Intelligence quotient (IQ) testing is scientifically controversial and has a varied history. Most IQ tests consist of verbal and performance test items that result in a score with a mean of 100 and standard deviation of 15. As such, the majority of the population (84 percent) lies in a range of 85 to 115 on most IQ tests. Of the numerous discussions of the 20th-century development of intelligence measures, most conclude with one or more of the following precepts:
- Current cognitive ability measures, traditionally called “IQ tests,” now use broader definitions of intelligence factors and less age/development focus, so instead of the descriptor “IQ,” “cognitive” or “ability” or “intelligence” or “intellectual aptitude” is more commonly used.
- Although part of cognitive ability is inherited, debate continues as to the exact proportion and influence of genetics versus environment.
- IQ or cognitive ability tests are strong predictors of academic achievement and social success within groups, but score variability due to education and opportunity makes individual predictions possible but not definitive.
- IQ tests effectively screen for cognitive strengths and weaknesses deserving special education opportunities, including programs for the retarded or gifted. Discrepancies between IQ scores and specific areas of achievement are often used to diagnosis learning disabilities.
Despite demonstrated uses of cognitive ability measures (IQ tests) in schools and employment, a number of scholarly works debate social consequences, ethnic discrimination, and biological determinism. Certainly scholars differ on the use or potential misuse of IQ tests; some even hold that intelligence is social in origin.
Recent research examines recognized phenomena not yet completely explained. These include the notion of multiple intelligences, the longitudinal increase in IQ over the past century, and emotional intelligence as a corollary of cognitive intelligence. All of these lines of scholarship start with traditional IQ testing as a historical or psychometric basis for a springboard to new theories and measures.
Regardless, the widespread use of IQ tests continues and will likely be a topic of research and discussions for the foreseeable future. Started in 1946, an international organization (MENSA) open only to the top 2 percent of IQ-tested people now has more than 100,000 members, suggesting that IQ testing has a popularly desirable outcome for high scorers. No doubt the theories and measures of factors underlying the popular notion of intelligence will continue to foster research and debate.
- Chabris, Christopher F. et al. 1998. “Does IQ Matter?” Commentary 106(5):13-23. Retrieved March 25, 2017 (http://www.chabris.com/Chabris1998b.html).
- Neisser, Ulric et al. 1995. Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns. Report of a Task Force Established by the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: Science Directorate. Retrieved March 25, 2017 (https://www.mensa.ch/sites/default/files/Intelligence_Neisser1996.pdf).
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