An Argument against IQ Tests

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In our post-industrial economy, intelligence is a characteristic that is extremely important for success. There is a strong correlation between IQ scores and performance in school and work. All other factors being equal, those with a high IQ score are more likely to get ahead in the world than those with low IQ scores. Nevertheless, there has been some criticism to the way we measure IQ. Some claim that IQ tests are not a valid measure of intelligence, while others say that the tests we currently used are biased.

Intelligence is usually measured with a standardized, timed test which measures different aspects of intelligence such as digit symbol-coding, picture completion, block design, matrix reasoning, picture arrangement, symbol search, and object assembly. The results are usually standardized and assigned a numeric equivalent, with 100 being average. Those with scores significantly below 100 may be labeled mentally disabled while those with scores significantly above 100 may be considered intellectually gifted.

There are some, however, who claim that it is invalid to simply assign an arbitrary number to intelligence. They say that there are many aspects of intelligence and that not all of these can be quantified. Further, because IQ tests do not measure all aspects of intelligence, but require being proficient in other aspects of intelligence to receive a good score, they may yield inaccurate results. For example, they may show that a child is mentally retarded when they simply have a hard time understanding the format of the test.

Intelligence tests are often criticized for being biased. Some say that white, affluent Americans do better on IQ tests than the average African American or Latino because the tests were designed by the affluent, so it is this group that understands the best. The tests might use a certain type of language, or tape into cultural experience that minorities simply do not have.

Others say that thee is no bias in the tests themselves, but there is bias in the way the results are used. IQ test scores would make it appear that African Americans are somehow genetically less intelligent than whites. This is not true, but one could infer that from the tests. Rather, it is likely that income and/or opportunities for education have much more of an effect on this phenomena than simple genes. He have documented, for example, that IQ scores among African Americans have risen significantly as their economic situation relative to whites has improved.

Until we come up with a better way to measure intelligence, however, the IQ test is probably going to stay around for a little while. That will be good news for all of the Mensa members out there who take great pride in their supposed intellectual advantage over the rest of humanity.

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