C/O Jesse Martini

Intelligence is made up of more than one IQ test

By: Rankini Kulatilake, Contributor

If FP = 10 and HX = 16, what does DS mean? The answer? 15, the number of alphabetical spaces between the two letters. This is an example of a question from the Mensa IQ test. The Intelligence Quotient test is largely regarded as a way to assess intellectual capacity.

Yet, a closer look at the IQ test reveals that intelligence cannot be measured using a single test. This is illustrated through the reality that the IQ test isn’t subjective, coupled with the fact that intelligence is not composed of one element.

When approaching intelligence in a culturally diverse context, using an IQ test created in Western society in a different community would result in the exclusion of factors that determine what each community sees as intelligent behaviour. One model of intelligence is not universal as it doesn't take into account key points such as cultural values.  

Richard Nisbett, an American psychologist, suggests that the Western belief includes the ability to engage in logical discussion while the Eastern view focuses on social roles and the capability to identify contradiction and complexity. Therefore, the IQ test is neither objective nor equal in its assessment of cognitive ability. Intellect cannot be quantified using one biased form of evaluation as it does not consider the vast differences between cultures.

In a study conducted by Adrian Owen, a professor at Western University, it was concluded that one test cannot judge the cognitive performance of a person. Human intelligence is not made up of a singular component, but rather a multitude of elements. Therefore, the idea of intelligence has a variety of definitions and ideas. 

One recent theory is Howard Gardner’s, in which he proposes the idea of eight intelligences which includes values from different cultures and various skills. Intelligence is not composed of one element but is categorized by different capacities, including interpersonal and musical capacities.  

Now, if a writer with exceptional literature skills isn’t math-oriented, their intellectual ability isn’t diminished. Contrarily, it proves that there is another field where they would excel. As university students, there may be subjects that many of us still struggle with. The same argument goes for many of us who feel that our unsatisfactory results in one area lessen our intelligence. Judging the mind through one viewpoint takes away value from the other kinds of intelligence present. 

In spite of this, the IQ test is an effective way to identify young children who may need additional education services, such as “gifted” programs. The gifted program uses IQ tests to determine a student’s admission. These programs help students who are struggling in the general stream reach their full potential as the classroom supports each student’s learning style. However, these programs have traditionally shown a lack of diversity. 

In TDSB public schools, students in the gifted stream are disproportionately white and from higher-income families. This imbalance only allows for further inequities beyond public school, translating into post-secondary and work life as well. 

“TDSB’s gifted program is lacking in racial diversity and needs a total overhaul,” stated Carl James, a professor at York University. 

The fact is the IQ test has indirectly led to inequality and has negatively impacted students of colour. Judging students’ intellect by one subjective test does more harm than good. Casting aside all other factors to place a label on one group of students based on one test is not only harmful to others who harness the potential to fulfill that label, but sets a dangerous precedent for future educational development. As intelligence cannot be accurately quantified, using one test that does not take into account many crucial elements of intellectual ability results in social inequality that translates beyond school. 

The IQ test claims to objectively measure intelligence, yet it has been proven otherwise through its exclusion of important cultural differences and other components that contribute to intelligence. When we look around at our peers, we see different values and abilities. While one may argue that one subject produces “smarter” students than another, that’s simply not true. “Intelligence” incorporates a wide variety of elements that cannot be judged through one lens. At the end of the day, our intelligence cannot be compiled into a single number.

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