What is an IQ?

The intelligence quotient (IQ) measures the ratio of a person’s intellectual age to his/her chronological age. Most adult intelligence tests are designed for people who are at least 16 years old. For this reason, if you are younger than 16, your Emode IQ score might be slightly lower than your “true” IQ.

History of IQ Testing

One of the first scientific investigations into the concept of intelligence, came from nineteenth-century British scientist, Sir Francis Galton. Galton believed that mental traits, like physical traits, could be inherited. He published his ideas on hereditary intelligence in his book, Hereditary Genius.

Meanwhile in France, psychologist Alfred Binet was exploring ways of measuring children’s’ intelligence. Like Galton, Binet was passionate about testing and measuring human capabilities. Binet worked with two groups of children – those who were average students, and those who were less mentally capable. He discovered that average students could complete certain tasks that less mentally capable students could not. Based on those findings, Binet calculated the “normal” abilities for students within different age groups. From there he could estimate how many years above or below the norm a student’s mental age was.

Just before WWI, German psychologist Wilhelm Stern came up with an alternative to mental age for measuring people’s intelligence. He suggested that a more accurate method for assessing someone’s intelligence was to measure their capabilities given their chronological age. He proposed that for a true estimate of someone’s intelligence, researchers needed to calculate a ratio between the subject’s mental age and their chronological age. Since the resulting numbers were represented by decimals, scientists decided to multiply this “quotient” by 100 to get rid of the decimal places. Thus, the formula for an IQ is: IQ = Mental Age/Chronological Age x 100.

Based on the ratio that Stern created, Lewis Terman, an American psychologist at Stanford University, coined the term Intelligence Quotient for Stern’s Binet test scoring system.

How People Might Evaluate You Based on IQ Score

IQ tests serve as a useful tool for institutions such as public schools and the military, where great numbers of people must be processed quickly and efficiently, and placed in appropriated classes or positions.

In the United States, kindergarten-aged children are often given IQ tests to evaluate whether they need special attention or services. For example, children scoring 130 or over are often considered “gifted” and placed in programs accordingly. However, in most institutional uses of the test nowadays, the importance placed on the actual IQ score has changed.

Did you know?

A widely-cited example of possible cultural bias appeared in the Scholastic Aptitude Test in the early 90s:

Runner: marathon

  1. Envoy: embassy
  2. Martyr: massacre
  3. Oarsman: regatta
  4. Referee: tournament
  5. Horse: stable

(Herrnstein and Murray, 1994) According to many, the answer, 3), is more likely to be answered correctly by upper class children (predominantly white) because they are more inclined to know the definition of regatta.

The military tends to use IQ test results to assess which field a recruit might be best suited to. Instead of relying solely on the intelligence rating, the IQ score, the military will now look at the kinds of questions a recruit answered correctly. Once they know that, they have a better idea of what innate skills the recruit can bring to specific assignments and duties.

And as far as the business world goes, uses of such tests for employment purposes was declared illegal — except in rare circumstances — by the Supreme Court in 1971.

In social life, the IQ test is only really applicable if you’re specifically joining an organization based on IQ scores like Mensa, a society founded in 1964 for people who score in the top 2% of the IQ test. But, in general, there are still some misconceptions about the importance of test results. Chances are, people you know are more likely to be judgmental about a high or low score than most institutions are. Luckily, this is usually just a case of misinformation and is easily remedied.

Did you know?

Robert Jordan, an applicant to the New Haven, CT police force sued the department in 1997 after he was refused entry on grounds that his IQ test score was “too high.” A spokesperson for the police department was quoted as saying people with too high of an IQ “tire of police work and leave not long after undergoing costly academy training.”

Limitations of IQ Testing

Much debate circulates around the different IQ tests that are administered throughout the country. Many researchers claim that the tests measure cultural knowledge and understanding, not innate intelligence. Critics suggest that both IQ and standardized tests are racially and culturally biased.

According to a 1996 report by the American Psychological Association, “Intelligence scores partially predict individual differences in school achievement, such as grade point average and number of years of education that individuals complete.

Nevertheless, population levels of school achievement are not determined solely or even primarily by intelligence or any other individual-difference variable. Many differences can be attributed primarily to differences in culture and schooling rather than in abilities measured by intelligence tests.”

Outside factors, such as where you grow up, what kind of school you attend, and how much school you attend contribute substantially to the development of intelligences. However, it is not yet clearly understood what those factors are, or how they work. It is widely agreed that standardized tests, like an IQ test, do not accurately reflect all forms of intelligence.

Obviously, cultural knowledge, creativity, wisdom, common sense and social sensitivity are not measured in IQ tests, but they certainly contribute to a person’s intelligence.

Still, there are some people who feel strongly that IQ tests are the best way to predict future performance at work and in school. They feel that IQ tests are better predictors of future success than even trained personnel experts.

Experts have numerous theories when it comes to explaining, defining and predicting intelligence. Some claim that intelligence is innate and fixed and can be measured with clearly defined statistical methods. Others claim that experience and environment affect intelligence – that intelligence is the composite of many different talents and abilities which continue to improve over time.

Further study of Intelligence

Three researchers have made significant advances in this field in recent years:

  1. Robert Sternberg – Has proposed three sub-theories of intelligence: context, experience, and the cognitive components of information processing. In short, intelligence involves either adapting to your environment, moving to another more appropriate environment or changing your environment. Your level of experience with the activities or knowledge being tested gets reduced to intelligence, but intelligence is best measured out of context — when you perform unfamiliar tasks.
  2. Howard Gardner – Has proposed his “Theory of Multiple Intelligences” where there are seven independent but related intelligences: logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Gardner is one of the biggest proponents for developing new methods for testing intelligence. He speculates that intelligence is culturally and experientially based. One’s experience will influence how much each of these can be expressed.
  3. John Horn – Horn had proposed that there are two factors to intelligence: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is one’s ability to reason and solve problems in novel or unfamiliar situations. Crystallized intelligence is the extent to which an individual has attained knowledge of her culture.

In general, recent research has focused on intelligence as something that can be changed — not as something that is fixed in childhood and as something culturally and experientially based. Most current researchers agree that there are multiple forms of intelligence, although there is no consensus on how many.

Emode’s IQ Test Development

Over the last two years, Emode’s psychologists developed this IQ test using proven, high-quality IQ test questions such as those in the Mensa Workout tests and the Shipley Institute of Living Scale — an intelligence test that focuses on both vocabulary and verbal abstract reasoning. Those are the skills that are associated with problem-solving ability and social comprehension/judgement.

Reliability of the IQ Score

Once we built the Emode IQ test, Emode performed a large-scale study to compare the results of people who had taken both the Emode IQ test and the established Shipley Institute of Living Scale (by Walter C. Shipley). The Shipley test has been used for more than 50 years to assess facets of intelligence. We did this to ensure that the way we constructed our test would yield reliable and valid IQ results.

We used scores calculated by the Shipley test as a basis for calibrating Emode’s IQ test. That ensured a high association between the two tests and, because of that, the validity of our IQ scores. In fact, the Emode IQ test is highly reliable—the Chronbach’s alpha is .81. In other words, the questions on Emode’s IQ test are internally consistent and they all measure intelligence accurately.

How Emode Calculates Intellectual Types

In the past, researchers who have constructed IQ tests have discovered additional patterns that relate to the categories of questions a particular test-taker answered correctly — categories such as mathematical, visual, verbal and logical. When these researchers analyzed peoples’ results, they found that, for instance, a test-taker might have answered the math-oriented and verbal questions correctly, yet tended to answer the logical questions incorrectly. From such patterns, experts were able to define some internal scales of intelligence to the overall IQ test. Thus, using those internal scales, they could offer an actual IQ score, such as 105, as well as a measurement of how well the test-taker did within each question category.

After 1 million people took the Emode IQ test, we ran what is called a “factor analysis” on the answers those people gave. This statistical analysis identified the similarity between groups of questions in our test. The analysis demonstrated that this particular IQ test accurately measured four underlying dimensions of intelligence: mathematical, visual-spatial, linguistic and logical.

Each of the questions in the Emode IQ test relates to one dimension of intelligence. How reliable are these dimensions? Well, for the scientists and statisticians out there, their reliability coefficients were .85, .84, .81 and .50, respectively. The gist of all of that is that Emode’s scales of intelligence are highly valid and we can accurately tell you how high you scored on each of those scales relative to the other test-takers—thus yielding an accurate intellectual type.

Additional Reading:

  • Armstrong, T. (1993). 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Many Intelligences. NY: Plume (The Penguin Group).
  • Bonthous, J. (1995). “Understanding intelligence across cultures.” Competitive Intelligence Review, Summer/Fall: 12-19.
  • Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (10th Anniversary Edition). NY: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, H. (1992). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. NY: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, H.. (1985). The Mind’s New Science. NY: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, H. and Hatch, T. (1989). “Multiple Intelligences Go to School: Educational Implications of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Educational Researcher 18(8): 4-9.
  • Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M.L., and Wake, W.K. (1996). Intelligence: Multiple Perspectives. NY: Harcourt, Brace.
  • Horn, J.L. (1989). “Cognitive diversity: A framework for learning.” Pp. 61-116 in P.L.
  • Ackerman, R.J. Sternberg, and R. Glaser (Eds.), Learning and Individual differences: Advances in theory and research. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Co.
  • Jensen, A. R. (1969). “How much can we boost I.Q. and scholastic achievement?” Harvard Educational Review 39:1-123.
  • Lohman, D.F. (1989). “Human intelligence: An introduction to advances in theory and research.” Review of Educational Research 59(4):333-374.
  • Neisser, U., Boodoo, G., Bouchard, T. J., Jr., Boykin, A. W., Brody, N., Ceci, S. J., Halpern, D. F., Loehlin, J. C., Perloff, R., Sternberg, R. J., & Urbina, S. (1996). Intelligence: Knowns and unknowns. American Psychologist, 51, 77-101.
  • Ree, M. J., & Earles, J. A. (1992). “Intelligence is the best predictor of job performance.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 1:86-89.
  • Robbins, D. (1996). The Philosophy of Intelligence: An Outline of Theories. Psychology Department, University of Calgary.
  • Sternberg, R. J., & Kaufman, J. C. (1998). “Human abilities.” Annual Review of Psychology 49:479-502.
  • Sternberg, R. J., Wagner, R. K., Williams, W. M., & Horvath, J. A. (1995). “Testing common sense.” American Psychologist 50:912-927.
  • Sternberg, R.J. (1991). “Death, taxes, and bad intelligence tests.” Intelligence 15(3):257-269.
  • Sternberg, R.J. (1992). “Ability tests, measurements, and markets.” Journal of Educational Psychology 84(2):134-140.
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