Every student can learn, no matter how smart they are. But some students struggle in school. There, they receive additional help in areas where they struggle. Intelligence quotient tests can help teachers determine which students would benefit from this extra help. These tests can also help identify students who would do well in fast-paced “gifted education” programs.
Many colleges and universities also use exams similar to IQ tests to select students. They also measure how well people can solve puzzles and remember information they have heard, and how quickly. Most people think that intelligence is the reason that successful people do so well. Psychologists who study intelligence find this to be only partially true. But extraordinary achievements depend on many things. Intelligence matters. But not as much as you might think.
Measure the Intelligence quotient
Intelligence quotient tests have been around for over a century. Military leaders knew that allowing unqualified people to enter battle could be dangerous. So they used the tests to help find qualified candidates. The military continues to do that today. This qualification test is one of the manyIntelligence quotient tests used.
Intelligence quotient tests serve many different purposes, notes Joel Schneider. He is a psychologist from Illinois State University at Normal. Some tests are designed to evaluate children of specific ages. Some are for adults.
Questions on Intelligence quotient Tests
Questions about important historical figures fall into the category of "knowledge." Knowledge-based questions assess what a person knows about the world. For example, they might ask if people know why it is important to wash their hands before eating. IQ tests also ask more difficult questions to measure someone's knowledge. These types of questions assess whether someone knows about things that are valued in their culture, explains Schneider.
These knowledge-based questions measure what scientists call crystallized intelligence. But some categories of Intelligence quotient tests are not about knowledge at all. Some deal with memory. Others measure what is called fluid intelligence. That is the ability of a person to use logic and reason to solve a problem. For example, examinees may have to find out what a shape would look like if it were turned. Fluid intelligence is behind the “aha” moments, moments when you suddenly connect the dots to see the big picture.
The Studies of Aki Nikolaidis
In a study published earlier this year, Aki Nikolaidis and his team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studied 71 adults. At the same time, they mapped which areas of the examinees' brains were working the hardest. They did this using a brain scan called magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or MRS. It uses magnets to search for particular molecules of interest in the brain. MRS scans allow researchers to peek into those leftovers.
People who scored higher in fluid intelligence tended to have more glucose traces in certain parts of their brain. These areas are on the left side of the brain and towards the front. They are involved with planning movements, with spatial visualization, and with reasoning. They are all key aspects of problem solving. "It is important to understand how intelligence relates to the structure and function of the brain," says Nikolaidis. That, she adds, could help scientists develop better ways to boost fluid intelligence.
Scott Barry Kaufman Studies
Intelligence quotient tests "measure a set of skills that are important to society," says Scott Barry Kaufman. He is a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. One reason: Intelligence quotient tests favor people who can think on the spot. It is a skill that many capable people lack. It's also something Kaufman appreciates more than anyone else. When I was a child, I needed more time to process the words I heard. That slowed down his learning.
His school put him in special education classes, where he remained until high school. Finally, an observant teacher suggested that he would do well in regular classes. He made the change and, with a lot of work, he did it well. Kaufman now studies what he calls "personal intelligence." It's how people's natural abilities and interests combine to help them work toward their goals. Intelligence quotient is one of those skills. Self-control is another. Both help people focus their attention when they need it, like at school.
Psychologists group a person's focused attention, self-control, and problem solving into a skill they call executive function. The brain cells behind executive function are known as the executive control network. This network turns on when someone is taking an IQ test. Many of the same areas of the brain are involved in fluid intelligence. But personal intelligence is more than an executive function. It is tied to personal goals. If people are working toward some goal, they will be interested and focused on what they are doing.
They can daydream about a project even when they are not actively working on it. Although daydreaming may seem like a waste of time for strangers, it can have great benefits for the person who does it. When engaged in a task, such as learning, people want to keep doing it, explains Kaufman. That means they will move on, long after they were expected to give up. Engagement also allows a person to switch between focused attention and mind wandering. That dream state can be an important part of intelligence. Often, while the mind is "wandering," sudden intuitions or hunches arise about how something works.
As you daydream, a default mode network is activated within the brain. For a long time, psychologists thought that the default mode network was active only when the executive control network was resting. In other words, you couldn't focus on one activity and daydream at the same time.
While scanning the brains of 25 college students, the researchers asked the students to think of as many creative uses as they could for everyday objects. And because the students were being as creative as possible, parts of the network by default and the executive control network were turned on. The two systems were not at odds with each other. Rather, Kaufman suspects, the two networks work together to make creativity possible. "Creativity seems to be a unique state of consciousness," Kaufman says now. And he believes it is critical to problem solving.
Turn potential into achievement
Being smart doesn't mean someone is successful. That's a take-home message from work from people like Angela Duckworth. Most people believed that intelligence and talent were important. When Duckworth investigated more deeply, she found that the people who performed better, those who were promoted over and over again, or who made a lot of money, shared an independent trait of intelligence. They had what you now call guts. Grit has two parts: passion and perseverance. Passion points to a lasting interest in something.
Intelligence quotient and Perseverance
Duckworth developed a series of questions to assess passion and perseverance. She calls it her "sand scale." In a study of people 25 and older, she found that as people get older, they are more likely to stick with a project. She also found that determination increases with education. People who had finished college scored higher on the sand scale than people who quit before graduation.
That is not surprising. Getting good grades requires intelligence and hard work. But Duckworth also found that intelligence and determination don't always go hand in hand. On average, students with higher test scores tended to be less courageous than those with lower scores. But some people respond that this value may not be all it seems. Among those people is Marcus Credé. He is a psychologist from Iowa State University in Ames. Recently, he put together the results of 88 sand studies.
Together, those studies involved nearly 67,000 people. And determination didn't predict success, Credé discovered. However, he believes that determination is very similar to consciousness. That ability of someone to set goals, work toward them, and think things through before acting. It's a basic personality trait, Credé points out, not something that can be changed. But in the long run, resisting can lead to great achievements.
Beaty et al. Default and executive network coupling supports creative idea production. Nature Scientific Reports. Vol. 5, Published online June 17, 2015, p. 10964.
Credé, M.C. Tynan and P.D. Harms. Much ado about grit: A meta-analytic synthesis of the grit literature. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. June 16, 2016.
Duckworth et al. Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 92, June 2007, p. 1087.
McMillan et al. Ode to positive constructive daydreaming. Frontiers in Psychology. Vol. 5, September 23, 2013, p. 1.
Nikolaidis et al. Multivariate associations of fluid intelligence and NAA. Cerebral Cortex. Published early online March 22, 2016.