The Problem With IQ

Posted on November 13, 2017

Generally speaking, IQ scores are used for educational placement, assessment of intellectual disability, and evaluating job applicants. Modern IQ tests are designed such that 100 is the average score and each standard deviation is 15.
A standard deviation is the average distance between each score and the center point of the data set. One standard deviation above the mean represents an IQ score of 115, two standard deviations is 130, and so on. The same measurement system applies in the other direction. IQ scores of 85 and 70 correspond to one and two standard units below the mean, respectively. Using this system, approximately two-thirds of scores in the population are between IQ 85 and IQ 115. In other words, most people are average.

Originally defined as the ratio of mental age to chronological age, intelligence quotient (IQ) now represents a person’s performance relative to same age peers. This shifts the focus to the rate of development and allows children of different ages to be compared.
For example, a 10-year-old who is demonstrating cognitive performance at the level of a 10-year-old would have an IQ of 100 (10 divided by 10; then multiply by 100). On the other hand, a 10-year-old who is performing at the level of an 8-year-old would have an IQ of 80 (8 divided by 10; then multiply by 100.

IQ testing really helped put psychology on the map in the early 1900s. It started with Alfred Binet’s efforts to reorganize the education system in France. Following this success, he was lured to the United States to work at Stanford University where he helped design the Stanford-Binet IQ test. It remained one of the most widely used assessments for decades

So What is the Problem with IQ Tests?

IQ tests can be misused when we begin to define ourselves by a set of numbers. This is a problem because many people do not understand what the numbers mean. And for people who do have some basic understanding of IQ measurement, self-fulfilling prophecy can become an issue. At a very young age, children might acquire the label of “low IQ” after a single bad test, thus affecting future performance.

These reasons alone are not enough to completely dismiss the idea of IQ testing, but everyone – from policy makers to parents to students – needs to be aware of the limitations. IQ testing is at its worst when decision makers and people in power use a single number to determine future actions such as placement in a school or organization.


Source material from Psychology Today

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