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]