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What Do IQ Tests Examine? Not Necessarily Intelligence, Duquesne Professor Says

An intelligence test is a good tool for predicting how well a child may do in school but only partially measures intelligence, said Dr. Joseph Kush of Duquesne University.

Kush, a professor in the School of Education's Department of Instruction and Leadership, edited the book, Intelligence Quotient: Testing, Role of Genetics and the Environment and Social Outcomes, with contributions from prominent international scholars in the area of human intelligence.

It's important to distinguish between the construct of intelligence and what is actually measured by IQ tests. While all children are capable of learning, how quickly a child is capable of learning something new is the real test of intelligence, Kush said.  "This piece of information is often overlooked," he said.

Are some learning factors fixed? Can other factors be modified?  "We challenge the assumption that intelligence is 100 percent fixed, but also examine how much fluctuation there is in environmental modification." Kush said.

In trying to answer these questions, Kush has focused on how to measure the time it takes to cognitively solve a problem, recognizing that those who have excellent vocabulary, math computation skills and memory are looking at the problem itself more quickly and differently than those with strong nonverbal skills, mental impairment or are non-native English speakers.

Kush devised a computer-based program to measure the time lapsing between exposure to a problem and the amount of mental time actually spent solving the problem. His program does not include the time spent on the physical response, such as reading the questions.

"While we value IQ tests, they become contaminated with non-intellectual components," he explained. "We want to distinguish intelligence and achievement as being fixed or not fixed and see what biological contributions are by genetics as well as through the impact of the environment."  

Examining these factors will help to answer what intelligence is.

"I like the idea of considering intelligence a combination of factors, the ability to solve problems quickly and think abstractly," Kush said. "IQ tests do a good job of predicting how children will do in school. Unfortunately, very often, the wrong conclusion is often made: to give up on a child with a low IQ test score.

"I would argue the opposite, that this child should have more invested because this is a child who will experience more difficulties with school. In the end, his learning could be the same as a child 15 to 20 IQ points higher, but he'll have to work harder to reach the same level of proficiency."

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.