Science & Tech / Discoveries

Sorry, Brainiacs. It Looks Like IQ Scores Are a Myth

By: Chris O'Shea

Leave it to scientists to prove things that seem to be fairly common sense. In the latest example, several researchers at the University of Western Ontario's Brain and Mind Institute have concluded that IQ scores are sort of irrelevant. Or rather, a myth. Yes, the numbers that people constantly cite as a measure of intelligence — numbers that have never really proven anything about anyone, ever — aren't worth a damn.

The study to uncover the IQ "myth" was led by Dr. Adrian Owen, a man who can say that he is the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging. A fancy title means you must study fancy things, so naturally Owen went after IQ scores and the brains that lust after them. Since IQ testing is so prevalent in school systems, Owen wanted to look into the number fascination and determine if it all mattered.

To come to his "Hmm... Maybe IQ scores don't matter after all" conclusion, Owen and his team bought some ads asking for participants on Discovery.com and in the magazine New Scientist. Somehow word of the study spread like wildfire and before Owen knew it, he had too many people who wanted to participate. Along with his team, Owen worked on the list of applicants and narrowed (to use that term lightly) it down to 100,000 people. From there, he asked them all to take a series of 12 cognitive online tests (you too can take them by clicking here, if you want). While they took the tests, Owen conducted brain scanning on a small sample, to see if "IQ" was visible. It wasn't.

"If there is something in the brain that is IQ, we should be able to find it by scanning," explained Owen to The Star. "But it turns out there is no one area in the brain that accounts for people’s so-called IQ. In fact, there are three completely different networks that respond — verbal abilities, reasoning abilities and short-term memory abilities — that are in quite different parts of the brain."

The results prompted Owen and his team to declare that IQ scores were worthless. "When we looked at the data, the bottom line is the whole concept of IQ — or of you having a higher IQ than me — is a myth," said Owen. "There is no such thing as a single measure of IQ or a measure of general intelligence." Instead, Owen insisted, people's intelligence should be measured through a combination of three factors: Their ability to reason, their short-term memory and their verbal ability.

We obviously agree that IQ scores are ridiculous. There is no one way to measure human intelligence, because duh — to use a scientific term — every human is created differently. We do have one question though: Where was Owen and his team when we had to take the SATs?

[Image via Flickr - DigitalBob8]

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  • Picture of elby

    Intelligence. What IQ actually measures is LOGIC, which is reasoning. A person with an IQ of 95 will take a long time if not forever to understand the theories of Einstein, or Stephan Hawking. IQ does matter as it defines peoples ability to see reason. I personally have a high IQ, I value it, and i get irritated when I am trying to explain a concept or theory of mine to my classmates who can’t understand what I am saying, things that I understand straight away after hearing it, but takes everyone else ages to figure out and understand. I am very good at finding discrepancies in everything, theories, people, everything. I want everything to make logical sense. I see people say that LOGIC is not intelligence, IQ is not intelligence. Some say that feeling is an intelligence, that how well we interact with others is intelligence, or how well we share our emotions to others, our “EQ”. But the fact is for me, the reason I am not good at interacting with others is because I “over-think”. I come up with an incredible amount of possibilities of the outcome of the interaction, and then I look at the past and calculate the chances of the interaction turning out badly. Most social people just go out there with out “over-thinking”, but to over think the possible out comes of the event requires abstract thinking, logic, the ability to predict the future based on the data which we have gathered through my experiences. Then there is the feelings. Decisions based on feelings are illogical, irrational, but we are all humans and our irrational behaviors is what makes us humans and not robots. People who base the majority of their decisions based on feelings are less intelligent than people who use logic to make decisions. These types of people are easy to manipulate as they fail to see possibilities and think out side the box, probably because they lack logic, which is IQ. I don’t see how memory is Intelligence. Remembering something will not make one smarter, this is so illogical, some monkeys, probably apes has better memory than us, but we are obviously superior in intelligence. To get to where we are now, it was the people with high IQ that creates technology. For me personally, I think we are less unique than we think we are. I think there is a definite number of personality types in our species. But one personality type will be shaped by the knowledge he acquires, and his environment, still same personality, the same motives, but different beliefs and values because of the environment they were brought up with, but we can easily predict what this types motives are. IQ will also define the personality of the specific personality type.

    elby --- Nov 24, 2014 - 4:48 AMReply

    • Picture of rs

      If your IQ is really that high wouldn’t you have deemed it ‘‘logical’’ to quickly check the grammar in your comment? Seeing as you’re so adamant on flaunting your intelligence and logic this absence of a simple application of logic seems to undermine this self-professed higher intellect.
      Stay humble.

      rs --- Nov 16, 2015 - 2:57 PMReply

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