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
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.