Motivation Plays a Vital Role in Determining IQ Test Scores


New psychology research at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates a correlation between motivation and a candidate’s performance on an IQ test and, more importantly, between that performance and a person’s future success.

Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, led the research, which involved two related studies.

The first was a meta-analysis of previous research on the effect of incentives on IQ scores. For people who had above-average scores at baseline, motivation was only about a quarter of a standard deviation, or about four points. But, for those who had scores below the mean, motivation accounted for almost an entire standard deviation.

The second study involved an experiment in which researchers watched video footage of teenagers taking a standard IQ test to gauge their motivation, then measured their results in terms of criminal records, employment status, and higher educational attainment. a decade later.

Coders, who were unaware of the subjects’ IQ scores or the study hypothesis, assessed each subject’s motivation based on a standard rubric of behaviors, such as refusing to answer questions. questions or obviously rushing through the test to complete it as quickly as possible. . Ratings of test motivation and IQ scores were about equally predictive of adult outcomes in terms of years of education, employment status, and criminal record.

“What we were really interested in finding out is that when you statically control for motivation, what happens to the predictive power of IQ tests? What we found is that the predictive power drops dramatically” , Duckworth said.

Duckworth’s research was published April 26 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“When people use IQ tests in social science research, where thousands of children take IQ tests or whatever they get, what is the effect of motivation on those scores?” said Duckworth.

“IQ scores are absolutely predictive of long-term outcomes. But what our study asks is if it’s entirely because smarter people do better in life than other people or if that’s part of the predictive power coming from test motivation,” Duckworth said.

“Could it be that part of the reason passing this test predicts future success is that the kinds of traits that would allow you to do well – respect for authority, self-control, attentiveness , competitiveness – are traits that also help you in life?

“That means for people who get high IQ scores, they’re probably trying hard. and are intelligent,” she said. “But for people who score low, it may be an absence of either trait.”

The research was conducted by Duckworth; Patrick D. Quinn of the Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin; Donald R. Lynam of the Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University; and Rolf Loeber and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Aging.

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Material provided by University of Pennsylvania. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


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