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Science, The Mind

The IQ Myth and its Fascist origins – Just how Intelligent are You?

Rubik

Are you a puzzle-solving braniac?

Western culture has a peculiar fascination with ‘intelligence’. I’ve not taken an IQ test for years – and hopefully never will again. Being ‘intelligent’ is held in ludicrously high esteem (second probably only to good looks) that most people think they’ve either got it, or they haven’t.

The ‘doctrine’ of an inborn intelligence seems to be ingrained in academic thinking. If I had an apple for every time a student told me “I failed because I wasn’t clever enough”, I could probably quit lecturing and go into the cider-making business.

The truth is, the very idea of IQ, ‘intelligence’ and being ‘clever’ is hugely controversial. Did you know that the IQ test was developed and popularised by the Nazis? Fascist Germany used the test as a way to ‘ethnically cleanse’ less desirable out from their society.

Sadly, many of the early inaccurate, racist and pejorative assumptions about the IQ (“Intelligenz-Quotient”) test are still believed by many people today…


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Intelligence Testing and its Dirty History

Lewis Terman

Lewis Terman: psychologist and racist who advocated public IQ testing

Like ‘Love’, ‘Intelligence’ is a term that everybody thinks they understand – but in reality it has a different meaning to everyone. ‘Clever’, ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’ are words ubiquitous in the English language, but are without any clear definition. Devised in the early 20th Century, the IQ test was intended as a way to screen for childhood ‘mental retardation’. Quickly seized upon by all and sunder as a test to measure the total of a person’s mental abilities, its French creator would be turning in his grave: Test-deviser Alfred Binet was clear – IQ testing was to serve to identify children needing extra help at school and not to be a “general device for ranking … according to mental worth.” Alas, the worst of human nature couldn’t resist the allure of this highly effective screening tool…

Nazi Germany used the IQ test to protect the ‘Fatherland’ from genetic impurities – low scoring individuals were forcibly sterilised. They weren’t the only ones; one of the earliest proponents of this method for eliminating ‘degenerates’ and ‘retards’ was the American Psychologist Lewis Truman. In a period of history America would rather forget, thirty states passed laws in the early 1900s forcing ‘low grade’ people to be sterilised. And they were, in their thousands.

So what is IQ anyway?

Graph of IQ test results

Graph of IQ test results - the average is 100. Anything above 130 is classed "Very Superior".

The IQ test has been hugely overhauled in the past 50 years, but the core remains the same: it measures mathematics, analysis and problem solving ability. Attempts have been made to make it applicable across cultures, although such psychological tests are inherently Westernised and will never be able to measure an entirety of person’s brain power.

None of these IQ aptitudes are ‘set in stone’ – all are skills that can be learnt and developed. Importantly, IQ testing makes no account of equally important qualities like ‘emotional intelligence‘ and creativity. Why then do we persist in giving IQ and ‘intelligence’ (in its narrowest meaning) such significance?

Are IQ tests a useful indicator of abstract problem solving? Yes. Are they a means of identifying students in need of additional support? Undoubtedly. But isn’t it time that we took a leaf out of many Eastern cultures, who place more value on a hard-work ethic and tenacity? In the real-world, these are qualities both we and our children should aspire for.

A part of me wishes IQ tests never existed. We aren’t using it for ‘ethnic cleansing’ anymore, but the notions of ‘high IQ’ and ‘low IQ’ are still elitist and ultimately divisive.

Let’s do away with aiming for high IQ, and encourage the next generation that they have intrinsic worth, regardless of a test score.

…and no Roger, “I’m not clever enough” is not a reason for not doing your work…

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Are you an IQ test fan? Your comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!

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Selected References:

White, S. (2000). Conceptual foundations of IQ testing. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 6 (1), 33-43 DOI: 10.1037//1076-8971.6.1.33

Henrich, J., Heine, S., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33 (2-3), 61-83 DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X0999152X

Flynn, J. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations: What IQ tests really measure. Psychological Bulletin, 101 (2), 171-191 DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.101.2.171

Bonthous, J. (1993). Understanding intelligence across cultures Competitive Intelligence Review, 4 (2-3), 12-19 DOI: 10.1002/cir.3880040205

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

53 thoughts on “The IQ Myth and its Fascist origins – Just how Intelligent are You?

  1. Not a fan of IQ tests in any way, in all their guises. But just as people are born with often vastly different genetically based raw physical features and abilities, so it is also clear that people are born with often vastly different levels of innate potential neuro-snensory based abilities, across all areas of human expression – intellectual, artistic, social, etc.

    How to reliably measure and value these differences is another question, and I am very skeptical it can be done with any certainty or safety.

    Broadly speaking, I think the best answer is to simply give people as much opportunity as possible and let them work out through experience what they are good at, and wish to pursue.

    Posted by Skeet | July 11, 2011, 12:20 pm
    • Hi Skeet!

      I wholly agree, with your sentiments. IQ tests do have their place – but unfortunately I feel their significance has been grossly overblown.

      For the sake of the students I know and teach, it seems that as a culture we do not give due recognition skills and talents (such as those you mention). Which is a crying shame…

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | July 11, 2011, 3:47 pm
  2. I have been tested many times for a variety of reasons. I was given the results of a couple of the tests and noticed a significant difference. I started taking a few tests on my own out of curiosity and saw a similar difference in results among all the different tests.

    The only conclusion I can come to is that whatever is being measured is intangible or subject to wide variations depending on the test or testing conditions.

    Posted by Peter | July 11, 2011, 1:17 pm
    • You’re not the only one with this experience.
      It’s been a recurring question as to how reproducible IQ tests are and research published this year demonstrates that the outcome of an individual IQ test is largely dependent on the motivation of the person taking it:
      http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Role%20of%20test%20motivation%20in%20intelligence%20testing.full.pdf
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | July 11, 2011, 3:54 pm
    • Yes, it could be argued that the skills necessary to do well in IQ tests can be ‘ learnt ‘, but it is equally true that someone who does do well in such a test can also perform brilliantly in a variety of tests that have no factors in common with the formal IQ tests. This is easy enough to prove.
      As for appreciating hard work and tenacity over IQ, the world is full of plodders and tenacious individuals who take 4 hours to solve a work-related problem that someone with a high IQ, who may be lazy, can solve in half an hour. Are you seriously arguing that the world can function efficiently if the former were given more recognition ? I suggest that you read Arthur Herzog’s IQ 84, which is a brilliant and horrifying vision of a technologically sophisticated society where IQs plummet.

      Posted by R.M.Healey | March 25, 2013, 1:40 pm
  3. Goodness. What crap. IQ isn’t that hard to get your head around. Your struggle is far more indicative of your philosophy than of problems with the concept or its measurement. Your cries for creativity to be included in our assessments show just how poor your knowledge is. Do some proper research, or ask a psychologist. But don’t spout this rubbish without doing some proper research.

    Posted by Vance Locke | July 11, 2011, 2:57 pm
    • Since when is a psychologist an expert in intelligence? They aren’t even properly licensed. Certified, but not licensed. And I can get certified online in five minutes… Shall I respond back to you then?

      Any IQ test is by definition a standardized test, and are good for showing only two things – those that test well, and a nice picture of a bell curve. And we’re getting better at knowing what answers to put as is show by the Flynn Effect. But do you honestly believe that we as a race are getting smarter?

      Posted by Rob Owen | July 11, 2011, 3:38 pm
    • Hi Vance,
      You clearly have strong views on intelligence testing. It’s clearly a contentious topic that polarises views.
      One of the main concerns I have about IQ testing, is that it has never clear what exactly it is measuring:

      Walter Lippman said, “We cannot measure intelligence when we have not defined it” (http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5172/ )

      Question marks surround whether IQ testing reliably measures cognitive functioning, or whether the correlation drawn by IQ tests and occupational outcome (http://iq-test.learninginfo.org/iq04.htm ) are due to confounders:

      Research published this year in PNAS found that motivation significantly biased outcomes – “motivation can act as a third-variable confound that inflates estimates of the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes” – http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/04/19/1018601108.short

      A very good review by S White of Harvard University, which summarises both the history and the conflicting evidence surrounding IQ testing (reference above) concludes:

      “In view of what we now know about IQ tests, it seems to me we ought to:
      1. Reinvent IQ testing. We know a lot about children’s development, and
      what happens in special classes, that Binet and Simon didn’t know. Use that
      information to make a better practical test. Follow Peirce’s principle. Throw away
      the nomenclature that loads the tests with the old evolutionary speculations and,
      in so doing, allows some to throw scary political and social shadows on the wall.
      Call the new test something like the “PQRST test.”
      2. Reconsider carefully the educational and social practices that use IQ
      tests—as, indeed, legal challenges are compelling us to do in some areas—to
      determine that the practices depend on the reality rather than the legendry about
      what IQ tests have to offer.”

      IQ testing is not without value or merit, however caution should be exercised with interpretation of what the results actually signify – often their importance is greatly exaggerated.

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | July 11, 2011, 4:17 pm
    • Vance , why are you so cross ? We know now that the brain is plastic, so being good at something is the result of doing that thing a lot. If people are convinced they are not good at something that de-motivates them so they tend to avoid that activity. I teach adults who have not had a good experience of education. Once I convince them that they are not “unintelligent” they usually make startling improvements. By the way there are many studies to back up what Dr Stu he is saying – so maybe you should do a bit of resarch yourself. Why not google the “pygmalion effect” and the work of Howard Gardiner. ( by the way my intelligence scores range from the low average to the 99th percentile – in case you wondered.)

      Posted by Ruth Behan | July 12, 2011, 6:43 pm
  4. I still have my Mensa invitation letter hanging on my office cubicle wall. A few years ago I took the test so that I could write a first-person perspective feature for my weekly newspaper (I’m a career journalist). I had fun with the topic, and I passed. But all it proved to me was that I’m the kind of guy who takes IQ tests well. After helping two spouses attain their graduate degrees (one in law school, the other in seminary), I’m still trying to finish my own bachelor’s, so it’s obvious that raw “intelligence” has limited practical utility without other valuable attributes and circumstances. And I continue to turn down Mensa’s annual membership offer for two reasons: 1. As Groucho Marx said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” And, 2. I like to think that the final real IQ test is whether I’m gullible enough to pay the $50-plus fee.

    Posted by Brian | July 11, 2011, 3:12 pm
    • Haha 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
      I wonder whether anyone who has/is a Mensa member could vouch for whether its fifty bucks well spent?!

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | July 11, 2011, 4:21 pm
      • I can verify that it is NOT well spent… I let mine lapse about ten years ago after I discovered that a professor I detested (and really wasn’t qualified, in many opinions) was also a member.

        Posted by Rob Owen | July 11, 2011, 4:41 pm
    • Brian—- So sorry you feel this way. You’re right, being a Mensa member just means you test well. This is part of the reason Mensa no longer sends any sort of IQ score with that first letter of invitation. My 18 years of experience with Mensa have been mainly very positive, especially when it comes to social interaction at the national level. I’ve had a blast traveling the US and attending smaller Regional Gatherings or RGs, as we call them, and our big Annual Gathering (AG) which is held around July 4th each year. I’ve had access to an amazing variety of programming, from Vera Rubin (HUGE fan) to scavenger hunts and lots of general silliness in between. Mensa has been the place where I go to camp with all the nerd kids like me (I’m 48 btw) and do get asked to dance. 🙂 Not to say that’s what you’d get out of it, but I can say you’re missing out on a seriously good time and the chance to make some great friends. So “gullible” isn’t the word I’d use. Just saying.

      Posted by Susan Davis Thibodeaux | July 11, 2011, 6:19 pm
      • Susan – thanks so much for sharing – it’s really great to hear from someone in Mensa 🙂

        Posted by Stuart Farrimond | July 11, 2011, 6:24 pm
        • You’re welcome. I’d also like to emphasize that Mensa members are as varied as any other population of its number, excluding the required test results. We’re not all Science geeks like me, though many are. I’ve even met a few I didn’t like one bit. We also don’t generally sit around and discuss Quantum Theory, but you can AND you don’t need to be a physicist to do it. The person you sit near in hospitality or the games room, etc. might turn out to be just that (or a chef or a writer or a professional poker player or an expert on squirrels…you get the picture). There are Special Interest Groups (SIGs) for just about anything you can imagine. That reminds me….I haven’t paid my Hell’s M’s dues. http://www.hellsms.com/

          Posted by Susan Davis Thibodeaux | July 11, 2011, 8:14 pm
          • 😉 All members of Mensa are as varied as any other *exclusive* population.

            Posted by Jack | July 12, 2011, 12:08 am
  5. I’m no member of Mensa – and certainly not a Nazi apologist – but even I know you can’t condemn something just because it was developed by the Nazi’s… They did also develop the autobahn, volkswagen, perfected the tank, invented rocket planes and brought the entire world out of the Great Depression.

    Posted by Anon | July 12, 2011, 4:04 pm
    • Good point,
      I by no means condemn IQ testing – it can be a useful tool, when interpreted correctly.It’s significance and importance is overplayed in today’s culture, I feel. The weight and esteem given to an IQ score (oft called ‘intelligence’) in today’s culture is somewhat disproportionate.
      The Fascist movement (on *both* sides of the Atlantic) manipulated this test for their own agenda – suggesting that it gave an indication of an individual;s inherent, and unchangeable, mental capacity. This is assumption is incorrect (and its inventor Binet, never intended it to be used as such) and has been subsequently disproved – and yet I see many people thinking that their IQ score reflects just that.
      Thanks for commenting rloaderro 🙂

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | July 12, 2011, 6:37 pm
    • I know why you didn’t sign your post…

      Autobahn is simply the german word for freeway, it’s nothing fanciful or terrific. It was a military necessity, and the US built it’s system of freeways during the same period, in order to rapidly move troops and equipment.

      The Volkswagon is a masterpiece of engineering? We’ll just bypass your personally biased statement on this object.

      If the tank had ever been “perfected”, we would not see all nations continually improving their versions, which is an ever ongoing process.

      Rocket engines, you got me.. they did that. We teach them to fly, they figure out how to fly faster.

      Bringing the world out of the Great Depression was a result of their actions indeed, but an accidental one. Your comment would lead someone to believe that this is why the Nazi’s and Japan began their campaigns for regional domination (to bring everyone OUT of the Depression), but it was a result of them trying to screw their neighbors and get themselves “healthy”.

      Read more, comment less…

      Posted by Dann | August 16, 2011, 7:58 pm
  6. Thanks for this Dr Stu. I think the same might be said of the idea of “musical talent”. I teach people to play the violin, and they are generally pre-ocupied with getting me to tell them ( at an early stage) whether they have this “talent”. Once I get them to stop pondering on this and do some serious practice, they invariable make good progress.Psychologists searched in vain for “musical talent” and found that the factors which affected musical acheivement were parental support, liking for music ( getting a tingle or thrill from it) , sometimes playing for pleasure and most importantly 2000 hours of practice. ( according to John Barret, Neuropsychologist, Bristol University)

    Posted by Ruth Behan | July 12, 2011, 6:55 pm
    • Hmm. Are you saying that all that separated the young Yo-yo Ma, Mozart, Debussy, etc from their cohort is drive, practice, and social support for their musical interest?

      Sorry, don’t buy that. There are innate differences in basic abilities, including music, just as we are born with different physical attributes.

      Doesn’t mean any individual’s capacity cannot be enhanced and developed through practice and opportunity, of course it can, nobody is arguing otherwise. But we do not all have the potential to be concert level performers (or the elite in any other specific field) no matter how hard we try and want to. It takes much more than dedication and practice and support. That only gets you so far. To say otherwise is a particularly cruel delusion to foist upon people.

      People should be encouraged to find out what they are best at and most enjoy, and pursue those things. Not that they can be anything they want by a mere act of will.

      Posted by Skeet | July 13, 2011, 3:45 pm
      • “There are innate differences in basic abilities,…”

        Maybe that should read:

        ‘There are innate differences in basic potential,…’

        You get the basic idea.

        Posted by Skeet | July 13, 2011, 3:51 pm
      • Skeet hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned.The same holds true for athletic skills, artistic ability, or even culinary prowess. Anyone can practice and develop these abilities, but there is something else that separates individuals into shades of skill that is not simply the result of hours of practice or dedication (it’s important to note here that willingness to practice is often correlated with how easy one finds an activity, which itself could be interpreted as an index of raw potential or ability). You can struggle through 2,000 hours of practice in any domain, but it does in no way ensure that you will be on a level playing field with others who have practiced a similar number of hours (controlling for motivation, extreme differences in practice techniques, etc). I would like to think that we can all agree that this is the case.

        So what happens when we apply this same logic to mathematical ability, or verbal skills? Why is there this default state of abhorrence against entertaining a similar interpretation of cognitive ability? I would argue that it is precisely because most individuals realize, to some extent, the importance that “intelligence” (I prefer to use the term cognitive ability, myself) plays in dealing with the complexity that we encounter throughout everday life. We make comparisons across children in terms of music ability, athleticism, and artistic ability and typically feel no embarrassment or uneasiness in doing so. But we tend to shirk away from any such comparisons regarding mental acquity or aptitude.

        There is certainly something out there that we can roughly equate to cognitive ability, or intelligence, that accounts for differences in performance on complex tasks that exists separately from training, dedication, or motivation. Are current tests of cognitive ability perfect tools for capturing this variance in performance that exists in the population? Certainly not. But they currently allow for better predictions and result in greater utility than the popular assumption that intelligence is a worthless construct.

        Posted by Eric | July 13, 2011, 5:48 pm
        • Yes, I think you’re quite right. It would be absurdity to suggest all humans are born equal – this clearly isn’t true. The nature vs. nurture debate has been done to death, but I certainly wouldn’t advocate the view that everyone has the potential to do anything.
          In fairness, I don’t think that Ruth was suggesting this pseudo-utopian view. I think she was conveying an experience that I am familiar with – young people convinced they aren’t ‘smart enough’ to do something because of previous poor results in an academic test setting.
          IQ tests and the like clearly do have a value. It is clear (especially with young people) that they aught be used responsibly so that examinees do not feel condemned by the result. Binet originally created the test to identify children that could benefit from additional support – and I think this is still cognitive testing’s greatest strength.

          Posted by Stuart Farrimond | July 14, 2011, 11:35 am
          • “(it’s important to note here that willingness to practice is often correlated with how easy one finds an activity, which itself could be interpreted as an index of raw potential or ability).”

            Very good point.

            •••••

            I apologise to Ruth if I misinterpreted, or over interpreted, what she was saying. All I can say is that having done some music teaching I simply cannot accept that it is just socio-cultural factors. Individuals clearly have often vastly different levels of innate potential, and from very early on.

            I have seen one kid in particular, with definitely non-musical parents, whose innate musical ability at 3 years old was so far out on the right of the Bell curve it could not be quantitatively measured in any reliable meaningful way, nor could possibly be ascribed to just environmental enrichment and opportunity alone, or even primarily (especially at that age). Music just falls out of this one, as natural, easy and essential as breathing is to the rest of us. That kid is now in one of the top musical schools in my country and heading for a truly outstanding musical career.

            That level of capacity goes way beyond mere socio-cultural factors, and makes a mockery of the nurture is dominant argument.

            Terence Tao, the mathematician, is another example of that level of truly outstanding innate talent.

            I am not saying that this is sufficient alone, clearly there needs to be solid socio-cultural support for the development and expression of this raw ability. But you got to have it to start with.

            Posted by Skeet | July 14, 2011, 7:07 pm
        • I agree with this entirely–see my similar comment earlier on.I am a Mensan, by the way.

          Posted by R.M.Healey | May 17, 2016, 2:19 pm
  7. I’ve really enjoyed reading the blog and comments. Made me think.

    I reckon my own “intelligence’ or smartness or even ‘switched-on-ness” varies like the weather. if I’m tired I’m stupid. If I spend too much time locked into my computer, I am such a dull boy.

    If I’m passionate or have an edge of stress or tension, I can be the sharpest shooter in town.

    I’m not sure I can put all of this in a box and weigh it really, so I’m not a fan.

    Posted by PeaPod | July 12, 2011, 10:27 pm
  8. For the record, Mensa just seems silly to me. I don’t know much about it, to be fair, but what to make of a club with a primary function of… what… mutual admiration? I don’t know; I could be wrong.

    Also, as I’ve gotten older I’ve figured out a couple of things: 1) having a high IQ does not make you a good person; lots of smart people are (ahem) still jerks 2) lots of people with PhDs aren’t that smart — just persistent; 3) One can have a “high IQ” and still be perfectly stupid in certain areas (if there was an IQ test premised on spatial reasoning I would soooo choke.)

    What’s interesting, I think, is that as a culture we place far more value on super-star achievement (supposedly innate “talent”) than on the qualities that lead one to become a well-rounded, engaged, and hardworking adult. I know that not everyone agrees that “kids these days” are more narcissistic, but it’s not tough to figure out where it might come from.

    To Herr Stu’s point (heh heh…) IQ tests have their purposes, but are easily abused. They can certainly be a handy, dandy tool for insecure people who need some sort of statistical affirmation that they (or worse yet their kids) are “special.”

    Whew. That wasn’t a rant, was it?

    Posted by Laura Servage | July 15, 2011, 1:47 pm
  9. Whoops. Oh dear. Just read the comments about Mensa above and now I feel bad. Shouldn’t be so judgy. Apologize if this came off as unkind. As noted, I really don’t know much about Mensa, and clearly it does meet some needs and interests!

    Posted by Laura Servage | July 15, 2011, 1:51 pm
  10. I dont’ want to be to dogmatic on the nature /nurture side of things but I do know this – if adults round a young child think that a child is “bright” or “talented” – that child gets a lot more high quality attention from adults. ( I work in early years education). Adults have the freedom to “construct” the child and childen pick up on this like the sensitive little
    sponges they are.This starts from babyhood , which of course is when most brain conections are made. If adults are working from a “fixed intelligence” model the majority of babies and young children are likely to be badly served by the adults around them.

    Posted by Ruth Behan | July 20, 2011, 8:33 pm
    • Hi Ruth – thanks for the comment (apologies for the tardy reply)
      It’s fascinating, and I’d love to know more concrete answers. The experiments required to conclusively answer these questions would probably be hugely unethical (how much is nature/vs how much is nurture)… I think you make some good points – thanks 🙂

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | August 3, 2011, 9:02 pm
  11. When I was a child in elementary school in the early sixties, they placed a great deal of emphasis on IQ tests. Because of my results, I was skipped a full grade. In later years, I was singled out and targeted by a teacher (in public school) who was also a leader of the extremist Exclusive Brethren sect. This man was obsessed with me and kept insisting that I had the “exact same IQ as his wife”. In hindsight, all things considered, I believe that we all have very different strengths and that IQ tests are a only general indication of intellectual abilities. I did end up going to a psychologist later in life to get tested just to prove that my IQ was different than the teacher’s wife! I do not believe in elitism of any sort. We all have gifts, talents and specific strengths. There is no way to measure emotional intelligence, sensory awareness, intuitiveness, motivation, perceptions, creative process, integrity and many other traits, other than to use, develop and share the gifts we have. From my own perspective, the IQ tests caused more harm than good since it led to a form of persecution and control that took me a long time to shake. One of the biggest and most important considerations with IQ tests in my view, is how they affect other siblings in the same family. There is enough competition among siblings that it seems a cruel thing to focus on. What is the point when something is set to a measurement that the others understandably do not want to be compared with? The other thing that really gets to me about IQ is how they estimate famous people’s IQ’s when they were never measured. Just pick a number out of the sky and for all any one of us knows – Darwin’s IQ might have been 99 not 160 as they claim. Attributing these numbers to people is totally pointless.

    Posted by Valerie | August 3, 2011, 2:49 pm
  12. This article is wrong.

    First of all, Hitler never used IQ tests because he perceived them as being jewish. Perhaps he was also confronted by the high IQ of the jews, who he deemed to be beneath Aryan. Anyway, he actually had IQ tests banned. That’s just basic knowledge that I am shocked you failed to get right.

    Posted by dav | July 3, 2012, 2:44 pm
  13. The ‘dirty history’ of intelligence testing is irrelevant to whether or not it is a valid or useful measure of intelligence. The fact that eugenicists used it is irrelevant to its scientific value. What do psychologists and scientists think about it today?

    For one thing, I don’t think they agree with you that the abilities measured by IQ tests can be developed and improved significantly by adults. In fact, I believe the opposite is known to be true- that once you are an adult, you cannot significantly increase your IQ, no matter how much you train. I might be wrong about that but I believe that is the consensus.

    What is this about them being inherently westernized? Why? How? And why do east Asians do better than Europeans both in Europe and in developed east Asia countries if it is biased to westerners?

    Creativity and emotional intelligence are important too (as is long term memory) but I don’t think that matters as long as you understand what IQ tests are supposed to test. Anyway, emotional intelligence really has nothing to do with whether somebody is good at maths or science or other academic subjects and that is what we really mean by intelligence anyway. What is the correlation between IQ and academic achievement. I’m not sure but I think it is quite high. Isn’t that usually what we mean when we say somebody is smart or intelligent?

    Lastly, I agree we should learn from the Chinese work ethic and how they value education and expect all children to do well. I think the Chinese are the only ethnic group in the UK where even the disadvantaged ones outperform the general population on average. But hey, that could be to do with things like work ethic and parental expectations or it could be related to their genetic potential.

    Incidentally, there is a major study in China to identify genes associated with high intelligence. I think genetic engineering of babies is more likely in the future than eugenics. You decide if that is worrying.

    thanks, Steve

    Posted by Steven | February 8, 2013, 1:14 am
    • Hi Steven,

      Thanks for your comments. You make some very thought-provoking points. Yes, I understand that, generally speaking, IQ testing is a widely accepted measure of ‘intelligence’ within academic research. However, the cultural influences are often neglected and may in part explain the black-white IQ testing gap. Schooling has a marked effect on IQ test result scores – contradicting the notion that IQ test scores are a measure of genetically determined cognitive abilities. Put simply, a Western education will give you a better test result:
      “… Different attempts are found in the history of psychological testing to construct measures that would be ‘‘culture-free’’. For some time, it was supposed that the effect of culture could be controlled if verbal [IQ test] items were eliminated, and only non-verbal, performance items were used. However, this assumption turned out to be wrong. Researchers using a wide variety of cultural groups in many countries have sometimes observed even larger group differences in performance and other non-verbal tests than in verbal tests. Therefore, not only verbal, but also non-verbal tests may be culturally biased. The use of pictorial representations itself may be unsuitable in cultures unaccustomed to representative drawings, and marked differences in the perception of pictures by individuals of different cultures have been reported. Furthermore, non-verbal tests often require specific strategies and cognitive styles characteristic of middle-class Western cultures.
      Regardless of the contrary evidence, the idea that non-verbal cognitive tests can be culturally free has significantly remained… Currently, there is a diversity of intellectual tests that are presented as ‘‘culture-free,’’ or ‘‘culture-fair’’ just because they include mostly non- verbal items. This point of view contradicts available anthropology and cross-cultural psychology evidence… [IQ] tests of ability are inevitably cultural devices, and hence a culture-free test is an illusion…”
      (http://www.brams.umontreal.ca/cours/files/PSY-6022A2011/DStamour/Rosselli%20et%20al%202003.pdf)
      And yes, there is a correlation between IQ test scores and ultimate academic achievement.
      I think that IQ test scores are potentially overly-decisive in an educational environment, and I have seen many students pigeon-holing themselves as ‘stupid’ because of a poor IQ test result. Are IQ tests useful method for cognitive testing? Undoubtedly. Are result scores given too much significance? I think so.
      Thanks again – plenty to ponder.

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | February 8, 2013, 2:54 am
  14. “but I don’t think that matters as long as you understand what IQ tests are supposed to test.”

    what I’m trying to say here is as long as you understand its limitations and what it is about. Perhaps you could argue for a name change to reflect that…??

    Posted by Steven | February 8, 2013, 1:18 am
  15. I wonder how many people lied in that poll.

    Posted by Xen | June 7, 2013, 6:04 pm
  16. I took an IQ test in elementary school, where I was struggling academically due to various learning disabilities. All I required to cope in the classroom were some simple accommodations, like a quiet classroom or the option to work alone, which should frankly be a baseline requirement for all classrooms anyway. The school district refused to give any of these accommodations unless I could “prove” my disability on an IQ test. I took the test and scored 130, and the district concluded that I was “too smart” to have a learning disability, and suggested to my parents that my problems in the classroom were the fault of behavioral problems such as simple laziness. It’s because of IQ tests that I was treated as a “problem child” up until I switched schools.

    Posted by Emma | August 12, 2013, 11:54 pm
  17. I’m in the top 0.04% (“highly” gifted range – IQ 153) and a former Mensa member.

    I’ve been “different” all my life. As a kid I was the “quirky” one who had very few friends. I was plagued by Dabrowski’s “over excitabilities” (particularly anxiety and sensitivity) and always assumed there was something wrong with me.

    Taking an IQ test (through Mensa) in my late 20’s saved my sanity, let me tell you. There is NOTHING wrong with me – I’m just gifted.

    Btw, anyone who associates giftedness with elitism has no real experience with HG+ (this LOG can create multiple issues that cause learning & social problems and appear to be LD, leading more to social ostracization than high status). There are days when I would gladly give up 20 or 30 IQ points so that I can connect with the society in which I am stuck.

    In any case, I’m grateful for the IQ test I took, because it explained a lot, and enabled me to feel good about being different instead of feeling lost.

    Posted by Tanis | December 5, 2013, 1:27 am
  18. I am more persuaded these days that Emotional intelligence is a more serviceable range of attributes than IQ, because it has been only recently that I have learned the value of mastering my emotions to reasonably good effect even though I have an IQ of over 130. The intelligence quotient has not been of much use to me while my emotional fragility let me down for most of my life (now 57). Perhaps in the future with my emotional intelligence holding me in good stead, my IQ may come shining through also and perhaps to good effect.

    Posted by Grant Molyneux | June 9, 2016, 3:04 pm
    • Hi Grant,
      Thanks for commenting. It’s true that any kind of measure of ‘intelligence’ is fraught with biases and limitations. I imagine a raft of tests may be the best way of trying to assess and measure cognitive abilities and skills.

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | June 27, 2016, 10:35 am
  19. Plenty of studies show a strong correlation between having a high IQ and being successful, so while you may not like the fact that it is directly contrary to leftist and politically correct dogma, it is absolutely relevant. You can even look across the globe at average IQ scores by country and region, and the level of prosperity each people, region, country, etc., have and see how it correlates to the IQ as well.

    Posted by Roger Whitworth | March 13, 2017, 3:51 am
  20. Alfred Binet would be laughing about how wrong you are.

    Posted by Greg Buller | March 13, 2017, 6:03 am

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