Science

Does IQ accurately measure someone's intelligence?

WRITTEN BY
06/03/21
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Ellery (No)

IQ is a terrible measure of intelligence. For one thing, there are many types of intelligence, from spatial awareness to powers of deduction, but IQ measures only one: test-taking

It's also just one test--taken at a specific point in time with a specific proctor at a specific location. Even if it were a perfect measure of intelligence, it would still only be a snapshot of the individual's cognizance at that moment. 

Intelligence aside, some people are also just poor test-takers, like neurodiverse people, a group for which IQ is a notoriously inaccurate measure. But poor test-taking is also a trait shared by many other demographics--namely children.

In recent years, IQ tests have been given to children en masse to determine who amongst them is 'gifted.' When applied to children, however, the test goes from simply inaccurate to actively damaging. This is because studies have shown that labels are detrimental to developing children, especially when those labels are as black-and-white as 'smart' and 'not smart.'

So what does IQ actually test for? It turns out the answer is wealth. Numerous tests have shown the only significant correlation between people with incredibly high IQs is that they tend to be wealthy, white westerners. While this has been used as an excuse for blatant eugenics, these people aren't more intelligent by nature, especially considering younger children are mostly the ones in the testing chair. In reality, this fallacy results from the flawed nature of the IQ testing process and the common practice of misinterpreting test scores


Maria (Yes)

IQ tests are accurate, so long as they're interpreted correctly. The tests measure one's general intelligence, referred to as 'g,' by testing spatial, mathematical, linguistic, and memory abilities. Despite these specific categories, the test's overall score is the only score that matters when determining someone's g. Since most people score close in range across categories, experts believe 'there is one general element of intellectual ability that determines other specific cognitive abilities,' supporting that one's g represents one's overall intellectual ability accurately. 

Testing IQ doesn't measure learned knowledge, and 'knowing a lot' won't necessarily raise one's IQ. Instead, IQ focuses on cognitive ability and adaptability, which is arguably how intelligence is defined. Additionally, while an IQ test doesn't necessarily measure other types of intelligence, like social skills or empathy, correctly measuring one's g holds a lot of value in our society. For instance, IQ tests are popularly utilized in determining learning disabilities in children

IQ tests date back to over one-hundred years ago, but they have a history of adapting to maintain precision. The 'Flynn Effect' discovery demonstrated that as we're evolving, so are our IQs. Test-makers now frequently re-calibrate tests, ensuring that the median score remains at 100. Recently, studies indicate the Flynn Effect either halted or possibly reversed, and possible causes are up for debate.

Modern scientists are also aware of ethical obligations when administering IQ tests, and experts are hired each year to scout and discard problematic questions on the tests. Certain IQ tests, such as Cattell's and Raven's, were designed to be culturally fair. Such ethical testing, combined with proper score interpretation, provides the most accurate determination of one's g.

Fact Box

  • Henry Herbert Goddard introduced the first modern IQ test called the “The Binet and Simon Tests of Intellectual Capacity” in 1908.   
  • According to research, the US ranks 24th in terms of IQ average, with a score of 98, while Hong Kong ranks the highest with an average score of 108.
  • A Brazilian research study of 3,500 babies found a correlation between long-term breastfeeding and having a higher IQ as an adult. 
  • Sixty-five percent of Americans think they have above average IQ. 
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