Up Close With Dr. E

IQ testing measures human abilities


As a grade school student, I, along with my fellow classmates, was subjected to an endless barrage of tests: spelling tests, math tests, tests of memory to see if we knew our state capitals or names of civil war battles. Tests overwhelmed me. As soon as I had studied and taken one, BAM! Here came another, and another, and another ... However, there was one type of test, a mysterious and scary one, because it wielded such great power, stood alone in the vast arsenal of examinations. “Richard, next Monday you will take an IQ test,” my smiling fifth grade teacher informed me. IQ test, what’s that? My mind, now a flywheel of frenzy, conjures up possible definitions for IQ: Inferior Quality? No. Intestinal Quality? No. Instant Quicksand? Yes, that’s it! On Monday, this test will turn my brain into mushy quicksand, sinking me into the abyss as I fall to the bottom of the class.

Discouraged, I tossed the “Monday IQ Test” into the same bucket I used to stash other childhood items such as dental visits, shots, the first day of school, the last day of summer or measles. Monday came, I took the IQ test, and Monday went away. I never saw the test results. But I knew I had done poorly. I knew because, unlike my two brothers and one sister who were smart, I disliked school and did poorly. So, feeling the need to rebel, I made up my own IQ test. The concept was simple: I designed a series of questions, in order from easy to hard, which would divide the world into two groups. Group 1: Inferiors, who know nothing about fishing; and Group 2: Brilliant people (like me) who know a lot about fishing. I called it the FQ Test, for Fishing Qualified. Here are three of the test questions:

1. While fishing on the bank of a small creek, what could you use as bait if your worms run out?

a. Insects b. Tails of crayfish c. Your bubblegum d. all the above.

2. Bass have well developed lateral lines. Why?

a. So they can pass the football better. b. for camouflage c. To sense underwater vibrations.

3. While fishing and sitting on a big fallen tree, what should you do when you sense a coiling movement directly under your behind, and you see, poking out of the tree bark, the head of a copper colored snake?

a. yell b. run c. pray d. all of the above.

All fun aside, let’s learn about tests used to measure the mental development of children (IQ tests). In 1905, the French government needed answers to a problem faced by schools. How can children who require more intensive, educational programs, be sorted out from those who do not? Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, two psychologists, designed the first, practical way to measure mental ability in children. The IQ test was born. The fishing test I created above utilized the identical procedure as Binet. That is, a series of questions, tasks, and performances, going from easy to difficult, were given and scores were generated which were used to classify students into classes based upon their mental abilities. The term, IQ, stands for Intelligence Quotient, and was coined so that numbers could be assigned based on the child’s score on the test. A child with normal intelligence was defined by an IQ score of 90-109.

Since 1905, the use of IQ tests in America, and throughout the world, revolutionized how schools educated students. Even greater, however, was the rise of psychological testing for many other purposes -— employment, psychiatric, military and legal purposes. Society at large has accepted testing as an accurate and legitimate way to measure human abilities or disabilities. One small problem. Why did I always do so poorly on IQ tests, but did so well on other tasks such as social awareness, emotional sensitivity, music, or even, yes that’s right, fishing ability? Stay tuned next week for other types of IQ’s.

(Fishing Quiz answers: D, C, D -— the snake was a copperhead.).

The content of this article is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for treatment by a professional.


Dr. Richard Elghammer contributes his column each week to the Journal Review.


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