The IQ test for children who have never understood


Measuring the IQ of an infant or baby seems to be an impossible task in practice. IQ tests achieve their scores by requiring participants to demonstrate proficiency in math tests, memory tasks, vocabulary tests, and puzzles that question sensory perception. Considering that babies are notoriously distracting and baby talk is a very limited form of communication, a standard modern test is essentially unnecessary. That hasn’t stopped scientists from trying to design IQ tests for children that will allow them to see into the future success of an infant’s mind. Perhaps the craziest thing in the weird world of infant IQ testing is how close a scientist got to performing a test for infants that could actually predict their future achievements.

In 1985, psychologist Dr Joseph Fagan III appeared to discover that infantile intelligence was both knowable, measurable, and predictive of future intelligence. Until now, IQ tests for children have been aimed at those aged five and over – those who could communicate well enough to offer answers to researchers. Psychologists such as David Wechsler have used vocabulary tests, visual puzzles, math problems, and memory tests to provide an IQ score for elementary-aged children. In 1965, psychologist Nancy Bayley got closer and developed the Bayley Scales for Infant Development, which were scored based on observations from test administrators. But the Bayley scales failed as an IQ test because the nonverbal motor behaviors seen in infants really have nothing to do with future cognitive abilities. A child who grasps and manipulates objects early, for example, does not necessarily turn into a smart adult.

Instead, Fagan found that developing a baby’s vision was a much better marker. In Fagan’s early research, he discovered, through what he called new pair-wise comparison tasks, that infants have the ability to recognize, retain, and remember faces and visual information. The idea behind the new pairwise comparison is to present infants and babies with a series of pairs of images and then edit one of the images in the pair. The researchers then measure how much time the baby spends looking at the new image compared to the image they are familiar with. “Visual novelty preference tests tell us that the infant has the ability to know the world,” Fagan wrote in a 1992 technical summary of his test. “If such knowledge acquisition processes underlie performance on intelligence tests later in life, it is fair to assume that exercising them early in life represents intelligent activity on the infant’s part. ”


So Fagan started testing the infants. Parents held their babies on their knees as they sat in front of a small office stage in which a pair of pictures could be placed. The images used were images of men, women and baby faces that infants are used to recognizing. Babies were introduced to the image pairs before being exposed to a new pair featuring an image they had never seen before. The researchers, looking through a peephole, then measured how long the infant looked at the new image. The infant has undergone four sets of tests and is exposed to nearly 30 pairs of images.

The Fagan test resulted in a “novelty score” comparing the time an infant looks at the unseen pictures to the time spent looking at the familiar pictures. More interest in novelty, he presumed, was associated with more intelligence and vice versa.

Fagan’s claims that test results could predict future intelligence scores have been met with skepticism. Fagan’s sample size was relatively small, there appeared to be an inconsistency between testing sites, and the predictability of the test could not be known until much later when the babies grew older. (Fagan himself did much of the subject tracking, revisiting the babies when they were in high school to find that their scores on the standard IQ tests correlated with their scores on the previous infant intelligence test.)

But the biggest criticism has come from the implications of the test. Many of Fagan’s contemporaries worried about what labeling babies as intelligent or non-intelligent might mean for children’s futures.

In a 1992 article published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology titled Fagan’s test of infant intelligence: a critical review, the lead authors were concerned that the Fagan test might be used to recognize high IQ babies for fortification purposes, which “skim the cream and leave the rest behind.”

Fagan himself saw a greater social good, that it could be useful to recognize these children, especially if they came from disadvantaged backgrounds. “Why not test the infants and find out which of them might take the most in terms of stimulation? Fagan told the New York Times in 1986. “It won’t hurt anyone, that’s for sure.”


Fast forward a decade and the ironic foreknowledge of this line begins to become apparent. VSCompanies and authors have gone directly from measuring a baby’s IQ to ways for parents to increase that IQ. In 1996, the Baby Einstein videos were released, promising to boost a baby’s intelligence and give it a head start. Books like Raising a smarter child in kindergarten and How to multiply your baby’s intelligence, followed suit, as did baby sign language and baby music lessons. All of these products have been marketed as stimulating brain development in babies.

In 2004, the Fisher-Price toy company focused more directly on the baby’s IQ test, commissioning one from British psychologist Dr. Dorothy Einon. The test was basically a 10-question quiz that asked parents to identify their baby’s behaviors, such as what they do in response to a teddy bear fall or how many blocks they could stack. In an article by The telegraph About the Fisher-Price test, psychologists have expressed deep doubts, suggesting that the quiz was unscientific and could unduly stress parents.

This point speaks most directly to the harm these tests can do to parents. Giving parents a pseudo-scientific measure of their child’s IQ has little benefit and one big downside inducing gaping anxiety that calls parents to action – any action – that can help give their baby a boost. low IQ, to their medium IQ one-leg baby, or to help their allegedly high IQ child achieve their potential.

“I’ve heard of elite preschools that use IQ-type tests on babies during admissions,” says Dr. Celeste Kidd of UC Berkeley’s Kidd Lab. “When I hear about these places, I never take school seriously,” she says, because defining “intelligence” is an incredibly slippery task. “We don’t know enough what intelligence is to worry about it much. And that’s a good thing, ”she said.


Despite the idea of ​​increasing baby’s IQ accumulating, Fagan’s test – the original test in his studies – has remained out of the public eye. This is in part because he seems to have taken the criticism to heart. Fagan eventually developed a computer program that could help researchers implement his test. The last edition of the manual was published in 2004, and Fagan had abandoned the use of the test to predict intelligence and instead insisted that it be used only as a diagnostic tool to recognize early signs of mental retardation.

“Recent advances in the study of superior cognitive functioning in infants, via the observation of preferences for novelty, has led to the development of a valid test of early intelligence,” Fagan writes in the 2004 textbook for his test. “It should be borne in mind that the Fagan test was developed for the early detection of subsequent mental retardation and should not be used for routine screening with normal populations.”

Kidd notes that diagnosing problems is a much more reasonable goal than predicting intelligence. This is largely due to the fact that there is too much going into our concept of intelligence – cultural cues, environmental issues, and even social factors could affect intelligence, not just people. Genoa.

Instead of looking for predictors of future intelligence through IQ tests for children, Kidd suggests that parents instead focus on their child as an individual, with individual talents and challenges. While it’s important to keep an eye out for red flags that could indicate developmental issues, it’s best to judge your child by their own developmental path.

At the end of the day, intelligence and quality of life are very different things. IQ tests for children could potentially measure intelligence, but they are more likely to measure a child’s cultural skills. Sure, a baby who can recognize a new face may be able to piece a puzzle together faster by age 5, but there’s no point if the child’s home is a miserable place to live with parents. stressed.

More than intelligence, love and confidence seem to lead to the best outcomes for children. Being stressed out about their intelligence, however, doesn’t. “We have a lot of evidence that parental anxiety has known negative consequences for a child’s development and well-being and their ability to interact with parents,” Kidd says. “Any product that could increase parental anxiety could have an unintended negative impact on a child’s well-being.” Which, no matter how smart your kid is, doesn’t seem very smart.

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