I previously talked about how scores on an IQ test are developed, and what they mean mathematically. Now, I’ll look at what they can mean for individuals.
IQ scores can be seen as the mind equivalent of BMI scores. Although both numbers can provide useful information when averaged across large groups, they shouldn’t be used to directly compare individuals, or used to sum up a person in one statistic. BMI can be helpful for an average-height and middling-framed Western person, but it is near-useless for athletes, who will often score as overweight or obese due to their increased muscle mass. Similarly, IQ measurements may be an accurate representation for a neurotypical person who is familiar with Western education systems and standardized testing. But they are not an accurate summation for people with neurodevelopmental disorders, or people who aren’t used to standardised tests and solving problems in a room with a stranger.
3) IQ tests cannot always measure someone’s ability accurately. Health conditions and neurological differences result in people having uneven patterns of ability, which confuse IQ tests.
The Intelligence Quotient- or IQ- is one of the most popular subjects in psychology. Yet despite us often using IQ as a shorthand for intelligence, and even using it to define others, misconceptions about IQ are often louder than explanations.
So how do IQ tests work, and what does an IQ score mean?
1) An IQ test does not directly measure your ability. It uses maths to estimate your ability in relation to other people.
Most reality shows spark controversy, and Child Genius is no exception. Series finales are often followed by arguments that the show placed too much pressure on contestants, while the 2017 series was also interrupted by accusations of cheating parents.
Today I’m going to talk about another issue; how the competition and the programme portrays “intelligence” and “genius” in a one-dimensional way which reinforces misconceptions about intelligence.
Today’s topic of choice is another group of people with amazing memories- Mnemonists. Unlike the people with developmental disorders that I talked about a few weeks ago, mnemonists don’t often have physical brain differences to explain their memory abilities (apart from a small difference in the area linked to memorising long lists of numbers, which seems more of an effect than a cause).
Instead, their memories are so strong due to practice, and the use of Mnemonic techniques. Almost everyone has used some kind of mnemonic before; for example, SOHCAHTOA (for remembering when to use sin, cos, and tan in a triangle), or Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (for remembering the colours of the rainbow).However, the method used by mnemonists are much more detailed and involved than this.
The title of this might sound a little unexpected, but to clarify,when I say genii, I’m not talking about very smart people. Rather, I’m on about polymaths – people who are experts, and even innovators, in many different areas. The obvious example for most people is Da Vinci, and it’s very difficult to name anyone recent who is like this- my question is, why is that?
Using my random theory from a few weeks ago, one idea for why less people are innovators and polymaths today is that we are forced by our culture and education to specialise what we want to do way too early in life. The idea of the connections is that as soon as we start narrowing down what areas we focus on, we increase the strength and regularity of the connections dealing with it, which makes connections for other areas weaker as they are used less. The fact they are weaker then means it is more difficult to use them, so they are used even less.
In England we have to start specialising from the age of 14, when we choose our GCSE options. Then, we pick A-Levels, which narrows us down again because the university admission system and syllabus criteria
mean that when we pick one subject, we often have to pick others that are related- for example, people studying Chemistry will almost always want to, or be forced to, study Maths, Physics and/or Biology as well. Then there is university, where we have to choose just one subject to gain our knowledge and expand our thinking in.
Applying the theory to our education system means that from early adolescence teens are already made to focus down on a few areas, creating generations who excel at one subject, but cannot diversify or innovate as they cannot connect their subject to the majority of the other potential knowledge that is around them.