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Does IQ Test Really Measure Intelligence?

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 20, 2012 -- Single tests that measure intelligence quotient, or IQ, may become a thing of the past.

A new study of more than 100,000 participants suggests that there may be at least three distinct components of intelligence. So you could not give a single, unified score for all of them.

Researchers' understanding of the complexities of the human brain has evolved, and so too has the notion of IQ, what it really means, and how it is most accurately captured.

“There are multiple types of intelligence,” says researcher Adam Hampshire, PhD. He is a psychologist at the Brain and Mind Institute Natural Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, Canada. “It is time to move on to using a more comprehensive set of tests that can measure separate scores for each type of intelligence.”

Using Many IQ Tests

In the study, all participants were invited to take a series of 12 online tests that measure memory, reasoning, attention, and planning as well as information on the test takers' background and lifestyle. The entire test takes about 30 minutes to complete.

According to the findings, there are at least three components that affect overall performance on tests. These include short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal recall.

Lifestyle factors count, too. For example, gamers -- or people who play a lot of computer games -- score higher on tests of reasoning and short-term memory. Smokers do poorly on tests assessing short-term memory and vocabulary, while test takers who have anxiety don't do as well on short-term memory tests, the study shows.

What’s more, the study suggests that each type of intelligence may have its basis in a different set of brain areas. Researchers used sophisticated brain scans called functional MRIs to map out these areas.  “Potentially, we can measure a more comprehensive set of intelligences," each of which reflects the capacity of a different part of the brain, Hampshire says.

 

RIP IQ Test?

So should the IQ test that has provided bragging rights for so many be discontinued or discredited?

Not so fast, he says. “Some very valuable research has been carried out using classical IQ testing. However, IQ is a massive oversimplification of the spectrum of human cognitive ability.”

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