Why do we try to measure intelligence? What’s the purpose of IQ tests or Intelligence Quotient scores? Why is there such confusion about what constitutes intelligence? In other words, why do we insist on having a standard? What is Intelligence?
Intelligence, in the strictest sense, refers to the ability to learn and perform a particular task. That is, in the IQ test or Intelligence Quotient test, the ability to perform a specific task is the standard by which all others are judged. Thus, if you have a low IQ score, then it follows that you cannot learn or perform any specific skills. And as Galton clearly shows, there are many ways to measure intelligence: standardized tests, individual performance levels, and testing for genetic differences.
The problem with this reasoning is that it ignores a major factor that underlies IQ tests – individual differences in the capacity to learn and use information. IQ tests measure general intelligence, but not fluid intelligence or inborn talent. Indeed, in many ways, it may be impossible to measure fluid intelligence or inborn talent at all. For instance, the Flynn effect means that some people have the ‘ability’ to learn and use information better than other people do; and this means that the number of genes that control this ability varies between individuals.
xxxThis means that we cannot be certain that one’s IQ reflects his real ability to learn and use new information objectively, or to make inferences from his past experiences. Intelligence is a complex trait, influenced by genetic and environmental factors. It is also heritable, and variation in heritability between identical twins can explain why some people have superior cognitive abilities than others. But unless you understand the nature of the question, it’s difficult to see how any kind of IQ test can provide a meaningful way of measuring mental capacity.
In other words, we still don’t know whether the results of IQ tests are truly reflecting true intelligence. Many psychologists, including those who might support the standard IQ tests, argue that we cannot accurately measure intelligence. Intelligence, they maintain, is a “social construction” in which behaviours are shaped by social experiences. That means that different environments can bring about vastly dissimilar sets of intelligence test scores. And this applies to both boys and girls, although the reasons for that are often different.
Others subscribe to the “cluster” theory of mental ability, the idea that there are four basic types of human mental abilities, including speed, accuracy, flexibility, and memory. The psychologist defined intelligence then as the ability to perform any of these four types in any given situation. Over the last few years, this theory has been challenged by the emergence of more specific kinds of intelligence test, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R), which has been shown to fail to generalize greatly across different domains of performance.
The new intelligence tests agree on one thing, though. They all measure something called latent intelligence. In a word, it’s what makes an individual smart. latent intelligence is really a construct of intelligence. Parents and teachers measure it by asking questions about what their children know and how they think, not by testing them on flat IQ tests. The IQ score is really a tool for educators and parents to use to find out how well their children process information.
In conclusion, there is good and bad in all four forms of intelligence. Intelligence is a complex construct that can be studied theoretically from many different angles. It’s up to each individual to decide what they want their definition of intelligence to be. Whether you measure emotional intelligence, crystallized intelligence, or both, it’s always better to start with the concept of intelligence itself and work backwards, rather than going straight from the most practical intelligence test to the most abstract.