The truth about intelligence: Do IQ tests really work?


C.J. Burton/Getty By Linda Geddes Russell Warne has spent many hours scrutinising undergraduate psychology textbooks. As a professor of psychology at Utah Valley University, he wasn’t looking for insight, but for mistakes – and he found plenty. Some of the worst concerned IQ tests. “The most common inaccuracy I found, by far, was the claim that intelligence tests are biased against certain groups,” he says. Yet intelligence researchers are at pains to ensure that IQ tests are fair and not culturally biased. “Another, very common one was the idea that intelligence is difficult to measure.” No wonder IQ tests are often considered controversial and flaky. But that simply isn’t the case. “Despite the critiques, the intelligence test is one of the most reliable and solid behavioural tests ever invented,” says Rex Jung at the University of New Mexico. That said, you shouldn’t trust the kind of 10-minute test that might pop up in your Facebook feed. A comprehensive IQ test takes well over an hour and is ideally administered by a professional examiner. It is designed to assess precisely those cognitive skills that constitute intelligence, so consists of a series of subtests that cover reasoning, vocabulary, mental processing speed, spatial ability and more. Shorter IQ tests, assessing fewer of these skills, can still provide a general indication of someone’s mental abilities, however,
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