Measuring Brain Performance
In order to test intelligence it is first necessary to define the term intelligence. Despite countless different ways to test intelligence, intelligence is difficult to define. Precisely defining human intelligence has eluded psychologists and scientists for years but this inability has not kept them from trying. In very vague terms, intelligence is the capacity to learn and understand information and make rational decisions based on that and previously learned information. Humans, far beyond the capacity of other animals, also have the ability to think abstractly meaning. Abstract thinking is what allows us to consider ideas separately from tangible things. Any definition of human intelligence must include the aptitude for abstract thinking.
The Intelligence Quotient
There are many ways that psychologists and others have attempted to test intelligence. Perhaps the most well known test of intelligence is one that results in a score known as the intelligence quotient, simply referred to as IQ. This intelligence test has been used to identify the highest and lowest achievers in public school for decades. While IQ is the best known score in intelligence testing, it is certainly not the only way to test of intelligence. Students are subjected to various forms of standardized tests throughout school some occurring every few years, some each year and others at only one point in the child's academic career. Most psychologists agree that the more a test relies on specific knowledge, the less the represents a true test of intelligence. Thus a pop quiz given of Thursday about the material assigned for homework Wednesday evening is not so much a test of intelligence but rather a test of recall. The SAT reasoning test is closer to a test of intelligence but rests, in large part, on knowledge that was presented during primary education. In other words, the most intelligent child would not likely be able to perform very well on the SAT if she had never had algebra or was taught the English language. The tests of intelligence used to determine IQ try to eliminate this reliance on math or verbal information by using very simple mathematical operations (to solve complex logical sequences) and mental manipulation of figures, which do not require math or language. By eliminating the need to know math or language, the test presumably tests raw intellect. There are limitations, however.
Should raw human intelligence be the same throughout life? Can a person become smarter as they learn more about the world? If so, which test of intelligence is more accurate, the raw IQ test given to an eight year old child or the same test administered again after the individual graduates college? Despite the fact that school systems routinely use tests of intelligence to rank the abilities of students as early as third grade, there are significant limitations to any test of intelligence used in this way.
Types Of Intelligence
The truth is that no single test of intelligence can truly define a person's intellect. People possess various strengths and weaknesses of intellect; they can be brilliant in some respects and quite challenged in others. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner proposed the theory that there are at least eight different types of intelligence and that IQ tests are poorly equipped to test many of them. While a test of intelligence may provide a numerical score and that score can be compared to the score of others, several factors are at play in every intelligence test and the results need to be interpreted very carefully.
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