The beauty of the human mind is its ability to think, rethink, repeat. We have a unique capacity to build a mold, break out of it and then systematically rebuild it. However, we also have the tendency to get stuck in a certain mold and not break out. Many times, ‘our mold’ is a collection of borrowed beliefs, ideas, and opinions and hence often, we don’t even know if our mold is flawed. The same goes with research. As humans, scientists too, are prone to error. Error in thought, error in conclusions.
One such area, though no necessarily an error, but definitely an inconvenience is intelligence. A child, before they can even open their eyes, is subjected to the many, many narratives of intelligence. Now, as we form a more global society, the notions of intelligence seem to be merging a lot, more than they did few years ago. Intelligence now, is more about abstract reasoning and logic, which don’t necessarily take into account every kind of intelligence. Thankfully, though, scientists are slowly beginning to challenge the notions of intelligence.
In their paper, The Role of Test Motivation In Intelligence Testing, the scientists set out to see how much of a factor motivation was in predicting IQ scores. They contended that IQ tests may be more indicative of a test taking skill, than of an individual’s intelligence. To test this, they hypothesized that if motivation was indeed a factor in IQ testing, then individuals who had some incentive would do better than those who had no incentive. Second, they wanted to see if objectively tested and measured IQ scores had any impact on the validity of IQ test predictions.
What They Did
They had two studies –
Study 1. They compared the IQ scores of 46 different groups of people among which some had had an incentive to do well and others took an IQ test under standard conditions.
Study 2. They did a longitudinal study of 251 boys, following them through adolescents to early adulthood to see if other traits, the ones that intelligence tests do not test for (perseverance, dedication etc) had a similar impact on their life outcomes as did IQ scores.
What They Found
Study 1 – In groups that had an incentive to do well, they actually did perform better than those who had no incentive to do well. The effect was larger in individuals who had a ‘lower IQ’ than those who had a ‘higher IQ’.
Study 2 – They found that non-measured traits like dedication, perseverance, etc, can potentially have similar life outcomes as IQ tests.
What This Means for Us
IQ tests can only say so much. While intelligence is an important factor in life, we may not yet have the tools that measure the variety of intelligence. So while IQ tests say something about you, they hardly paint a complete picture. It is therefore, incorrect to rely solely on IQ tests as a measure of one’s competence and the life outcomes. While we don’t exactly know how to measure intelligence, we do know some ways to facilitate it, something that we will talk about next week.