The task of trying to quantify a persons intelligence has been a goalof psychologists since before the beginning of this century. TheBinet-Simon scales were first proposed in 1905 in Paris, France andvarious sorts of tests have been evolving ever since. One of theimportant questions that always comes up regarding these tools is whatare the tests really measuring? Are they measuring a personsintelligence? Their ability to perform well on standardized tests? Orjust some arbitrary quantity of the persons IQ? When examining thesituations around which these tests are given and the content of thetests themselves, it becomes apparent that however useful the tests maybe for standardizing a groups intellectual ability, they are not a goodindicator of intelligence.To issue a truly standardized test, the testing environment should bethe same for everyone involved. If anything has been learned from thepsychology of perception, it is clear that a persons environment has agreat deal to do with their cognitive abilities. Is the lightflickering? Is the paint on the walls an unsettling shade? Is thetemperature too hot or too cold? Is the chair uncomfortable? Or in theworst case, do they have an illness that day? To test a persons mind,it is necessary to utilize their body in the process. If everyonesbody is placed in different conditions during the testing, how is itexpected to get standardized results across all the subjects? Becauseof this assumption that everyone will perform equally independent oftheir environment, intelligence test scores are skewed and cannot beviewed as standardized, and definitely not as an example of a personsintelligence.
It is obvious that a persons intelligence stems from a variety oftraits. A few of these that are often tested are reading comprehension,vocabulary, and spatial relations. But this is not all that goes intoit. What about physical intelligence, conversational intelligence,social intelligence, survival intelligence, and the slew of others thatgo into everyday life? Why are these important traits not figured intointelligence tests? Granted, normal standardized tests certainly getpredictable results where academics are concerned, but they should notbe considered good indicators of general intelligence because of theglaring omissions they make in the testing process. To really gauge apersons intelligence, it would be necessary to put them through arigorous set of real-life trials and document their performance. Otherwise the standardized IQ tests of today are testing an extremelylimited quality of a persons character that can hardly be referred toas intelligence.For the sake of brevity, I will quickly mention a few other commoncriticisms of modern IQ tests.
They have no way to compensate forcultural differences. People use different methods to solve problems. Peoples reading strategies differ. Speed is not always the best way totackle a problem.
There is often too much emphasis placed onvocabulary. Each of these points warrants individual treatment, and formore information refer to The Triarchic Mind by RJ Sternberg (PenguinBooks, 1988, p18-36).It is possible to classify all the reasons that IQ tests fail at theirtask into two main groups. The first grouping is where the tests assumetoo much. Examples of this flaw are the assumption that speed is alwaysgood, vocabulary is a good indicator of intelligence, and that differenttest taking environments wont affect the outcome. The second groupingcomes because the tests gauge the wrong items. Examples of this aredifferent culture groups being asked to take the same tests as everyoneelse, and the fact that the tests ignore so many types of intelligence(like physical, social, etc). These two groupings illustrate where themajor failings of popular IQ tests occur and can be used as tools forjudging others.
IQ tests are not good indicators for a persons overall intelligence,but as their use has shown, they are extremely helpful in makingpredictions about how a person will perform in an academic setting. Perhaps the problem comes in the name intelligence tests when it isobvious this is not what they really are. The modern IQ test definitelyhas its applications in todays society but should be be used toquantify a persons overall intelligence by any means.Psychology