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Mar. 30th, 2011 | 10:51 pm

IQ testing has courted much controversy in recent years. Some people think that IQ test use a very narrow framework to analyze the intelligence of a broad group of people. To understand why measuring intelligence is so controversial in the first place, we must examine the history of the test itself.

Sir Francis Gaulton in his 1869 book Hereditary Genius claimed that intelligence is an “inherited mental constitution” which stems from good genetics and can be traced within a family (Psychology : The Science of the Mind and Behavior (Fourth Edition), P. 330).

While Galton’s method’s for testing intelligence fell out of favor, the idea found practical application in France at the turn of the 20th century. The French Ministry of Public Education commissioned Alfred Binet to develop a test that would identify children with special needs so that they could be placed in the appropriate programs. Binet created the test by surveying experienced teachers to find out what types of problems children should be able to solve at ages 4,5,6 etc. He processed their answers to develop a standardized questionnaire given to children that would determine their mental age. One example that our textbook gives of mental age is if an eight year old child can solve problems at the level of a ten year old, the child would be determined to have a mental age of ten. Conversely, if a twelve year old could only solve problems at the level of an average eight year old, the twelve year old would be said to have a mental age of eight (Psychology : The Science of the Mind and Behavior (Fourth Edition), P. 331). Children would then be assigned a particular type of education based on their mental age.

German Psychologist William Stern expanded on this idea by providing a relative score or a common yardstick of intellectual achievement for people of varying chronological ages. Stern’s device for determining IQ was to divide mental age by chronological age and then multiply that number by 100. A child performing at his or her exact age level would have an IQ of 100.
Since the introduction of the Binet testing system there have been a whole host of other tests that have sprung up : the Stanford-Binet test, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (or WAIS), the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence and various revisions of each. So many variations of the intelligence test have been created that a whole new area of psychology called psychometrics has been created solely to study the statistics of psychological tests. (Psychology : The Science of the Mind and Behavior (Fourth Edition), P. 333). There are several reasons for the variety and quantity of intelligence tests. The first reason is that the standards for measuring adult intelligence versus child intelligence are very different. Fluid intelligence which is the measure of one’s ability to deal with novel problem-solving experiences is what is commonly measured in children. Reasoning abstractly, thinking logically and managing information all affect a child’s IQ score. Crystal intelligence of the ability to apply previously acquired knowledge to current problems is more applicable to adult IQ scores, as adults would have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from to answer the test questions.

Intelligence tests have been called into question as researchers reevaluate cultural and language biases present in these tests. IQ tests also measure only very specific abilities(analytical intelligence) while ignoring others (creative and practical intelligence).

Perhaps in the years to come, children will receive an education that does not simply mirror their ability to perform well on written tests but also encourages positive growth and development toward more creative and practical applications of their intellect. This can only be achieved through a greater understanding of what shapes intelligence and how we can best use these measures to benefit humankind.

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