History and Information about the IQ Test Part 1

About the intelligence quotient or IQ test used to gauge people's smarts, history and other information on the famous tests.

Inside the IQ Test

A Pea under a Mattress? In a dusty London museum in 1882, there took place an experiment reminiscent of the old fairy story about the princess who proved her royal blood when she complained that a tiny pea secretly placed under a pile of mattresses disturbed her sleep. In London, however, it was "intelligence" rather than nobility that was being sought. Volunteers subjected themselves to a series of tests--judging the weights of rocks, distinguishing among high-pitched sounds, and reacting to pinpricks. Their reward was an evaluation of their mental abilities, which, the experimenter thought, was directly related to sensory sensitivity.

Though crude, this experiment was a landmark--the 1st attempt to measure intelligence with some kind of test. Its originator was Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. (Experts on intelligence think Galton was probably even brighter than his famous relative.)

Stunts? Of course, Galton's test was based on a shaky premise--that sensory sensitivity and intelligence are somehow directly related. Psychologists have since tried to devise more accurate measure of intellectual ability. It was Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, who came up with the 1st practical ones. In 190, the Government gave him the job of culling out dull students in the schools around Paris. With Dr. Theodore Simon, Binet devised a scale with 54 multiphasic tests that would make the task easier. The Binet-Simon tests measured a fairly wide spectrum of abilities--to comprehend words, form mental images, pay attention, sustain muscular efforts, and judge distances, among others. A down-to-earth individual, Binet did not try to define exactly what intelligence was, nor did he make any wild claims for his tests, even going so far as to refer to the individual items casually as "stunts."

Simon later came up with the idea of relating age level to test performance. Other intelligence-test experts refined this idea until today IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is a score derived from a mathematical formula:

mental age/chronological age*100=IQ

Thus, if a 10-year-old achieves a score equal to that of the average 10-year-old, his intelligence quotient is 100. If his raw score is as high as that of the average 15-year-old, then his IQ score ostensibly is 150. (In actual practice, scores are somewhat weighted.) A person scoring around 100 on an IQ test is considered average, since 100 is the mean IQ. The top 3% of the population has an IQ of over 130, the top 1% over 140.

The Stanford-Binet test in use today is a sophisticated descendant of the original series of stunts devised by Binet and Simon back in 1904. Other tests, of course, are also being used. One is the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale, which contains more nonverbal tests--e.g. re-creating block designs or arranging items in a meaningful sequence--than does the Stanford-Binet. Another, still in the experimental stage, hopes to correlate brain-wave activity with intelligence.

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