On Race And Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Tests

I started writing this post a few months ago, but for some reason I never got a chance to complete it. It is a relevant topic and needs to be addressed, so now I’m finally taking the time (now that I’m free from school, temporarily) to discuss it on my blog. Squee.

Anyway, so, a while back, I came across a very interesting article on Intelligence Quotients (IQ). You can read the full article at this link. What I found most interesting is how some researchers alleged differences (via IQ results), in the cognitive ability of diverse ethnic groups, as being “racist.”  And I guess what I am trying to understand now, though, is whether it really is a matter of racism per se that has executed this so-called “IQ blackout”; or whether it’s due to the notion that it may be very limited in its capacity to accurately and fully determine a person’s intelligence. Or maybe, perhaps, both?

Although, research has proven that a “high IQ” is advantageous in life because virtually all activities require some sort of reasoning and decision-making. Conversely, a “low IQ” is often a disadvantage, especially in disorganized environments. Of course, a high IQ no more guarantees success than a low IQ guarantees failure in life. There are many exceptions; but the odds for success in our society greatly favour individuals with higher IQs.

So, keeping that in mind, would it then be fair to judge someone’s intellectual capability simply through their IQ results?

In my opinion: No.

Why? Well, typically a person’s IQ is supposed to be a measure of that person’s intelligence: the higher the IQ number, the greater the intelligence. And, I find that highly inaccurate and just can’t bring myself to agree with it at all; because it assumes that there is only one kind of intelligence, while completely ignoring a plethora of other types or forms of intelligences. What about creative intelligence such as musical intelligence, artistic/creative intelligence, or the fact that some of us have fantastic memories and recall the most intricate details that other people may lack the ability to remember? Or what about those who are intelligent practically (possess “hands-on intelligence”) or mechanical expertise? Or those who are great with vocabularies, seeing analogies, synthesizing, unifying, etc. So, yes, it is pretty blatant that some people definitely excel more than others when it comes to these different “types” of intelligences, or behaviours, so to speak. But, even if they score low on an IQ test, that does not indicate, in any way, their lack of intelligence, or that they are not “intelligent enough.” What the heck does that mean anyway? Who even has the power to decide what intelligence means, or who is “intelligent” and who is not? Surely not these extremely limited and biased tests!

Therefore, I strongly believe that it would be much more accurate to speak of human intelligences, rather than of intelligence in a more generic sense, or as a whole. I mean most typical IQ tests don’t even measure rational decision-making ability, so it should be considered perhaps a measure of some kind of intelligence, but definitely not all.

Now, when it comes to race, IQ tests are even more flawed, and inaccurate. If a South African or a Pakistani scores lower than a Western European in a typical IQ test, that does not, in any way, indicate that the Western European is “smarter” than the South African/Pakistani, nor does it indicate that the latter is not as intelligent as the former. I mean, think about it. Who typically creates these tests in the first place? Are they not by another human being – more specifically, by white, middle class westerners to test skill which they think are important to their culture, and which, naturally, they are more likely to be good at? That’s why working-class western whites and people from other cultures – and even a lot of upper-class western whites – appear to have “low” intelligence based on their tests. And, here I don’t want to appear like I am picking on Western Europeans, but am just trying to state a blatant fact. For example, math-related problems may not be as ‘culturally’ important to an African tribe in South Africa as opposed to those living in the West, which will hence contribute to their scoring low on that section of the IQ test. Similarly, if a South African or a Pakistani devised a test based on things that they deemed important to their cultures, then Western Europeans would score badly too. It really isn’t rocket science when one looks at it this way.

Further, there is absolutely no correlation between race and intelligence – none whatsoever. And there is no IQ test in the world that could ever prove this. For one, intelligence, by itself, is a pretty ethereal concept. Every single person seems to have her/his own interpretation and intuitive methods for gauging the intelligence of others; for there is no a priori definition of intelligence that we can use to design a device to measure it. So, instead, we have these ineffectual IQ tests and results to compensate for this deficient. This as a result leads to the logic fallacy of reification, in which we assume that, because we can measure something, that something must have an objective existence. Um, no, sorry, but that’s not the case. And it’s definitely not the case when it comes to attributing IQ tests to race, because the fallacy then leads to the assertion that intelligence is what I.Q. tests measure and that what I.Q. tests measure is a property possessed by human beings.

So, yeah, if you’ve ever written an IQ test (whether online or on paper) and scored low or lower than average, don’t worry too much about it. It’s all bullshit anyway.

At least, that’s what I personally think. My readers are free to disagree with me. ;)

9 responses to “On Race And Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Tests

  1. I never scored, to put it in cricketing terms, a century in any IQ test :D Every time i feel haughty and arrogant, I take an IQ test :D

    • Hahaha! I’ve never scored a “century” in an IQ test either. So that must mean we’re both brilliant! :P Ka sanga?

      • hahhaahha…..I am sure IQ tests are designed by some dudes who got bullied in schools and are now out to take revenge on us :D you see beautiful women and successful men never score high in IQ tests :P

      • Wow! I never looked at it that way. And I have to say I wholeheartedly agree! WELL SAID! LOL! :D

  2. SesapZai,

    When it comes to the race/IQ debate, what’s debated is: (1) whether there are population differences in “general intelligence” (i.e., the substantial covariation among diverse measures of cognitive ability), (2) the magnitude of these differences. and (3) the cause of these differences.

    When discussing this, you really have to specify the populations or “races” under question. In some instances there are large differences in “general intelligence” between subpopulations called races. For example, in the US, the difference between “Black” and “White” adults is over one standard deviation.

    You’re correct that a score difference doesn’t necessitate a general intelligence difference. Whether it does is an empirical question which can be answered though the appropriate statistical tests.

    As for bias, IQ-tests are not inherently biased. These tests are routinely used throughout the world and a number of new types have been developed in non-Western countries (e.g., Japan). The question isn’t whether IQ tests, per se, are biased, but whether the difference between two population is due to bias. Whether or not they are depends on the populations under consideration.

    When it comes to race differences in the evolutionary genetic sense, as far as I’m aware, that’s an unsettled issue. In principle differences between subpopulations called races could be genetic without there being race differences in the former sense. For example, “Asians” in Canada could be a genetically selected bunch, with respect to general intelligence — owing to immigration selection. Differences between Canadian “Asians” and “non-Asians” would then be, in part, genetic, unless, of course, Asians in Asia were genetically less intelligent, on average, than non-Asian Canadians.

    As for IQ test in general, “It’s all bullshit anyway” is an incredibly ill informed or irresponsible statement. The genetic and biological correlates of general intelligence are well established. (See: Deary, et al., 2010 “The neuroscience of human intelligence differences”; Davies et al., 2011 “Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic”). As are the social.

    Performance on a particular IQ test (or proxy such as the SAT) can be influenced by a great number of factors but one’s average performance on a number of tests is a pretty good index of one’s general ability.

  3. IQ tests were initially designed for children, right back when Binet decided he needed something to improve the way he was monitoring the mentally challenged kids he found himself working with. Following that, there was an explosion with people and scientists deciding that the IQ tests needed to be developed for public consumption. Eugenists and incredibly racist individuals decided they would continue the long sought after ‘proof’ that ‘white’ individuals were the most powerfully, intelligent, population, quite often ignoring the information such as Chinese individuals scoring higher.

    This type of thing continued for some time, and there are hundreds of sociological arguments as to how race plays into IQ test *results*, but very little evidence given to whether race is a factor in intelligence. It’s ridiculously easy to adjust the results of an IQ test, such as show a young girl of Chinese heritage, a picture of a young Chinese girl with chopsticks, vs a young Chinese girl holding a doll and you will instantly see a difference in the IQ score. It depends on what stereotypes are primed. Removing stereotypes can affect certain this, however, you cannot, ever, take away ingrained experiences, attitudes and feelings about oneself. Even just having a pen in your hand can be a prime for failing, if it reminds you of certain things.

    IQ tests are just a reasonable, round about way, of estimating how good someone could possibly be with shapes, numbers etc. My IQ test is always pretty high, and when it comes to writing things I perform excellently, however, if it comes to having some common sense, I am often on a level playing field (or worse). IQ measures very little of real world, applicable value.

    I recommend trying to get hold of the book entitled “The Delusions of Gender” by Cordelia Fine, a neuroscientist, who argues that science as we know it is based on biased research. Even now the most objective researcher basis his hypothesis on previous research, which, itself, was based on previous research. Even if the bias is only evident in the first ever piece of research, it will still have a presence in the most recent. With that in mind, why would you trust, implicitly, any scientific result ESPECIALLY when it comes with the potential of alienating, glamourising or adding/detracting value from a specific social group? It’s already wrong to begin with and encouraging such research makes me sad.

  4. Pingback: Intelligence and Achievement Testing « Life is Mysterious·

  5. Questions normally found in IQ tests focus on ones analytic abilities. General knowledge and text book education would rarely give anyone an above average IQ level.

    On another note, Intelligence and Intellectualism are two very different things, an intelligent person is not necessarily an intellectual and vice versa. As it’s commonly known, intellectuals are usually people who are borderline crazy :)

    Now because of this post, I’ll be going to sleep weeping at my IQ of 144 that doesn’t mean anything *sniff*

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