Dethroning The IQ Test

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For more than a century, intelligence quotient has been used to measure how smart people are, notes Nick Collins, science correspondent for the London Telegraph. He continues:

“But now the scale has been dismissed as a ‘myth’ by scientists who found that our intelligence can only be predicted by combining results from at least three tests of our mental agility.

Different circuits within the brain are used for different thought processes, the researchers showed, meaning separate tests of short-term memory, reasoning and verbal skills are needed to measure someone’s overall intelligence.

Their landmark study was based on the results of an online intelligence test which was launched by the Daily Telegraph and New Scientist two years ago, and attracted more than 110,000 responses.

Dr Roger Highfield, the Telegraph columnist and one of the authors of the paper, said: ‘When you come to the most complex known object, the human brain, the idea that there is only one measure of intelligence had to be wrong.’

‘We can all think of people that have poor reasoning and brilliant memories, or fantastic language skills but aren’t so hot at reasoning, and so on. Now once and for all we can say there is not a single measure such as IQ which captures all the intelligence that you see in people.’

The online test, which took about 30 minutes to complete, featured 12 cognitive tests of volunteers’ memory, reasoning, attention and planning as well as recording details about their lifestyle and background.

Taking into account the full range of cognitive abilities tested, they found that people’s varying success rates could only be explained by combining at least three types of intelligence, and not by any single measure such as IQ.

‘When you look at cognitive ability you can’t boil it down to fewer than three components—short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component,’ Dr Highfield explained. ‘There isn’t one component that explains all the variations we saw in all the tests.'” (Read more here.)

Skeptical as I am of tests that claim to measure intelligence, I’m not so sure that this new, three-part test is any more valid or reliable than traditional IQ tests. But if it helps call into question the authority of a single “number” that can characterize someone’s mental ability, I’m all for it.

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One Response to “Dethroning The IQ Test”

  1. Most “IQ Tests” consist of multiple tests that measure at three of these separate abilities. The Full Scale Score or GIA is often used as a summary of an individual’s performance on all of the component tests of a single instrument. Over the past few decades we have gotten away from thinking of IQ as the sole measure of intelligence. In the 1980’s Howard Gardner from Harvard University introduced the term multiple intelligences, recognizing that intelligence manifests itself differently in each person. Some people are more socially intelligent than others, some have greater kinesthetic intelligence, while others are better with language.

    Traditional IQ testing was conducted in an attempt to predict achievement, and later to determine the existence of a learning disability. Contemporary theory has moved away from using a single standard score (IQ number) and has moved toward using cross-battery assessments. This approach recognizes that multiple factors are involved in the processing of information, and that a single number is often not more than the sum of its parts.

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