarchical factor analyses with the core subtests. Psychological Assessment, 28, 1475-1488.
  • Canivez, G. L., & McGill, R. J. (2016). Factor structure of the Differential Ability Scales-Second Edition: Exploratory and hierarchical factor analyses with the core subtests. Psychological Assessment, 28, 1475–1488.
  • Canivez, G. L. (2008). Orthogonal higher order factor structure of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales-Fifth Edition for children and adolescents. School Psychology Quarterly, 23, 533–541.
  • Dombrowski, S. C., McGill, R. J., & Canivez, G. L. (2017). Exploratory and hierarchical factor analysis of the WJ IV Cognitive at school age. Psychological Assessment, 29, 394-407.