Debunking the IQ myth

by Adela Talbot
Credit: Scott Woods

(Medical Xpress)—You may be more than a single number, according to a team of Western-led researchers. Considered a standard gauge of intelligence, an intelligence quotient (IQ) score doesn't actually provide an accurate measure of one's intellect, according to a landmark study – the largest of its kind – led by Adrian Owen of the Brain and Mind Institute at Western.

The study included more than 100,000 participants from around the globe, asking them to complete 12 cognitive tests looking at their memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities. It found a simple is misleading when assessing one's intellectual capacity.

These findings were published in an article, "Fractioning Human ," in the journal Neuron, last month.

"While there are different types of intelligence, they are all influenced by one, overarching, general intelligence. And that's what we essentially measured using something like an ," said Adam Hampshire of the Brain and Mind Institute, who co-authored the paper.

Hampshire noted this kind of testing is insufficient in measuring one's as it doesn't take into account multiple factors and abilities – different kinds of intelligence.

"In the past, when people tried to examine how intelligence is related to the brain, they generally approached it with an assumption that there is one dominant form of intelligence which is sub-served by a specific system in the brain. What we found is that the associated with whatever the 'G Factor' is – what general intelligence is – actually housed more specialized systems, not just one," he explained.

"What we did in our study, that's been different than what's been done before, is to try and understand what the structure of intelligence is by considering the way in which the brain is organized into specialized functional systems – that is, when you look at the brain and you see there are different areas that form networks and support different types of functions," he explained.

As part of the study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques with one group of participants to show that differences in cognitive abilities correspond to individual circuits in the brain.

"There are these multiple forms of intelligence and each form is in a different brain system," Hampshire said.

Results from the study found that given a broader range of cognitive tasks, the differences in ability relate to at least three components of intelligence – short-term memory, reasoning and verbal aptitude. These three components combined create an intelligence, or "cognitive profile."

In other words, there is no single measure of intelligence.

Given the range of in the study, results also gave researchers new insight into how factors such as age, gender and the tendency to play computer games can influence brain function. While age had a profound negative effect on memory and reasoning abilities, playing computer games helped certain individuals perform better on tests assessing reasoning and short-term memory.

"My hope is that this (study) pens the debate back up on how we should conceive of and measure . We very often hear these comparisons (of intelligence) and it's a terrible oversimplification. People should be skeptical when they hear these reports of population differences in IQ; it shouldn't be a unitary measure. Examining the social demographic correlations in more detail will help to understand them better. The patterns need to be examined with a more detailed model," Hampshire noted.

"We've identified different forms of intelligence now which relate to different systems in the brain. And we've also researched some into correlations with types of intelligence and different social demographics variables. What's next is refining that model of intelligence."

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antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) May 07, 2013
short-term memory, reasoning and verbal aptitude

While these three have been a long-term mainstay of IQ definitions I always feel that neither short-term memory, nor verbal aptitude represent what is meant by 'intelligence'.

Shouldn't intelligent behaviour be defined by how many levels of differentiation you can bring to a situation (including preplanning based on available information)? Seeing connections in NEW situations?

The latter is why I think verbal aptitude shouldn't be in there. Verbal aptitude tests the deífferentiation aspect - but is highly dependent on your level of preknowledge
(take an IQ test with a verbal aptitude component in a different language than your native one - and see how you fare. But you haven't gotten suddenly dumber, have you?)
Shootist
2.8 / 5 (9) May 07, 2013
an intelligence quotient (IQ) score doesn't actually provide an accurate measure of one's intellect


That may be. However IQ is the most reliable single indicator (also, single most reliable indicator) for predicting an individual's (financial, educational) success in western society.
QuixoteJ
3.4 / 5 (10) May 07, 2013
I've always felt that the general (old fashioned) IQ number is a good measure of a brain's "horsepower" and that it's a fairly good approximation of intelligence. The tests are difficult and present a challenge even to the most clever and educated people the world has to offer.

@Antialias, I agree that the verbal part is questionable because of the chance of simply encountering words that you don't know yet, and that throws a wrench into it. But I do believe the ability to attain verbal proficiency in a language is akin to raw intelligence. It's a complex puzzle all its own.

I also don't think they have "debunked" a myth here. Perhaps the old IQ numbers aren't perfectly accurate, but I think they're still pretty good. They are definitely not a myth.
Doug_Huffman
2 / 5 (8) May 07, 2013
There's been more verbiage drooled debunking the myth than developing it, and all by merely average intelligences.

Perhaps a good measure of intelligence is the sense to keep exceptionalism quiet and hidden from the merely average.

Will the debunkers argue against half of the population being below average, including the debunker sample? Idiots.
dogbert
3.7 / 5 (9) May 07, 2013
You are not defined by your IQ. There are a lot of people with high IQs who do not succeed. But IQ plus motivation is a good indicator of success.
Czcibor
1.5 / 5 (4) May 07, 2013
Catchy title "debunking". However, so far the main argument for "G" was correlation - people who scored well in one task, were ON AVERAGE better in absolutely unrelated ones.

Did they prove it wrong? (no indication in article) If their main argument is - merely different brain circuits are responsible for brain functions - that's interesting, but somewhere on the way from their press release to publishming this article on phys.org someone sexied up their findings.
arq
3.8 / 5 (4) May 07, 2013
It was already well known that IQ tests dont capture everything. Stuff like street smartness, perception, decision making, ability to realise what the other person is thinking etc cant be measured by IQ tests.

Glad that the study proved it.

The tests should be renamed CQ tests as they measure general cognition not intelligence.
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2013
Did they prove it wrong?

They advocate a more differentiated picture, since the performance on different parts of the tests resid in different brain areas (and hence may be well/not so well developed independently of each other)

What is thereby debunked (a rather strong word) is that one score captures your mental capabilities effectively.
SolidRecovery
2.9 / 5 (8) May 07, 2013
an intelligence quotient (IQ) score doesn't actually provide an accurate measure of one's intellect


That may be. However IQ is the most reliable single indicator (also, single most reliable indicator) for predicting an individual's (financial, educational) success in western society.

The most reliable single indicator for success in western society is parents.
cantdrive85
1.5 / 5 (8) May 07, 2013
The latter is why I think verbal aptitude shouldn't be in there. Verbal aptitude tests the deífferentiation aspect - but is highly dependent on your level of preknowledge (take an IQ test with a verbal aptitude component in a different language than your native one - and see how you fare. But you haven't gotten suddenly dumber, have you?)

Yup, Ima not understooding wy tha vurbyage amplitood is so umportent to myQ, I alwas thawt it was overrayted!

Claudius
2.3 / 5 (6) May 07, 2013
You are not defined by your IQ. There are a lot of people with high IQs who do not succeed. But IQ plus motivation is a good indicator of success.


What does success have to do with intelligence? Your point is simply that some intelligent people do not succeed. It is also possible to think of a number of people who are successful but of very dubious intelligence.

dogbert
1.4 / 5 (9) May 07, 2013
What does success have to do with intelligence? Your point is simply that some intelligent people do not succeed. It is also possible to think of a number of people who are successful but of very dubious intelligence.


You cannot be highly successful without a high IQ. Mediocre people do not become CEOs of successful companies, for example. But having a high IQ is no predictor of success unless the individual also displays high motivation.
Nyloc
1 / 5 (3) May 08, 2013
The article referenced in the journal Neuron is actually "Fractionating Human Intelligence"(Fractionating, not Fractioning).

I ask you, wouldn't you think the IQ of the editors and readers should have noticed the error sooner? Or isn't reading comprehension a component of intelligence?
Fabio P_
2.3 / 5 (3) May 08, 2013
@Nyloc: Do you even own an English dictionary? "Fractionating" is a real word, not an error. You might want to look it up.
TheKnowItAll
2 / 5 (4) May 08, 2013
I.Q. tests were used in the past to encourage students; "You are so smart. You have no excuse not to get 100% on all your subjects!" Remember? But now with these tests roving all over the internet they don't have the expected positive psychological effect so obviously they have to be proven useless.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (1) May 08, 2013
I.Q. tests were used in the past to encourage students;

...which is a bit of a fallacy. It's intelligence QUOTIENT - where an IQ of 100 just means "average for the population measured".

So as a measure of absolute smarts IQ scores are infinitely malleable (If the average population is dumb as rocks then an IQ of 140 doesn't mean much).

The tests on the internet are pretty much useless - as they do not conform to the standard/idea of what an IQ actually is.
barakn
2.3 / 5 (4) May 08, 2013
Will the debunkers argue against half of the population being below average, including the debunker sample? Idiots.

Awesome. Here we see an assumption that the population of IQ scores is symmetrical like a bell curve or otherwise artfully arranged so the median score is the same thing as the average score. It can't be a Gaussian bell curve, as the IQ scores are constrained - they can't be less than zero.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) May 08, 2013
It can't be a Gaussian bell curve, as the IQ scores are constrained - they can't be less than zero.

Technically correct that it need not be a bell curve (and it can't be - because the number of people is finite).

But that there are no values below zero is not a reason why it can't conform - as close as a quantized distriution can - to a bell curve (or why the average can't be the same as the mean)
cantdrive85
2.5 / 5 (8) May 08, 2013
What does success have to do with intelligence? Your point is simply that some intelligent people do not succeed. It is also possible to think of a number of people who are successful but of very dubious intelligence.


You cannot be highly successful without a high IQ. Mediocre people do not become CEOs of successful companies, for example. But having a high IQ is no predictor of success unless the individual also displays high motivation.

George W. Bush is dumber than a bag of rocks, yet he became the "leader of the not so free world". It also reveals the IQ of the populace as a whole, the IQ of the lowest common denominator. It's quite apparent the LCD has control of the voting process in Amerika based upon our last several POTUS'. Now were blessed with a POTUS who is barely smart enough to be really dangerous.
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (8) May 08, 2013
What does success have to do with intelligence? Your point is simply that some intelligent people do not succeed. It is also possible to think of a number of people who are successful but of very dubious intelligence.
You cannot be highly successful without a high IQ. Mediocre people do not become CEOs of successful companies, for example. But having a high IQ is no predictor of success unless the individual also displays high motivation.
George W. Bush is dumber than a bag of rocks, yet he became the "leader of the not so free world". It also reveals the IQ of the populace as a whole, the IQ of the lowest common denominator. It's quite apparent the LCD has control of the voting process in Amerika based upon our last several POTUS'. Now were blessed with a POTUS who is barely smart enough to be really dangerous.

cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (5) May 08, 2013
oops, double post, sorry folks.
Nyloc
3 / 5 (2) May 08, 2013
@Fabio: Do you even own an English dictionary? "Fractionating" is a real word, not an error. You might want to look it up.


Fabio, I suggest you read my comment again and look up the article. You'll note that I stated that the CORRECT word was "Fractionating", as per the referenced article. This Phys.org summary has INCORRECTLY named the source document as "Fractioning Human Intelligence" when it is actually "Fractionating Human Intelligence".

Look up the referenced article here:
http://www.cell.c...)00584-3
Egleton
2 / 5 (4) May 11, 2013
I recall a "click" test that was highly correlated with old fashioned IQ.
A sharp click sound was made and the time interval between the time of the noise and the registration on an ECG predicted IQ.
It is not surprising that there are different parts of the brain that process different inputs(ie visual cortex), but it is the speed at which they are processed that varies.
If the speed is too fast memories don't have enough time to form, leading to working memory not being processed correctly, a typical attribute of schizophrenia. We are a work in progress.
Lateme
2 / 5 (3) May 11, 2013
Interesting would be a system-based description of both conventional IQ and the various ways of measuring it. If the researchers hold that our brains are an integration of multiple subsystems (which sounds very plausible), they should be able to identify the subsystems, specify how they are integrated and then reveal (using their theory) how previous IQ tests arrived at their outcomes. IQ tests have generated much data should be amenable to post-diction by a theory that would satisfy me.
richard_dress
1.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2013
I agree with antialias. The brain's fundamental figure of merit is how well it compares and contrasts/differentiates and integrates. The rest describes abilities, skills, talents, etc..
viajerodelespacio
2.3 / 5 (3) May 12, 2013
an intelligence quotient (IQ) score doesn't actually provide an accurate measure of one's intellect


That may be. However IQ is the most reliable single indicator (also, single most reliable indicator) for predicting an individual's (financial, educational) success in western society.


But isn't this "most reliable indicator" more of a generalization overestimating specific qualities/functions of human intelligence?
Moebius
3 / 5 (4) May 12, 2013
Everything in this article is obvious and I know I've said the same thing in low rated comments (low rated by high IQ's no doubt). An IQ test mostly only measures your ability to take an IQ test.
viajerodelespacio
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2013
Everything in this article is obvious and I know I've said the same thing in low rated comments (low rated by high IQ's no doubt). An IQ test mostly only measures your ability to take an IQ test.


Haha well said friend!
Czcibor
1 / 5 (3) May 22, 2013
What is thereby debunked (a rather strong word) is that one score captures your mental capabilities effectively.

That was not only well known from many years but there were even accessible tests trying to split testing intelligence on separate areas and grade them individually.

So still, as I said - a catchy title and rather not specially revolutionary findings.