Researchers debunk the IQ myth

December 19, 2012

After conducting the largest online intelligence study on record, a Western University-led research team has concluded that the notion of measuring one's intelligence quotient or IQ by a singular, standardized test is highly misleading.

The findings from the landmark study, which included more than 100,000 participants, were published today in the journal Neuron. The article, "Fractionating ," was written by Adrian M. Owen and Adam Hampshire from Western's Brain and Mind Institute (London, Canada) and Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs, Science Museum Group (London, U.K).

Utilizing an online study open to anyone, anywhere in the world, the researchers asked respondents to complete 12 cognitive tests tapping memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities, as well as a survey about their background and .

"The uptake was astonishing," says Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in and Imaging and senior investigator on the project. "We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds from every corner of the world."

The results showed that when a wide range of cognitive abilities are explored, the observed variations in performance can only be explained with at least three distinct components: short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component.

No one component, or IQ, explained everything. Furthermore, the scientists used a brain scanning technique known as (fMRI), to show that these differences in cognitive ability map onto distinct circuits in the brain.

With so many respondents, the results also provided a wealth of new information about how factors such as age, gender and the tendency to play computer games influence our .

"Regular didn't help people's cognitive performance at all yet aging had a profound negative effect on both memory and reasoning abilities," says Owen.

Hampshire adds, "Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory. And smokers performed poorly on the short-term memory and the verbal factors, while people who frequently suffer from anxiety performed badly on the short-term memory factor in particular".

To continue the groundbreaking research, the team has launched a new version of the tests at http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/theIQchallenge

"To ensure the results aren't biased, we can't say much about the agenda other than that there are many more fascinating questions about variations in cognitive ability that we want to answer," explains Hampshire.

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24 comments

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flashgordon
3.3 / 5 (10) Dec 19, 2012
did anybody really need to be told this?
dogbert
2.5 / 5 (8) Dec 19, 2012
If appears that there are significant variations in people's mental abilities.

Yes, flashgordon, we already knew this.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (8) Dec 19, 2012
It seems you guys would do poorly on the 'short term memory' part - since after reading the article you completely forgot the point of it in the short time it tokk you to type in your comments.

(Alternatively you'd do poorly on the reasoning part - since it may also be true that you didn't even get what the article was about. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one.)
tadchem
5 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2012
A basic theorem in numerical analysis (mathematical modelling) says that the more precisely you wish to represent something mathematically the more variables are required to accomplish that.
Claudius
3.2 / 5 (9) Dec 19, 2012
aging had a profound negative effect on both memory and reasoning abilities


Could this have anything to do with how the scores were obtained? IQ scores are calculated by dividing by the age, which automatically decreases the score with increasing age.
Lurker2358
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 19, 2012
IQ scores are calculated by dividing by the age, which automatically decreases the score with increasing age.


That is done to control for education and life experience giving the older person a higher problem solving ability. You would expect an adult to have higher problem solving and pattern recognition than a child, so when a child actually out-performs an adult, their score should be much higher.
flashgordon
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2012
or could it be that sometimes people rush to judgement?
Lurker2358
3 / 5 (6) Dec 19, 2012
Their website appears to be crapped out, or flooded anyway.

I took the test and was half way through getting the results, and then it screwed up.

I've tried getting back on it several times since then, but it keeps telling me the page didn't load because the server sent no data. Go figure.
krundoloss
4.3 / 5 (7) Dec 19, 2012
"Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory"

Well, Yeah, cuz you are testing their performance with a Computer Game. I am glad to see that games are respected in some regard for requiring brain power, quick reflexes, and strategy. People that say that they rot your brain is probably watching TV.

I think intelligence is a show-and-prove thing, I dont care how smart someone is, if they lack motivation then who cares how smart they are? A person is smart when they produce results, no matter how long it takes them to figure something out.

Doug_Huffman
2 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2012
I think intelligence is a show-and-prove thing,...
Interesting idea, retrospective studies of life experiences and their correlation with school IQ testing, particularly for us senior retirees with completed employment histories, education histories and testing histories.
NameNick
2 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2012
"Someday a doctor will tell me I have an IQ of 48 and are what some people call mentally retarded"

"LOUD NOISES!!"
Tausch
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2012
...these differences in cognitive ability map onto distinct circuits in the brain.


No. Differences in cognitive ability map onto UNIQUE 'circuits' in the brain.

The source(s) for cognitive ability is/are the same for everyone.
(Barring physical handicaps.)
Tausch
2 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2012
...no matter how long it takes them to figure something out. - Kr


A person is smart when they understand.
A person is dumb when they fail to understand results mean nothing.
Tachyon8491
2.7 / 5 (6) Dec 19, 2012
Goethe had an IQ of 210, von Leibniz, 205; Blaise Pascal, 195
What IQ does not measure is personally unique giftedness, or their modelling of reality... J.S. Bach was a universal genius who understood that music was a syntagmatic language reflecting an underlying reality. How do you measure intuition?
krundoloss
5 / 5 (3) Dec 20, 2012
What is more intelligent:

A person is put in a maze, and solves the maze by keeping track of thier path and drawing a map, analyzing the maze and finding the most efficient route to the exit.

A person is put in a maze, and they climb up a wall and jump over the maze to the exit.

The first person may be more "intelligent" but the results were better by someone who "cheated", or rather, circumvented the problem all together. That is what I meant by intelligence is in the results, not how smart someone is.
Shootist
2 / 5 (4) Dec 21, 2012
What is more intelligent:


"The proper statement about IQ is that it is the best single measure we have for predicting success in most endeavors; and that if you take a group of people in almost any job or profession from janitors to professors of physics, and have experts rank order them in order of success, the best single predictor of that ordering will be their IQ scores. This seems to hold true for many professions, including professional athletics. Understand this is not the same as saying that IQ is a good predictor of success in professional athletics". - Pournelle
NameNick
5 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2012
AIl the questions are timed. Does that mean IQ is a measurement of rate of comprehension? I would interpret that to mean given enough time we are all equally smart. I am self smarted.
VendicarD
4 / 5 (4) Dec 22, 2012
@NameNick. No, it means that IQ is a measure of scoring on IQ tests.

Intelligence is inadequately defined. Hence there is no adequate measure for it.

A cat is a genius at being a cat. No genius human can match it, in it's abilities.
baudrunner
1.2 / 5 (5) Dec 22, 2012
I don't think that playing computer games is a brain training exercise since most games are shoot'em up types or racing games. It's a fact that doing crossword puzzles on a regular basis improves brain function, because you get better at them over time.

A study in the U.K. done years ago tested the IQ's people from all walks of life and from every different type of occupation. After several years, those who had retained their careers on a full-time basis were retested, and significant increases in IQ's were recorded for people who required real-time use of their mental faculties to be successful at their jobs. Taxi drivers showed the greatest increase in IQ. It was reasoned that this was because of their requirement to map information using memory and associating that acquired knowledge with instruction from passengers and dispatchers. That is a brain training exercise.
aroc91
5 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2012
I don't think that playing computer games is a brain training... etc.


I disagree. In fact, I disagree for exactly the same reason you outlined as to why taxi drivers saw a large increase.

Video games of all types require memorization, fast reaction times, leadership and coordination for team-based games, and other critical thinking skills. Crossword puzzles, on the other hand, require vocabulary and that's about it.

You can't even say "I don't think that playing computer games is a brain training exercise" because studies alongside your UK study have shown otherwise. You can't just ignore the research that's convenient to ignore in light of your own bias.

Osiris1
2 / 5 (2) Dec 23, 2012
We by this article are seeking to game a system that produces high scores for gamers who sharpen their minds....and reflexes...in twitchy games. However the RTS variety of war games require actual thought, but these appear ignored by the writer who sought to devalue those who get and enjoy this available training aid.

Rather the writer here seeks to promote the un-selfpromoting through 'creatively preferring the unambitious, the apathetic, the nervous agorophobic, and ....and get this...the 'smokers'.

In a way that also would create a handicap advantage for the insane. It is known fact among mental health workers who see this every day, that nicotine is the most widely self prescribed drug of preference for paranoid schizophrenics. Seems the schizophrenically delusional and violent mind has a craving for nicotine. If forced onto low nicotine cigarettes, he/she will smoke more of them and smoke them faster. Have seen some 'anxious' folks smoke a cig to nothing in <30 seconds.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (6) Dec 23, 2012
You won't find many crossworders taking guns to school and shooting kids up, but we find no dearth of articles linking adversarial shooter games with mass murderers. If anything, those games lower one's IQ.
aroc91
5 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2012
If anything, those games lower one's IQ.


Completely unfounded and contradicted by research. That's beside the fact that correlation =/= causation. 99% of mass murderers eat bread.
Surly
1 / 5 (1) Dec 26, 2012
Goethe had an IQ of 210, von Leibniz, 205; Blaise Pascal, 195

No, we don't know that. All of them died before the Binet-Simon test was invented.

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