Real intelligence cannot be measured by a single indicator, states a new study.

It seems that the well-known intelligence quotient IQ does not represent what we thought it did. The largest research ever done to date concluded that human intelligence is too complex to be measured by only one parameter.

Instead, it was proposed to assess the “potential” of our minds by three different components: short-term memory, logical reasoning, and verbal ability.

Intelligence is a complex entity

IQ tests have been used for decades to assess human intelligence and often were taken into account in choosing candidates for different jobs. Nonetheless, the new study suggests that it is fundamentally wrong because it ignores the fact that the human mind is very complex and its function is determined by many different aspects.

“The results refute the idea that a single indicator of real intelligence, such as IQ, can capture all the variations in the cognitive ability of different people,” said Dr. Roger Highfield, one of the authors of the study.

“Everybody can think of people who are bad at reasoning but have an excellent memory and amazing verbal skills. Now we can say that there is no single quotient such as IQ that can capture all the aspects of intelligence,” added Dr. Highfield.

The largest study ever

The research, led by experts at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, was conducted online from the websites of the «New Scientist», «Telegraph» and «Discovery» in 2010 and involved 110,000 people. 44,600 of them were considered suitable for inclusion in the sample under study – the largest number that has ever been studied.

Participants were submitted to 12 reasoning, planning, memory, and attention tests and were asked to answer questions about their personal habits and preferences.

Having analyzed the answers, the researchers saw that intelligence showed in people in different ways and couldn’t be assessed by a single parameter. In contrast, at least three indicators seemed to be crucial for such kind of assessment: short-term memory, logical reasoning, and language skills.

After that, the researchers studied the brain scans of 16 participants and found that these three characteristics were associated with three separate circuits in the brain i.e. three different patterns of neural activity.

“The bottom line is: what makes one person different from another cognitively – what is often called intelligence – is too complex to be summarized in one single factor – the IQ,” said the leader of the study Professor Adrian Owen of the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario.


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