IQ Score Not A Good Gauge Of Intelligence
December 20, 2012

New Study Debunks Myth That IQ Score Is A Good Gauge Of Intelligence

[ Watch the Video: Western-Led Research Debunks the IQ Myth ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

For over a hundred years, a now famous test known as the intelligence quotient (IQ) test has been the standard for measuring an individual´s cognitive abilities. Now, however, a team of researchers from University of Western Ontario has set out to debunk the myth that IQ is an accurate way to measure intelligence, and the results of their study are already rattling conventional wisdom about what makes us smart.

In the largest Internet-based intelligence study ever conducted, the scientists were able to collect data from over 100,000 participants. The results of the study were published in an article titled “Fractionating human intelligence” in the journal Neuron.

By using the web as a platform to attract and interact with study participants, the team was able to open the study to any person, anywhere on the planet. The researchers asked the participants to complete 12 online tests that measured diverse cognitive skills like reasoning, problem solving, memory, planning and different types of memory. They also asked the respondents to complete a short questionnaire about their personal life, background and habits.

"The uptake was astonishing," says Adrian M. Owen, the study´s senior investigator and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging.

"We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds from every corner of the world."

The results of the study confirmed what many psychologists and neuroscientists have suspected for years: There is no single metric for gauging intelligence, nor any single component of cognitive prowess such an IQ. Instead, when tested for a wider variety of intellectual traits, people tend to display varying intellectual abilities in at least three distinct areas: short-term memory, reasoning and verbal skills.

In a separate portion of the study, the researchers also used high-tech brain scanning technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to demonstrate that these variations in intellectual abilities can be mapped out in distinct regions of the brain.

The scientists were also able to take advantage of the study´s unexpectedly large pool of participants to glean some statistical insight into the relationships between lifestyle and cognitive function.

"Regular brain training didn't help people's cognitive performance at all yet aging had a profound negative effect on both memory and reasoning abilities," explained Owen.

One of the study´s co-authors Adam Hampshire from Western's Brain and Mind Institute continued: "Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory. And smokers performed poorly on the short-term memory and the verbal factors, while people who frequently suffer from anxiety performed badly on the short-term memory factor in particular".

Encouraged by the unexpected success of the first online test, the team has already launched a new version of the test that will allow them to continue gathering valuable information about human intelligence.

The researchers encourage anyone who is interested to take the test. The whole process — including registration and taking the test — takes about 30 minutes. After completing the questionnaire, the website automatically provides a summary showing how you performed in relation to the others. Participants can also retake the test as often as they like, track their progress over time and even challenge Facebook friends to try to beat their scores.

But the authors say that they cannot yet reveal what exactly it is that they´re searching for with the second version of the test.

"To ensure the results aren't biased, we can't say much about the agenda other than that there are many more fascinating questions about variations in cognitive ability that we want to answer," explains Hampshire.