Recently there was a story about a young girl who had apparently beaten Einstein in an IQ test. Actually, reading it again, I see that she also beat Stephen Hawking! Woah, incredible! Or is it? These articles about gifted children always drip with the insinuation that the child/pet dog/sentient fruit that just achieved this massive IQ score will therefore change the world…

But is it true? Does IQ actually mean anything at all? The answer is both yes and no, but by no means does IQ indicate that people on the high end will therefore automatically be able to change the world, simply by virtue of their measured intelligence. The factor which is measured by traditional IQ tests is the innate level of intelligence that an individual has. There are standardised tests, like the Stanford Binet which allow people to compare themselves against a population. These tests have cross-cultural validity, meaning that no matter where you were raised, the test measures that same skill set and ability. But does that mean that a high scoring person in rural India is going to be able to take over the world with their new insights?

Unfortunately, probably not….the thing about intelligence is that it is moot when it comes to real world application. The most intelligent person on Earth may lack the social skills to allow them to engage with the opportunities that are afforded to them. Some people may simply not care that they are more intelligent than the average person and therefore not want to take the path of University or higher learning. There are so many factors in every day life that make the reporting of IQ test results absolutely redundant – motivation, application, money and the list goes on.

The application of intelligence is one of the most important things when it comes to new ways of thinking or ‘genius discoveries’ and this is why people who have a good way of accessing their intelligence tend to be the people who break new ground. The ability to adequately use what you have and to understand your own way of thinking and learning is far more valuable than a simple high score on an IQ test.

Another important thing to note is that the development of IQ tests was to identify children who needed extra help in the classroom and therefore was aimed at identifying them, not (originally) to identify the highest performers.  However, let’s also remember that the guy (Terman) who revised the Stanford Binet intelligence test was a proponent of eugenics and believed that the identification of gifted people could help to ‘shape humanity’

So is high IQ linked to success? Yes, to an extent. If the individual has a high IQ and the social setting, and psychological characteristics which complement a high IQ (motivation, application to task) then they do have a higher chance at success (as measured by financial gains). High IQ does have some relationship to success, however is it necessary to report on every child who has a high score? I think not.


Written by The Psychologist

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