WHAT DO I.Q. TESTS REALLY SHOW?
By William Markiewicz
At first glance the idea of clubs for those of superior intelligence is excellent. Such a variety of clubs exist - for card players, yachters, music lovers, etc. - so why not a club for the intelligent? Understandably, the criterion for admission to such a club would have to be some psychological test. Personally, I have never been in awe of intelligence tests. I'm going to give my reasons here and maybe somebody will be inspired to enlighten me or at least debate the subject.
- There are various definitions of intelligence but none is completely satisfying. We know that some people are more intelligent than others. But intelligence in itself is a mysterious lady who evades any attempt at definition. We can compare it to a rainbow that shines in beautiful colours from a distance but close up it becomes drops of vapour pass through you fingers. Like "poetry," "love," it is in that group of abstract concepts which can be felt but not easily understood. Trying to analyze them would give you dry dogma with no resemblance to the subject. Then how can we put 100 percent of our trust in a test if the individual components don't add up to its own sum?
- If my memory is good, it is Bohr's law which states that the observer must always be bigger than the object observed. Even an astronomer is observing only small points, so he is not much different than the biochemist or bacteriologist who observes his worlds through a microscope. Whoever submits other people to tests for intelligence must be, it goes without saying, more intelligent than the subject being tested. So if somebody is classed a genius because he passed the test, we must assume that the creator of the test belongs to the top ranks of genius, even if he gave no proof other than creating the test.
- Often we build theories on arbitrary assumptions - we decide that "a" is proof of "b" when, in reality, "a" and "b" can be completely distinct phenomena linked only in our imagination. So, the capacity to resolve a test may prove only the capacity to resolve tests. Here is a story somebody very reliable told me: "Even when he was only five years old my nephew was a master at solving riddles and playing chess. His brain operated with rapidity and precision.. I watched him grow up and I liked asking him unexpected questions because I knew that I would get an unexpected and clever answer. You could never surprise him. I am sure that with his quick and precise mind, he would have easily passed any intelligence test. Still, he was not intelligent! Paraphrasing Ingmar Bergman's "Don Juan" who said, "Maybe I didn't know love, but I was nearby," he was always near intelligence but never reached it. His thought remained banal, without spark, without intellectual initiative. He was able to answer everything but never felt the need to ask a single question, neither of himself nor of others. He was and he is well adapted to reality and that was that. I know that it is hard to believe me, after all this, that he was not intelligent, but it's a fact." The "mysterious lady" avoided him and even he seemed to know it. Indeed, the human being is too complicated to define and - to test?
- Now something about subjectivity in scoring the tests; on some of the questions there is the possibility of more than one right answer, but the point is given for only one. So it becomes like a lottery.
- If somebody has, for example, a highly developed capacity for logical thought and imagination and is weak in mathematics and three dimensional orientation, he will have a lower score than somebody who is more balanced and lower in everything. The tests favour Plato's "well-rounded man." But the "triangular man" who has only one or two extraordinary capacities may be a more interesting person than the "round mediocrity."
- Can we say that creativity may be a measure of intelligence? Well, not even that! In Paris I knew a young man who had undeniable literary talent but he got nowhere because he lacked three other important ingredients: education, money and - intelligence. He could write with subtlety and sensitivity and he chose subjects which were silly and had nothing to do with him because he had no capacity to judge and wasn't smart enough to take anybody's advice.
It's possible that intelligence is more a virtue of spirit than of mind. Sensitivity, inquietude, sophistication and - who knows what else. Maybe, also having more questions than answers in one's account. Experts on intelligence: when will there be a "test of the spirit?"
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© Copyright 1996 William Markiewicz
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