Post No.: 0225
IQ (intelligence quotient) tests are supposed to be a standardised way to measure general intelligence and, across a population on average, higher IQ scores do correlate with many positive and desirable outcomes in life.
Yet intelligence is not just one system (e.g. some people have great verbal reasoning intelligence but not so great spatial navigation intelligence, or vice-versa). And more importantly, a person’s apparent intelligence or IQ score means nothing if his/her individual deeds, actions and outcomes don’t match the potential. If one does not affect other peoples’ lives positively, or discover or create something new or useful, or do something important that maybe no one else has ever done before, then having a high IQ counts for little in the big picture. Woof!
And along the same lines, people who do great things but don’t supposedly have high IQs are far more important than those with supposedly high IQs but are doing nothing important. So having a low IQ doesn’t matter too if one does do something amazing and positive in one’s life, or even better, for the world – perhaps because one had great heart, ambition or leadership skills? It’s the same with supposedly ‘good’ and ‘bad’ genes – they amount to less than most people think since ultimately only our deeds, actions and achievements mean anything at the end of the day (or life) i.e. ‘potential’ is often an overrated notion. A prediction of success based on a person’s IQ score guarantees nothing. One cannot say ‘having a score of 150-162 = becoming a Nobel Prize winner’ or any other inference like that. Only our courage and efforts (and a fair dose of luck e.g. the opportunities our parents can provide us) matter.
Intelligence is not simply a function of genetics either. From twin studies, intelligence may seem to be more genetically inherited than environmentally influenced but it’s not as simple as that. Intelligence is also a ‘hypothetical construct’ i.e. it’s not directly observable (unlike the mass, temperature or relative speed of an object), and there’s no truly objective or complete measure for it.
There are many different types of intelligence e.g. practical, creative, social, emotional and physical intelligences, which are arguably more imminently useful in the real world to prove you have than being able to answer the relatively more abstract spatial, memory, language and mathematical reasoning tests found in typical IQ tests. And the real world is the only world that really matters. The social intelligence to work well in a group has probably been the most important type of intelligence for the human species. What if you were so creatively clever that you could successfully reason why an alternative option could also be considered correct in a (badly written) IQ test question? But alas the IQ test will only accept one of the answers as being correct. Being able to repair things with one’s own hands, cook to a high standard, draw, compose music, survive in the wild and a host of other traditional skills should also be equally considered as evidence of intelligence. Whereas (although not normally tested in IQ tests) knowledge of pointless facts to impress dinner guests will only impress guests… whilst they’re having their dinner!
Therefore intelligence cannot be directly or comprehensively measured via a limited form of testing such as IQ tests, even though such tests intend to measure a person’s general intelligence. And even within these IQ tests, some people are good at mathematics or logic tasks but poor at language tasks, for instance, hence intelligence doesn’t always generalise even within IQ tests themselves. Scientists need stuff that can be numerically measured though hence why these tests exist, and they are reasonably reliable at attempting to measure a person’s general intelligence in a convenient manner, but they’re still not complete measures. It’s like a heptathlon or decathlon is reasonably reliable at attempting to measure an athlete’s general physical abilities, but they’re still not complete tests (e.g. there are no marathon duration events or powerlifting tests). Being great at word searches doesn’t necessarily mean being good at anything else, even if it involves words (e.g. being great at writing poems), so abstract problem-solving ability is not always a reliable predictor of real-world problem-solving ability, and general knowledge is not always a reliable predictor of having a specific expertise in any single area.
So maybe it’s not intelligent to have a very narrow conception of what counts as being intelligent – after all, creativity, imagination and innovation requires diverse, unusual and expansive thought that is hard to immediately measure. Lots of ideas or inventions that were considered mad at the time turned out to be prescient or invaluable in the long run, and vice-versa.
Even though IQ tests are supposed to be standardised, there are many different tests and standards used that fall under the umbrella of ‘IQ test’, hence it might not even be reliable to compare scores between people who took different IQ tests! It’s also crucial to note that IQ scores are always normalised so that the average value is set at 100 with a standard deviation of about 15, and normalised for each particular (arbitrarily determined) chronological age bracket too – thus it’s a fallacy to compare a child’s IQ score with an adult’s IQ score because of the greater variance in children’s IQ scores. Therefore a child with an IQ score that is numerically greater than the IQ score of Albert Einstein when he was an adult does not mean that the child is cognitively smarter than Albert Einstein, who apparently had an IQ of 160. There’s a lot of developmental variance with young people (e.g. some kids will have reached puberty by the age of 12 whilst others haven’t yet) thus it’s hard to compare children with each other until they’ve all caught up biologically and the field is more level i.e. child outliers are more exaggerated. A person’s IQ score can therefore easily change with age, especially if they’re still young.
One also therefore cannot reliably compare a ‘160’ score from a modern test done today with a ‘160’ score from a test done yesterday or tomorrow, so again one is not able to directly compare one’s score from a modern test today with that of Albert Einstein’s yesterday, even if you take a test at the same age that Albert Einstein did. (You’ll probably have to take the exact same test as he took under the same conditions, and see if you get more individual answers correct than him regardless of your age and before any conversion into an IQ score.) But really again – unless one comes up with something that is as equally impressive as Special or General Relativity, amongst other things, then one’s higher IQ value counts for nothing against Albert Einstein, and one should be intelligent enough to realise and understand that.
In more detail, IQ scores within a random and large enough population fall under a normal distribution or bell-shaped curve. The median, mode and mean are all the same value under a normal distribution and this is constantly ‘set’ or ‘reset’ to 100 for IQ tests, and about 68% of the population is set to fall within 1 standard deviation, which is a score between about 85 and 115 (i.e. ±15).
Because most people think they’re above average, most people will never guess that their IQ is below 100 before they get tested, and they’ll therefore assume (based on the exaggerations of themselves and others, and on very limited data points) that the average IQ is much higher than 100. But the average is 100, and if you’ve never ever taken an IQ test before, you should really guess that you have a score that is the most likely, which is 100. It’s sad and bad that many people think they’re intelligent without knowing what intelligence is or how IQ tests work(!)
IQ tests administered even by the same organisation can vary so it can just depend on which exact questions you get asked during a particular test, hence such question variation can come into play if you’ve practised some questions and not others. Yet if the test was always identical then one could just learn the answers for those specific questions and everyone could get the maximum score eventually. (People can get lucky with multiple choice questions too!) Being able to revise answers is a problem for a test that was originally designed to measure something that is heritable, innate and was therefore assumed to be fixed. But you can indeed practise and improve your score. IQ tests normally attempt to test both fluid intelligence (the ability to solve new problems that are regarded as independent of education or experience) and crystallised intelligence (using prior knowledge or experiences to answer questions) – but both can be trained. And we know now that ‘heritable’ doesn’t mean ‘fixed’.
The ‘Flynn effect’ – the trend that humans seem to be improving in IQ with every generation – has many potential explanations (e.g. improved nutrition, healthcare, more regular and expected testing in schools hence more specific practise on tests, better teaching methods i.e. improved environmental rather than genetic factors). The Flynn effect has been showing a reverse trend of late according to some studies though, possibly again due to environmental factors but this time in a negative way (e.g. younger generations being over-reliant on technology to solve simple problems?)
Anyway, in review – if the greatest thing a person can say about him/herself is his/her IQ score then he/she has not achieved anything meaningful at all. Same for if one of the proudest things a person can say about him/herself is his/her eye colour, height, physical beauty, upbringing class or anything else that is not a real achievement! When people do personally achieve something truly great – those great achievements are the first things that come to mind when you meet them or think about them. Those whom actually do or try to do great things for humanity don’t even care about their own IQ – others may talk about it but they themselves don’t – they talk about what great thing(s) they’re trying to do; hence those who like to talk about their own IQ haven’t done anything great, otherwise they’d be talking about those great things instead. Actual achievements are the only things that go into the history books. The richest or tallest person alive changes all the time, and people with perfect IQ scores mean nothing if they don’t do or haven’t done anything of worth – they don’t get studied or remembered in history lessons; but Mozart, Turing, Edison, Darwin, Aristotle, Picasso, or even people like Stalin or Khan, do!
We all have furry potential so potential is an overused word. Trying to find cures for diseases, solving a world problem, contributing to the advancement of knowledge or the betterment of society, or it doesn’t have to be that grand – this world is only separated by those who do and those who don’t, not those who can and those who can’t.
So if you’re smart enough, you wouldn’t be so fixated on your own or other people’s IQ scores, whether it’s high or low. You wouldn’t congratulate yourself for merely having a higher than average score or think that everything is futile for merely having a lower than average score (which by nature of how the scores are set will be up to 50% of the population (‘up to’ because it depends on how many people are considered smack-bang in the middle of the normal distribution curve). You’ll know that it’s not an achievement or failure in itself. You’ll just concentrate on being brave, making your plans and doing your work to make a difference to the world.
Focus on your efforts, results, how you can learn from them and how you can pick yourself up again from the inevitable setbacks that are on the path to any worthwhile success…