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IQ Test or IA Test?

A lot is made of IQ testing. There are large organizations whose membership is based on how high one's IQ score is (MENSA comes to mind). Some will say that the validity of the tests, or at least their preciseness in measuring one's intelligence is suspect. But more than that, what they measure does not necessarily relate to real life performance.

For example, a recent study, reported in the journal Psychological Science, found that while IQ level did correlate with academic performance, there was a much stronger correlation with self discipline. In general, those students with a high level of self-discipline have better grades than high-IQ students. They also found no correlation between IQ and discipline, and that they are traits which vary independently.

If an IQ test doesn't predict the likelihood or even ability to apply one's intelligence to academic success, let alone other real life situations, perhaps it's time for a new kind of test. What I've got in mind is an "intelligence application" or "IA test." The idea is to see how well people actually use the intelligence and knowledge they have.

Of course, such a test will have inherent limitations, as all such tests do. If it relies solely on self-reporting by those who take it, it will be affected by psychological factors, as well as plain dishonesty. Nonetheless, it might measure something in a useful way, so let's look at how we could design one. There is no test here, by the way, just an exploration of the idea.

The IA Test

To test how one habitually uses intelligence, a series of paired-questions could be used. The test-taker reveals what he or she knows, and how that knowledge has been used. For example, a question is asked, like, "Do you understand how to budget and handle personal finances?" If the answer is yes, the next question to be answered is: "On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst, how would you rate your current financial troubles?"

As such, it would be a test primarily for personal evaluation, without much objective value. In other words, you could use it too see where you need improvement, but the "score" wouldn't be very useful to others. Another problem with the above model is that it assumes knowledge and intelligence should always be applied to every situation. If we know how to make a better picnic table, that doesn't mean it is important enough to do.

To correct the latter problem, it might be better to start with a series of questions that determines the subject's values. We ask, for example, "On a scale of one to ten, how important are good relationships to you?" We ask, "On a scale of one to ten, how important is creative expression to you?" Then we have some basis for determining an IA score, because for it to be meaningful we should see the application of one's intelligence and knowledge in the areas which are most important to that person.

Now we have a scoring of values. That is followed by determining the intelligence or knowledge level of the person in a given area. Then we determine how well the person has applied that. To demonstrate, let's say that getting his stories published is very important to a person (a "9" rating perhaps). Then he answers "9" to the question, "On a scale of one to ten, how capable do you think you are of learning what it takes to get published?" The final question is, "How many stories have you had published?" If the answer is zero, he gets a low IA score for this.

You can see that this kind of test might need to be custom designed for each subject. It needs to first identify a person's specific values, after all. Of course, there is a simpler test you can score a friend with at any time. Once you know what he wants, and you see that he's capable of getting it, just note whether he follows through and makes some progress towards this goal. We all have known people who are very smart yet never seem to use that brain to do anything important to them. Some of us have been such a person at times.

Perhaps neither an IA test nor an IQ test is such a great idea. Life itself is already a good test of "intelligence application" after all, and it shows us clearly that an IQ score doesn't always tell us something so important about a person.


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