Animal Testing/ Why Iq Tests Don't Test Intelligence term paper 13717

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Why IQ tests don't test intelligence

The task of trying to quantify a person’s intelligence has been a goal

of psychologists since before the beginning of this century. The

Binet-Simon scales were first proposed in 1905 in Paris, France and

various sorts of tests have been evolving ever since. One of the

important questions that always comes up regarding these tools is what

are the tests really measuring? Are they measuring a person’s

intelligence? Their ability to perform well on standardized tests? Or

just some arbitrary quantity of the person’s IQ? When examining the

situations around which these tests are given and the content of the

tests themselves, it becomes apparent that however useful the tests may

be for standardizing a group’s intellectual ability, they are not a good

indicator of intelligence.

To issue a truly standardized test, the testing environment should be

the same for everyone involved. If anything has been learned from the

psychology of perception, it is clear that a person’s environment has a

great deal to do with their cognitive abilities. Is the light

flickering? Is the paint on the walls an unsettling shade? Is the

temperature too hot or too cold? Is the chair uncomfortable? Or in the

worst case, do they have an illness that day? To test a person’s mind,

it is necessary to utilize their body in the process. If everyone’s

body is placed in different conditions during the testing, how is it

expected to get standardized results across all the subjects? Because

of this assumption that everyone will perform equally independent of

their environment, intelligence test scores are skewed and cannot be

viewed as standardized, and definitely not as an example of a person’s

intelligence.

It is obvious that a person’s intelligence stems from a variety of

traits. A few of these that are often tested are reading comprehension,

vocabulary, and spatial relations. But this is not all that goes into

it. What about physical intelligence, conversational intelligence,

social intelligence, survival intelligence, and the slew of others that

go into everyday life? Why are these important traits not figured into

intelligence tests? Granted, normal standardized tests certainly get

predictable results where academics are concerned, but they should not

be considered good indicators of general intelligence because of the

glaring omissions they make in the testing process. To really gauge a

person’s intelligence, it would be necessary to put them through a

rigorous set of real-life trials and document their performance.

Otherwise the standardized IQ tests of today are testing an extremely

limited quality of a person’s character that can hardly be referred to

as intelligence.

For the sake of brevity, I will quickly mention a few other common

criticisms of modern IQ tests. They have no way to compensate for

cultural differences. People use different methods to solve problems.

People’s reading strategies differ. Speed is not always the best way to

tackle a problem. There is often too much emphasis placed on

vocabulary. Each of these points warrants individual treatment, and for

more information refer to The Triarchic Mind by RJ Sternberg (Penguin

Books, 1988, p18-36).

It is possible to classify all the reasons that IQ tests fail at their

task into two main groups. The first grouping is where the tests assume

too much. Examples of this flaw are the assumption that speed is always

good, vocabulary is a good indicator of intelligence, and that different

test taking environments won’t affect the outcome. The second grouping

comes because the tests gauge the wrong items. Examples of this are

different culture groups being asked to take the same tests as everyone

else, and the fact that the tests ignore so many types of intelligence

(like physical, social, etc). These two groupings illustrate where the

major failings of popular IQ tests occur and can be used as tools for

judging others.

IQ tests are not good indicators for a person’s overall intelligence,

but as their use has shown, they are extremely helpful in making

predictions about how a person will perform in an academic setting.

Perhaps the problem comes in the name intelligence tests when it is

obvious this is not what they really are. The modern IQ test definitely

has its applications in today’s society but should be be used to

quantify a person’s overall intelligence by any means.

Word Count: 718

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