Okay, I am kind of skeptical about IQ tests. I think they only measures the speed of a person's reasoning abilities as well as a small portion of knowledge (or just knowledge). I kind of think that any person is capable of solving any problem by just having the main/neccessary knowledge of the problem. For example, in a question like this:

if x = 5 and y = 5. What is the value of x when multiplied by y?

The example above can only be answered if one knows what the word "multiplied" means. As you can see, that actually test your verbal and mathematical knowledge, it doesn't actually measures your intelligence.

Now assuming that one knows what the word "multiplied" means. One should be able to solve the problem, and it would just be a matter of time, in other words it would be a matter of how quick my reasoning abilities operate.

Disclaimer: I am not a philosopher, nor do I have a huge amount of knowledge in the subject. And I really hope I made sense.

  • 1) There are people who know what multiplied means and still cannot solve that question, what about them? 2) what exactly do you use for a definition of intelligence? – user2953 May 6 '13 at 7:02
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    This isn't a philosophy question as phrased, as far as I can tell. If you want to learn about IQ tests and what scores on them correlate with, and what various tests intend to and/or do measure, just read Wikipedia. Pay particular attention to g (or read the separate article on it). – Rex Kerr May 6 '13 at 11:03
  • > if x = 5 and y = 5. What is the value of x when multiplied by y? > > The example above can only be answered if one knows what the word > "multiplied" means. How is this so? Suppose the question was: > What is the value of x when gubberflibbed by y? The answer would still be: > 5, according to the assumption. – Ingo Dec 25 '13 at 11:43
  • agree with @RexKerr really. g is a scary concept. not to stick my oar in, but if dyslexia (reading disability) exists, why not multiple intelligences? – user25714 Jul 13 '17 at 3:44
  • IMO, IQ tests loosely measure people's ability to critically reason, but they typically don't control for education level which has a huge impact on reasoning ability. Consequently, you'll see less developed nations with lower average scores. – Canadian Coder Jul 13 '17 at 21:19

The problem is that 'intelligence' is pretty much a recognise-it-when-you-see-it kind of attribute; as you say, there are plenty of indicators of intelligence that are highly culture-specific, and even fairly culture-neutral tests are very succeptible to scores increasing with practice.

So in one sense IQ tests (which are very varied, and range from tests of verbal reasoning through 'pick the successor' non-verbal tests through interviews with psychologists) only measure how good one is at performing that specific test. But a lot of effort is expended in trying to ensure that 'being good at this test' correlates as highly as possible with what we'd recognise as 'intelligence' generally. It's a specific instance of the general problem of measuring a fuzzily-defined feature.

So yes, you're right to be skeptical; IQ tests generally produce widely divergent scores (at two different tests in the same sitting I scored 124 and 161) and give a false perception of authority (to the extent that they are used in employment and academic selection processes); it's probably true that you're better off directly testing the skills you require than assuming IQ tests give you what you want. But you should also be aware that, while you think you might have a good notion of what 'intelligence' is, it's an extremely hard concept to pin down in any way more reliable than what IQ tests give.

  • Thanks for the insight. I know intelligence is a hard concept but was referring to it as the general/everage view of it(the skilled use of reason). – NelDoozy May 6 '13 at 20:35

No, of course not. Intelligence is much more complex and subtle than that. Why should one be able to reduce it to a number? But of course we make judgements about people - we say someone is intelligent, cunning, witty, charismatic etc. So one could say we are simply quantifying this.

The essential problem of IQ is that its specific to a certain Western Culture; and specific to a certain nexus of skills within that - that is scientific. The tests usually measure geometrical, verbal, numerical and logical reasoning. So, yes; it does measure intelligence - the intelligence of men and women within the scientific subculture of Western civilisation: One would not expect the Bushmen of the Kalahari to do well. Nor the Pequeno of Amazon who do not have much use for numbers. This is not because that they lack intelligence.

But even then it has problems - for example, it has no predictive value. I very much doubt if one had access to the IQs of Nobel Prize winners that they will be especially high. They are just high enough. Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in Physics had an IQ of 125. Much higher than that shows that one is simply a virtosi in doing well in IQ tests and probably a bore - not that one is a potential Nobel-Prize winning Physicist or Biologist.

A much more interesting question would be track why and how IQ tests have been used. What this says about the role of reason, the intellect and the kind of skills being measured in that society.

  • IQ has extremely good predictive value for academic success, for life earnings, for life expectancy, for life satisfaction etc. No, it cannot predict Nobel Prize winners, but that's probably because there are many other factors that are needed for that than having a high IQ. – JonB May 25 '20 at 14:37

IQ tests certainly measure something, and that is correlated in populations with what we usually think of as signs of intelligence; academic and socioeconomic success.

Make your own mind up about what that means.

If IQ tests did not measure any aspect of intelligence, then surely there's no such thing as e.g. "working memory". How could a measure of working memory like the digit span test, even if it is not a very reliable measure, not be correlated with "intelligence"? That does not mean that "intelligence" is only measured by IQ tests, which is either absurd or vacuous. However, "intelligence" presumably does involve cognitive powers, like Short Term Memory.

Personally, I'd like an "intelligence" test to reliably test memory, short and long term, and then add something more qualitative or person centered. Comprehension, facility, etc., at what the subject is best at. So a combination of IQ and 'multiple intelligences'.


I would say personally it all depends on the test, though that is just a guess as I have only taken one. I assume one could make a fairly accurate IQ test, but even then you would only be testing for certain elements of intelligence.

For example of the WAIS test that I took, I do not think it was a fair measure of a persons reasoning skills at all. Some of the methods used where in comparing words and asking how they were similar. I have a problem with this not because of what is being tested, but how it was tested at least for myself. It was clear the instructor was looking for one specific relation between the two words, and they didn't give a clear meaning of what they were looking for. They never said if they wanted an abstract or a direct comparison. So when asked I just threw answers out there, and what I saw was the instructor waiting til I gave one specific example. Which I think is bullshit. If a person can give you hundreds of comparisons, and someone else can only think of one; Yet the one they think of is the comparison you are looking for then the person who could only think of one would get a higher score. Which I think is just plan silly. This was how it was for any word analysis on the test. While the instructor didn't pick up on it, I was watching her very carefully. I was monitoring her actions to be sure how she was testing me.

There was also the issue with each category that was tested for being only tested for individually. We know the Corpus Collasum is responsible for the interaction between the two hemisphers of the brain. A person can have strengths in this area, so shouldn't we also do tests which rely on multiple categories to get an indication of how they put everything together?

Another complain was how knowledge was integrated into the test. While I do know Crystalline intelligence is based on knowledge I do think it is based on wither you know a particular word. I think it is based on the amount of knowledge you have stored in your head to refer back to. So when you just test for a persons understanding of certain words you are being bias. A kid who has studied physics and math, biology, and various other aspects. Yet did not study literature might have a lot more information to refer back to, than one who just studied literature. The test however would give different results. Which again I just think is silly. In honest regarding testing of knowledge, I think you should test for as many words as possible. You should test for a persons understanding of the word, not just their ability to give you one definition. Can they describe how it functions, can they describe certain aspects of it? This wasn't tested for. I also think if something isn't know it should be stricken from the test, and the category should be measure the same way, as if the person had answered all questions. We would then have to have difference confidence levels for each person taking the test, but I think it would be more accurate. Though I need to do more research to be sure, as others have said intelligence is not simple at all.

I am going to stop now, I could right a full length article on the problems with test. Which considering my grammar and sentence structure is poor would be a bad idea. The point is I did not think the test accurate. And I must acknowledge that I can't know for certain if I would have done better or worse had it been more accurate, as all those aspects that impair it's accuracy would effect other test takers as well. I think where these tests shine is pointing out if someone is mentally handicapped or not. That would be something I feel the processing speed and working memory categories could to some degree measure accurately. Though focus can also impact those scores, so even then it wouldn't be perfect, but it would be alright I think.

At the end of the day it doesn't really matter too much anyways. I say aim for the stars, try and go as far as you can. If you don't make it well at least you tried. May an IQ test be accurate at measuring intelligence? Some of them likely are, but even so what matters is can you do what you want to do. If you want to be a physicist or a philosopher will an IQ test tell you that you are cut out for it? I don't think so, what will is actually trying to go into a field and seeing how well you perform.


No, unless one goes to the extreme of retroactively redefining intelligence to mean an IQ test score.

Which was done in the 1920s by psychologists Catherine Cox Miles and Lewis Terman, (her eugenicist supervisor), who published an absurd list of 300 posthumous IQ scores of historically eminent people based only on snippets of biographical data! That is their "test" consisted of various points and scaled ratings being applied to biographical details, which is completely different from the usual sort of IQ test. The typical IQ test is far more similar to an SAT test than a series of posthumous biographical ratings, just as a red raspberry is more similar to a blackberry than it is to a kumquat, but while we don't go around calling SAT tests "IQ tests", or raspberries "blackberries", Cox and Terman succeeded in effect to calling a raspberry a "kumquat", and thereafter this hubristic conflation floated around as pseudo-psychological folklore in the popular press for decades... and it is still naively pondered online in 2020.

Alfred Binet, the originator of IQ tests had only intended for the test to help show which school children needed more tutoring.

  • The institutional over-estimation of IQ tests probably does indirectly measure institutional racism however, which is arguably one of the most serious forms of institutional stupidity, or rather of institutional unintelligence. – agc May 25 '20 at 5:25

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