Dec. 20, 2012 – Single tests that measure intelligence quotient, or IQ, may be a thing of the past.
A new study involving more than 100,000 participants suggests that there may be at least three distinct components of intelligence. So you couldn’t give a single, unified score for all.
Researchers’ understanding of the intricacies of the human brain has evolved, as has the notion of IQ, its real meaning, and how it is captured as accurately as possible.
“There are several types of intelligence,” says researcher Adam Hampshire, PhD. He is a psychologist at the Natural Sciences Center of the Brain and Mind Institute in London, Ontario, Canada. “It’s time to move on to using a more comprehensive test set that can measure separate scores for each type of intelligence. “
Use lots of IQ tests
In the study, all participants were asked to take a series of 12 online tests that measure memory, reasoning, attention and planning as well as background and lifestyle information of applicants. The whole test takes about 30 minutes.
According to the results, there are at least three components that affect the overall performance of the tests. These include short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal recall.
Lifestyle factors also matter. For example, gamers – or people who play computer games a lot – score better on reasoning and short-term memory tests. Smokers do poorly on tests assessing short-term memory and vocabulary, while anxious candidates do not do as well on short-term memory tests, according to the study.
What’s more, the study suggests that each type of intelligence may have its base in a different set of brain areas. The researchers used sophisticated brain scans called functional MRIs to map these areas. “Potentially, we can measure a more complete set of intelligences,” each of which reflects the ability of a different part of the brain, says Hampshire.
IQ RIP test?
So, should the IQ test that so many people boast about be abandoned or discredited?
Not so fast, he said. “Very useful research has been done using standard IQ tests. However, IQ is an oversimplification of the spectrum of human cognitive abilities. “
IQ scores can also be somewhat misleading, Hampshire says. “Based on the results of our study, it seems likely that IQ differences will vary in scale or even direction depending on the exact type of intelligence that the test or set of tests relies on most. I would say it is both more accurate and informative to measure multiple types of intelligence.
He plans to see if there are other types of intelligence that was not captured in this study.
Hampshire said the results themselves were not that surprising, but the number of people who took part in the study exceeded expectations. “I had thought that a few thousand people could log on and participate in the study over the course of six months. Instead, tens of thousands of people logged in within a matter of weeks, ”he says. This was a remarkably strong response from members of the general public, who donated half an hour or more of their time to support this research. “
John Gabrieli, PhD, professor of brain and cognitive science at MIT in Boston, reviewed the study for WebMD. “This is a really compelling study of an extraordinarily large number of people who take tests with careful analysis of the data. This argues against the idea that IQ is localized in one part of the brain. We imagine that there is THE intelligence test, but you can measure it in several ways. One metric can make a person seem super smart, but if they choose another, they can look average. There are several types of intelligence that can be linked to different tasks and different parts of the brain.
Gayatri Devi, MD, agrees with the new study results. She is a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “Finding a unifying score and using it to determine a person’s overall ability is tricky,” she says. “We have to get away from it. “
The study appears in the journal Neuron.