IQ tests are 'meaningless and too simplistic' claim researchers
Researchers say findings are a 'wake up call' for anyone using current testsComes after biggest ever study of intelligence
18:29 GMT, 19 December 2012
It will come as a relief to those who failed to shine when taking an IQ test.
After conducting the largest ever study of intelligence, researchers have found that far from indicating how clever you are, IQ testing is actually rather ‘meaningless’.
In a bid to investigate the value of IQ, scientists asked more than 100,000 participants to complete 12 tests that required planning, reasoning, memory and attention.
Researchers say that traditional IQ tests simply do not work as they cannot measure every aspect of intelligence – and said their findings are a 'wake up call' for schools, universities and others that use the tests
They also filled in a survey on their background.
They discovered that far from being down to one single factor, what is commonly regarded as intelligence is influenced by three different elements – short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal ability.
But being good at one of these factors does not mean you are going to be equally gifted at the other two.
Scientists from Canada’s Western University in Ontario, also scanned some of the participants’ brains while they undertook the tests.
They found that different parts of the brain were activated when they were tested on each of the three factors.
Traditional IQ tests are ‘too simplistic’, according to the research, which found that what makes someone intelligent is too complex to boil down to a single exam.
IQ, which stands for Intelligence Quotient, is an attempt to measure how smart an individual is.
The average IQ is 100. Mensa, the high IQ society, only accepts individuals who score more than 148, putting them in the top two per cent of the population.
CAN YOU PASS AN IQ TEST
The following questions are taken from Mensa's online 'brain workout' and are similar to those in many IQ tests:
Which same three-letter word can be placed in front of the following words to make a new word
SIGN, DONE, DUCT, FOUND, FIRM, TRACT, DENSE
If you count from 1 to 100, how many 7's will you pass on the way
10, 11, 19, 20, 21
There are 1200 elephants in a herd. Some have pink and green stripes, some are all pink and some are all blue. One third are pure pink. Is it true that 400 elephants are definitely blue
Yes or No
2 3 5 7 11 13
14,15, 16, 17, 18
If a circle is one, how many is an octagon
2, 4, 6, 8, 12
For more questions click here
They use the Cattell III B test, which consists of six batches of multiple choice questions aimed at testing mental agility, with each section lasting between eight and 18 minutes.
The new study, published in the journal Neuron, suggests that intelligence is too complex to be represented by a single number.
Study leader Dr Adrian Owen, a British neuroscientists based at Western University in Canada, said an ‘astonishing’ number of people had contributed to the research.
Researchers say organisations like Mensa need to rethink their membership – they currently require an IQ higher than 148 to join
‘We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds and from every corner of the world,’ he said.
‘When you take 100,000 people and tested their brain function, we couldn’t find any evidence for a single uniform concept of intelligence.
‘The best we could manage is get it down to three elements that contribute to intelligence. But they are completely different factors, unrelated to one another, and you could be brilliant at one and awful at another.
For example, the absent-minded professor.
‘IQ tests are pretty meaningless – if you are not good at them, all it proves is that you are not good at IQ tests.
'It does not say anything about your general intelligence.’ The majority of IQ tests were developed in the 50s and 60s when the way we thought and interacted with the world was different, said Dr Owen.
'Study co-author Roger Highfield, from the Science Museum, said: ‘The most surprising thing is that we still haven’t got over the hang up about IQ tests.
'This really is a wake-up call. We have now shown that on the evidence, these tests are meaningless.
'We need to stop trying to simplify the brain, which is very complicated organ, down to a number.
‘We need to think of intelligence like the Olympics. Is the gold medal winner in the marathon fitter than the gold medallist in the 100m sprint’
The researchers are set to continue the groundbreaking study, with the team launching a new version of the tests at www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/theIQchallenge.