Thursday, August 25, 2005

On IQ

IQ questions interest me. 100 is supposed to be the average*, but there are loads of different ways of measuring it, many of which give different results for the same person - I have a 20 point differential between two of the sample tests.

IQ is a bit of a pet interest of mine, as an example of a biological statistic that has been mangled and dragged through politics. It is so controversial that many researchers won't even look at intelligence now, and the president of Harvard recently got in extreme PC trouble for even thinking aloud about it.

A few fun facts -
  • IQ raises on average 5 points if the test is undertaken by someone who has recently listened to Mozart.
  • It bears little or no correlation to cranial capacity
  • It is is probably true that IQ is higher in developed than undeveloped countries, which initially seems an incendiary racist argument, until you consider the effect malnutrition and illness have on the brain
  • The US used to test a sample of immigrants at Staten Island for IQ and concluded that all Russians were congenital morons, due to the minor point of delivering the test in English to starved sleep-deprived refugees
  • Whichever test method you use, the same distribution difference between men and women can be seen - there are more women of average IQ, but at the highest and lowest ends of the scale there are more men. Women cluster around the average whereas most geniuses and morons are male. Which explains a lot (chess grandmasters, severe regressive autism, GCSE passes) (see here.)

    I'd also refer you to Steven J Gould's masterful 'The Mismeasure of Man', a history of political attempts to hijack intelligence studies.

    * - 90 or less - certifiable learning difficulty, 125 - average for the holder of a first class degree
  • 2 Comments:

    Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

    Of course, IQ is only one way of measuring a particular type of intelligence, and has nothing to do with how 'intelligent' (in a colloquial sense) someone is. I've met really intelligent people who have been very, very stupid. In fact, I fall into this category myself at times.

    There's a lot more about this in Daniel Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence, which is a good read.

    10:55 AM  
    Blogger Friendly Fire said...

    Good post KL.

    I cut and pasted one of your observations over on Hullaballoo.

    3:38 PM  

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