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Leo Jung: Chairman, Vancouver Mensa Speaker’s Group, Vancouver Area Proctor


Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 1.B, Subject: Psychology

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Undergraduate Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: November 19, 2012

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2013

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 990

ISSN 2369-6885

Issue 1.B, Subject: Psychology

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Tests:  Are they a Valid Measure of Intelligence?

I conduct IQ tests in the Vancouver, B.C. area for people who wish to join the international high-IQ group Mensa.  To join Mensa, the only criterion is to have an IQ in the top 2% of the population.

Three of the most common questions which people ask me about IQ tests are:  ‘Are IQ tests a valid measure of intelligence?’, ‘Can I improve my score by writing sample exams?’, and ‘what about other measures of intelligence such as emotional IQ?’

To answer these questions, I refer to the origin of the modern IQ test, which was invented in France in 1905.  The object of the test at that time was to identify children with verbal disabilities.  Later on, IQ tests were used as screens to identify students with the highest potential.  Controversially, IQ tests were also used in the distant past to deny opportunities to students with different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.  This discrimination led some social scientists to try to disprove the effectiveness of IQ tests in general.  Does this mean that the use of IQ tests to measure intelligence is in dispute?  Not really.  The Wiki write-up on Intelligence Quotient (2012) summarizes the modern consensus:

Well-constructed IQ tests are generally accepted as an accurate measure of intelligence by the scientific community, but a minority continue to contest its efficacy as a metric, claiming instead that IQ represents (only) a type of intelligence.

Modern studies tend to show that high IQ has a strong correlation with superior scholastic achievement, the ability to learn skills quickly to succeed in the workplace, and to gain monetary success.

In 1921, psychologist Lewis Terman began a study of 1000 children who scored well in IQ tests.  Terman’s study was to follow the group throughout their lives, and identify the group’s common characteristics.  In 2003, 200 of the original group were still alive and participating in the long-term study.  Although Terman has died, scientists at Stanford University continue the study which will terminate when the last of the group die or drop out of the study.

Terman published the results in five volumes ‘Genetic Studies of Genius.’  The fifth volume represents the most recent follow up.  Terman concluded that in the group of 1000, the gifted had good health and normal personalities.  Most did well socially, academically, and had lower divorce rates.  Most in the group were generally successful, with many awards reflecting their achievements academically and within society.  (Seagoe, M.V., 1975)  While most reached their potential in adulthood, a few children in this group did not do well due to a number of factors, which included personal obstacles, insufficient education, and lack of opportunity.  (Bernreuter, et al.  , 1942)

Other studies show IQ strongly correlated with academic success and superior performance in business, science, and sport.  One of these studies demonstrated the use of IQ as a predictor of income by removing biases such as family socio-economic background.  Herrnstein published the study in the 1994 book “the Bell Curve”, et al. (Herrnstein, et al., 1994) ‘The Bell Curve’ provoked controversy because it also tried to demonstrate racial differences in IQ.  However, it has been shown by others that racial IQ differences are primarily due to different cultures having different educational and socio-economic opportunities.  One can only compare IQ and success in groups with identical cultural backgrounds.

One of the more unusual studies was conducted at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.  The study by Dr.’s Weinberg of S.F.U. and Bennett of U.B.C. was titled ‘Human Perception:  a Network Theory Approach,’ published in the journal Nature.  (Weinberg, et al., December 1968)  The study measured participant’s IQ scores and then correlated the ability of the brain of each subject to react to a strobe light.  It found a linear relation:  the higher the IQ, the faster the reaction time.  To this day, one of the criterion in the U.S. Air Force in selecting fighter pilots is to screen for those with the highest IQ scores.

An interesting result of the Weinberg/Bennett study is that it suggests that IQ tests measure the ability of the brain to respond quickly, and to learn quickly.  While a particular IQ test may require a working knowledge of English, or the ability to predict the next pattern, skills that involve some cultural bias, it is difficult to say why those with high IQ scores have brains, which respond more quickly to a stimulus.

Finally, what are other ways of measuring intelligence?  Social scientists have identified over a hundred traits, which contribute to intelligence.  One of the modern ideas was ‘Emotional IQ’ a term coined in Payne’s 1985 Ph.D. thesis Developing Emotional Intelligence.  While the ability of the use of such traits to measure intelligence seem plausible, only long-term scientific studies of a large cohort of subjects such as the study Terman constructed will demonstrate whether such conjectures are valid.  Only time will tell.


Bernreuter, et al. (1942) ‘Studies in Personality’

Herrnstein, et al. (1994) ‘The Bell Curve’

Payne,  W. (1985) ‘Developing Emotional Intelligence’  Ph.D. thesis

Seagoe, M.V. (1975) ‘Terman and the Gifted’

Terman, L.  ‘Genetic Studies of Genius’ five volumes beginning 1926 as the ongoing

study progresses

Weinberg, et al. (December 1968) ‘Human Perception:  a Network Theory Approach’  Nature

Wikipedia (2012) ‘Intelligence Quotient’


Creative Commons Licence In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-sight, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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