Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

IQ 'a Myth,' Study Says 530

An anonymous reader send this quote from The Star: "The idea that intelligence can be measured by a single number — your IQ — is wrong, according to a recent study led by researchers at the University of Western Ontario (abstract). The study, published in the journal Neuron on Wednesday, involved 100,000 participants around the world taking 12 cognitive tests, with a smaller sample of the group undergoing simultaneous brain-scan testing. 'When we looked at the data, the bottom line is the whole concept of IQ — or of you having a higher IQ than me — is a myth,' said Dr. Adrian Owen, the study’s senior investigator... 'There is no such thing as a single measure of IQ or a measure of general intelligence.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IQ 'a Myth,' Study Says

Comments Filter:
  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:28PM (#42341737) Homepage Journal

    I am a MENSA member but I hardly consider myself very smart. I mean, I'm kinda smart but I see lots of people that blow me away when it comes to various mental abilities. And none of them are MENSA members.

  • by instagib ( 879544 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:29PM (#42341741)

    Let's start with something easy: cats vs. dogs.

    Dogs can be trained to do a lot of things, and therefore can be very "useful". So people feed them.

    Cats almost can't be trained, they sleep or play around the whole day. An yet people feed them as well.

    Which is more intelligent, cats or dogs?

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:34PM (#42341823)

    by a single metric, what use is doing to the human brain, other than to have another pointless number to have people boast about. (Nearly every person I met who bought up their IQ almost always claims to have 130+ points.... and I'm too polite to say it to them, but apparently underapplying themselves like crazy).

    I almost never see a car rated just by it's mpg nor do I ever see CPUs rated just by their GHz.

    I think one of the highest designated IQs belonged to Goethe and couldn't do math beyond some trig iirc for shit. Great writing though. Obviously a different type of intelligence than Einstein.

  • Re:Yeah, again. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:36PM (#42341841)

    Yeah, talking about whether IQ exists is a bit silly, since it's a metric and definitionally exists. The question is whether it maps to anything interesting outside of itself.

    What people are really interested in is whether there is a so-called "g factor" [] that represents a single major axis of variation in intelligence.

  • Processor Speed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dins ( 2538550 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:38PM (#42341867)

    I've always looked at it like processor speed. I've taken a few "IQ tests" in the distant past, and I've come out to around 130 to 140ish. But that's really subjective and I understand why people think IQ is bullshit. I could be just average, who knows.

    But when dealing with most people it just feels like I'm thinking faster. Like they are able to reach much the same conclusions, it just takes them longer to formulate thoughts and ideas. I get impatient that conversations are taking so long when I can already predict where we're going to end up. I sort of feel "overclocked" if you will. When I find someone who seems to think at my speed, it's awesome. We usually have a great conversation - that happens relatively quickly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:48PM (#42342033)

    IQ was for finding children with learning disabilities.

    That's all.

    The US Army are the ones who took it and turned it into a measuring stick and subsequently the US educational system followed suit.

    See The Mismeasure of Man [] for a concise history.

  • Re:True (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:09PM (#42342331)

    Even companies that make IQ tests will tell you that an IQ test is not a comprehensive measure of your capabilities. And then they'll sell you auxiliary tests to cover what you're looking for.

    But let's be clear about something, IQ does correlate with your ability to think through and solve those kinds of questions the tests ask you to solve. And they do correlate with each other on a relative scale, plotted as part of the validation process, even though the test banks are different.

    IQ tests are not a magical dark art. These things have been the subject of study, consistent validation processes, and revision to separate out language and cultural biases since before any of us were born.

  • Re:Works for me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ironhandx ( 1762146 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:13PM (#42342389)

    I got a t-shirt and not much else.

    I won awards left and right at first, then basically stopped bothering because I could fudge my way through just about anything(except english for some reason...) and still get better than average grades.

    Partly I didn't have much encouragement from those around me, partly the school system itself here had absolutely zero way to accommodate someone like me who finished the entire curriculum for the year in the first month of classes with no at-home work.

    They'd just recently banned the practice of pushing students ahead grades based on intelligence and ability to learn plus they hadn't implemented any sort of gifted programs. I believe the case is still the same. Its beyond reprehensible as they're turning some of the brightest minds we produce into lazy good-for-nothings that are LITERALLY taught to skate by.

  • Re:True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:25PM (#42342561)

    Manual skilled labor doesn't have too much to do IQ. The 'skilled' part, but not the manual labor part.

    I would argue not the skilled part either, but rather how quickly/easily the skill was obtained and mastered. Even then, the individual person and skill probably matter too.

    My wife was a Gifted Education and English teacher (before she died in 2006) and her school district recognizes several categories or areas of "Intelligences" for their students - Math, Music, etc... Gifted students/people often - but not always - have a high IQ or high measurable IQ if also dis/differently -abled and their IQ/Intelligence may only be in one or a few areas of interest, like Math or Music. The same is probably true for everyone.

    In short, one IQ number / measurement is probably insufficient as a true, complete indicator of everything.

  • Re:True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:26PM (#42342581) Journal
    Not to mention those of us with high IQ scores often did poorly in school because WE WERE FUCKING BORED!!!! Oh God was I bored to fricking tears! Everything was so damned dumbed down it was pathetic,there wasn't any in depth anything at my school because it was a "football school" so the whole place was built around what your average jock could pass (which wasn't much) so I spent I don't know how many hours in Junior HS in trouble because i would just start doing my own thing (like reprogramming their computers to be rude, that was fun) and the only reason I wasn't kicked out or dropped out of HS is because a coach ended up giving me my own class to teach jocks enough to pass the tests, which gave me time to read my science fiction and mess with computers and do other things that didn't want to make me run screaming from the sheer mind numbing BOREDOM!
  • Re:Yeah, again. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by firewrought ( 36952 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:40PM (#42342757)

    Yeah, again. Seems every five years or so there's a book, article, or study saying that IQ is not a single thing.

    Moreover, this whole "IQ is wrong because intelligence can be measured in many different dimensions" idea never seems to hit the other major problem with how we typically think about IQ: IQ is bad because it suggests that intelligence is a fixed, innate quantity.

    Why does this matter? Well, psychologists have found that people who perceive intelligence as an intrinsic personal characteristic have trouble learning new skills and overcoming certain types of obstacles. (Presumably because they are worried about appearing stupid at something.) By contrast, people who think of intelligence as something that is fluid, that can be built, are more willing to throw themselves into a new activity. Of course, the latter group ends up learning more, which makes your views on IQ curiously self-fulfilling.

    As an example, one group of researchers gave elementary kids a reading assignment. The first paragraph contained some really dense material way above their reading level. The remaining paragraphs were accessible and age-appropriate. Kids who believed in fixed intelligence (as determine by a separate test) did very poorly on the reading assignment compared to their peers. Apparently, they got tripped up on the first paragraph and seldom completed the reading.

  • Re:True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Comrade Ogilvy ( 1719488 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:51PM (#42342883)

    Contrary to The Breakfast Club, I also got As in shop class. Quite frankly, that ignorant assumption by Hollywood always irritated me.

    It is not really surprising. One of the biggest correlating factors for intelligence (however you define intelligence) is general health, and general health is strongly caused by good nutrition. It should be no surprise that athleticism and physical skill positively correlates with brains. Quite a number of the legendary physics minds of the 1st half of the 20th century enjoyed hiking mountains and/or flirting with the ladies.

    We may remember Einstein in his later years as some perfect nerd, but he too liked flirting with the ladies in his earlier years.

  • Re:lemme guess (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nostromo21 ( 1947840 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:15PM (#42343101)

    Yeah, well, it helps to have a math/logic/IT background obviously. I'd like to see just one IQ test that doesn't rely on set theory & geometric puzzle solving or maths puzzles, no general knowledge questions or cultural dependencies & that is pretty much language & education-level independent. Yeah, good luck with that *guffaw*.

  • by jackb_guppy ( 204733 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:35PM (#42343261)

    MENSA has plusses and minuses.

    For me it was a chance to solicalized, to be long to group that was like me. Think, what others did in high school, I did post college.

    I meet many different poeple, from guys to could not tie their shoes but could talk about Choas Theory for hours, to wonderful people who open their homes and their lifes to stranges that only had a card or newsletter annoucing an event.

    Myself, I hosted a monthly movie "night" in my apartment. It started on first Friday of month and lasted until the last person left or Monday. Via that meet many people, including one that became my wife. My freinds in Mensa found out of our weddings plans when we both changed our addresses and my wfie to be changed her name on month newsletter. It was nice receive a hand written note congratlating us in each of our newsletters.

    I left Mensa after I figured out that I out grew the it. I gradulate from that part of my life.

    On a side note - since I also was at one time part of the management of the local group, membership was broken down to about 5-10-85 split.
    5% wanted the membership to prove themselfs. They did want the newsletter or any assocation, just a proof of making it.
    10% as active. The came to events, helped with fund raising and other programs.
    85% getting the newsletter and reading it and filling it aaway. These were the ones we kept trying to join in with 10% - it took me almost 5 years to start going to events and meeting people and become found I liked being with the 10%.

    I found the time enjoyable. I was traveling alot, and found events in other parts of world that I drop in on while killing a weekend in a city that I did not know. Oh, and in Slashdot fashion - my mom, while I as living at home, found the test weekend and suggested that I take it.

  • by drsmack1 ( 698392 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:05PM (#42343527)

    This is not a dig, but several of the people relating their experiences with MENSA seem to have some real difficulties with spelling, context, syntax, and the lot.

    I really mean it when I say that I'm not fucking with you. It's just interesting.

    And by the way, maybe this might make some of you self-appointed geniuses understand that many of the people portrayed by the media as idiots - aren't.

    That is simply propaganda; and of course some public figures make it easier than others to stick them with that tag. But anyone with a track record of success has intelligence. Denying it because you don't agree with them politically is simply being completely intellectually dishonest.

    And while you cannot control what people think or do - you can control your own actions. So, maybe not repeating or reinforcing obviously incorrect things might be something you can do to move public discourse forward.

    Because if you are one of the ones out there that like to hold on to the fiction that George W. Bush or Sarah Palin are unintelligent; that is just stupid on the face of it. Arguing that they're stupid because it's an easy way to propagandize people is not helping *anything*.

    I remember when W. was running the first time and I had a very intelligent friend (and actual former MENSA member) who believed this hook, line, and sinker.

    All it took for me to completely convince him how intellectually dishonest he (and the media) was being was for two weeks to point out every time he misspoke. That's all it takes. Speaking like Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan in public is a inborn talent that VERY few people have. It is NOT simply a function of high intelligence.

    And if you are being completely fair about it; for a national level politician, George W. Bush is at least a better than average speaker.

    And before you knee-jerk your reply - how many "smart" people do YOU know that could do as well as he did, under the kind of scrutiny and digging for flaws that was going on?

  • Re:lemme guess (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ugot2BkidNme ( 632036 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:59PM (#42343827)
    Honestly I think IQ scores are ridiculous.

    I do have a much higher than average IQ (170+) which is overly inflated due to having a near eidetic memory which inflates my score quite a bit.

    So lets look at what this does for me.

    I am good at puzzles.
    I am good at solving problems.
    I can grasp concepts far quicker than your average person.
    That's about it.

    How does this hurt me.

    I get lazy.
    I get bored easily.
    I am very apathetic to learning through traditional means.

    Does that make me smart? Not really I know people with far lower IQ scores who I consider far more intelligent then myself.

    I look at it like this a high IQ means you have a fast processor. That's it if you have nothing on your hard-drive(knowledge) and no programs(formulas) then what good does it do you.

    I have to say not much.

    So when it comes down to it IQ is just something morons brag about, Otherwise, its useless if you don't do anything with it.

    You can also note that my grammar sucks and my spelling is atrocious. However, I can solve a Sudoku like no body's business.
  • Re:True (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:46PM (#42344149) Homepage Journal

    What is it with names, anyway? Much of the world feels that remembering names is one of the most important things you can do. You've simply GOT TO remember who is who, right?

    Like you, I'm supposed to be pretty intelligent. When I was younger, I remembered all sorts of important stuff, trivial stuff, things that were both useful and useless. But, names? In one ear, and out the other. Girls, teammates, workmates, officers, shipmates - I'd remember their faces, and what they did, how I felt about them, but forget their names. You could walk up to me, introduce yourself, and promise to pay me 500 bucks if I remembered your name next week, and ten minutes later I'd be kicking myself in the ass. "What was that guy's name? Mike? Mickey? Munster?"

    I guess that I had to compensate for my strengths in some areas by being an utter moron in other areas?

    Needless to say, I'm totally lost when people start discussing celebrities. I only remember a few names - like a Michael Jackson or a Tom Cruise.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @11:05PM (#42344241) Homepage

    The original idea wasn't vacuous. The researchers who coined the term, particularly Spearman, honestly thought they had found statistical evidence for a single common factor that could be called "intelligence." But I thought that had all been thoroughly exploded by the 1950s.

    There was a guy way back in the 1960s who worked out a sort of abstract block diagram, 6 by 6 by 6, of 216 different "thingies" that represented some aspect of intellectual performance. What was it called? "Structure of Intellect." Google, click click, J. P. Guilford. So he spent a chunk of his career devising psychological tests that ought to detect each of those 216 intellectual abilities and then doing the correlations to show that each of the tests was really, truly measuring something different from the others. When I encountered his stuff, he had successfully demonstrated the existence of about 150 of those 216 skill or talents. In other words, intelligence isn't one thing, it's at least 150 different, independent, things.

    And that was in the 1960s. I'd have hoped that by now IQ was lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Spearman. Whatever was keeping it alive? Racism? The standardized testing industry?

    I don't quite see how this goes much beyond what was known a half-century ago, though it's helpful to see it confirmed. But if the officials want to test intelligence, they will just go on testing intelligence, whatever the science says.

  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @01:50AM (#42345055)
    Yes, the idea of multiple intelligences which cannot be captured or conveyed by a single numerical result has been brought up before. I just last year read a book called Frames of Mind by Howard Gardner [] which talks about the Theory of multiple intelligences [].
    In fact, I believe that Gardner came up with the idea of multple intelligences in 1983 when he published that book. Gardner broke down the "intelligences" into:
    -- 1.1 Logical-mathematical
    -- 1.2 Spatial
    -- 1.3 Linguistic
    -- 1.4 Bodily-kinesthetic
    -- 1.5 Musical
    -- 1.6 Interpersonal
    -- 1.7 Intrapersonal
    -- 1.8 Naturalistic
    -- 1.9 Existential
    I am assuming that a "score" can be generated in each of these categories, and thus your "IQ" according to Howard Gardner would actually be a point in 9-dimensional space rather than distributed along just a one-dimensional axis. I've skimmed through the entire book and read the first 5 sections almost thoroughly. I highly recommend it.
  • Re:lemme guess (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @08:33AM (#42346389) Homepage

    So when it comes down to it IQ is just something morons brag about

    So why did you use an either made up or inflated IQ number?

    With the now normal standard deviation of 16, an IQ of 172 would be 4.5 standard deviation which is around to 1 in a million which would be impossible to calibrate the test for and therefore outside the range of any serious IQ test.

    Of course your number could have been measured using a non-standard standard deviation*, or even without a normal distribution (like all silly numbers you see over 200 are linear instead of normal distributions), but then it is not really what people except as an IQ number.

    * A standard deviations of 24 used to be common in some places, and would put 172 at a more normal 3 standard deviations or 1/1000, this is where many test cut off, which would give you a result ending in a +, indicating you were outside test calibration. Still 1/1000 is "only" an IQ of 148+ using the normal standard deviation.

  • Re:True (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fearofcarpet ( 654438 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @08:39AM (#42346429)

    At my high school we were called "eggheads" (by the faculty) and subjugated by deliberately putting us in situations that were boring and humiliating. My favorite was the policy of always pairing an egghead with the dumbest kid in the class for group projects. One time my forced study partner was arrested (for assault and arson no less) and could not come to class. When I asked for a new partner I was told that it was my responsibility to make up for it, that I should be learning some sort of lesson from this and that perhaps if I had forced this mentally unstable gorilla of a human being to do his work, he would have been too busy to get arrested. They took pleasure in punishing the eggheads for being different.

    I wound up barely completing high school after being suspended for nearly an entire school year. I was so disillusioned by the years of anti-intellectualism that I didn't even want to go to college, but I wound up going to my state school just to be around my friends. Wow, what a difference. Suddenly I was rewarded for all the things that I had been punished for. Years later, at a fancy ivy league university, I met all the other "smart" people that floated to the top and was amazed by how seemingly marginal they were intellectually. The one thing they all had in common was that they went to private/magnet schools and had educated parents. They were nurtured and encouraged and motivated to go to good colleges.

    To this day I am fascinated at how far behind I am and how hard I have to work to make up for those early years. I never learned how to use my brain and apply myself so I wound up a collection of random knowledge that I picked up outside of school rather than the focused and trained--though arguably less naturally talented--minds that wind up doing all the things that we normally think smart people should do (i.e., scientist, engineer, fancy pants professor).

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson