Tuesday, March 13, 2012

IQ Tests

There are a number of different methods which purport to measure intelligence, the most famous of which is perhaps the IQ, or 'Intelligence Quotient' test. The 'Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale' began life in early 20th century Paris, as part of Alfred Binet’s efforts to educate children with learning difficulties. Those that obtained a score below their age were considered "retarded".

IQ is a 'psychometric' test, meaning it measures mental ability. However, defining intelligence is far from simple. There are two main schools of thought. The first believes in an inherited, genetically determined intellect that can be measured. The second group of psychologists believe in many intelligences, the development of which may be the result of our social background. They also think that measuring these intelligences is also problematic.

The modern day IQ test measures a variety of different types of ability such as verbal, mathematical, spatial, memory and reasoning. The test is then 'pre-tested' on a group of people representative of the wider population. Then it's graded so that the majority of people will be get "Bell curve".

When graphed, this is a curve in the classic 'bell' shape where most people are distributed around the average intelligence (or intelligence score) and few people are at the extreme ends of low and high intelligence.

The Bell Curve is a graph that plots the range of IQ scores of an average population. It can be interpreted in many ways, and when the intelligence of the whole human race is in question, the stakes are high.

Is IQ a good measure of intelligence? Whether IQ tests actually test general intelligence, or g, is debatable. Many see IQ tests as an assessment of an individual’s problem solving ability rather than general intelligence. However, they are not even a comprehensive test of someone's problem solving ability. Although they may assess analytical and verbal aptitude well, they aren't an accurate test of creativity, practical knowledge, and other skills involved in problem solving. So how can IQ tests be seen as a measure of intelligence? Some argue that they just show how good the individual is at IQ tests!

The importance of IQ
Because of IQ's supposed ability to objectively measure 'intelligence' they have been used by a variety of different people and institutions over the years. Many companies use IQ and psychometric tests to gauge the 'ability' of potential employees. These tests are also used in government, by the civil service, and by the Armed Forces. By using such tests, institutions and companies have bought into the idea of a 'general intelligence' underpinning our mental ability regardless of the specific skills required for the job applied for.

Recipe for intelligence
Better schooling, parenting and increased leisure time for activities are believed to have influenced improved IQ scores. Good nutrition means an individual is able to function well both physically and mentally. Although many believe this plays a role in intelligence, it is very difficult to assess. A balanced diet will provide all the foods required to maintain the correct balance of neurotransmitters.

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