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Friday, March 31, 2017

Intelligence Tests Controversy

With the advent of intelligence tests, scientists began to think that human ability could be measured accurately, The tests were used in schools to determine placement, as well as by the military. Achievement and aptitude tests were created to help quantify learning and steer people to their “calling.” In time, these same tests became a fertile ground for placing minority and low-income students in slower classes or even special education. The cultural nature of the tests was criticized and with good reason. I took the Chitling IQ Test in college, which is based on knowledge of items in black culture. I did not score well. A sample of it is here: . For those who don’t know, a chitterling is a pork intestine, used for meals in many minority homes. 

As children began to be pigeonholed by their scores, it began to dawn on schools that maybe they should test children in their home language. Hearing impaired children were tested by psychologists who specialized in hearing impairment. Non-verbal tests began to appear for language-impaired students. Other criticisms, as listed on Psychology Today’s article, were

        IQ tests have received much criticism over the years, some warranted and some just plain silly. Criticisms have ranged from the claim that IQ tests are unfair to those who are disadvantaged, to the claim that the test items have changed little over the years, to the charge that IQ tests minimize the importance of creativity, practical intelligence, character, virtue, and morality, to the claim that all IQ test makers and theorists believe that intelligence is an immutable property of the brain. (1)

I remember my son, knowing the answer to one question on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test because we lived on a farm and he had ridden on a tractor or combine. Combine was one of his first words. Children who grow up on language-poor or stimulation-poor environments will not have as much experience learning vocabulary as those whose homes are “wealthy” with healthy stimulation, including music, reading materials, and stimulating toys.

One person who has made a tremendous impression on me and my life is Linda Kreger Silverman. At the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children in 2013, she pointed out that before there were IQ tests, we didn’t know that women could be gifted. Her recommendations for the use of testing can be found on my web site, 

Intelligence tests have undergone significant change since they were first instituted, but they can still be misused. Psychologists must establish rapport with the person they are testing, which can definitely be hard in the public school setting. Text anxiety or environmental factors can hurt a child’s score. Modern tests rely much less on one global standard score, but many parents have no idea what a series of scores means, even when explained by the tester. Such qualities as perseverance and creativity are not usually measured, although there are tests for creativity. Howard Gardner distinguished these types of intelligence; linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, existential naturalist, and intrapersonal.  Daniel Goleman  wrote about Emotional IQ. Kazimierz Dabrowski analyzed “overexciteabilities” in psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational spheres.

Similarly, cognitive psychologist Robert Sternberg, PhD, has developed a triarchic ("three component") theory of intelligence that includes analytical, creative and practical intelligence.(2)

The best use standardize IQ tests occurs when they are not considered a single score that is unchanging. Although test makers spend a lot of time making sure the scores don’t swing widely, it is entirely possible that hard-working creative students can be successful regardless of most impairments. Keeping a healthy skepticism and an open mind will insure that anyone can go further than any score can indicate.

(1) Kaufman, Scott Barry, Intelligent Testing The evolving landscape of IQ testing,Posted Oct 25, 2009,, accessed 3/29/17.

(2) American Psychological Association, June 17, 2004,, accessed 3/31/17.

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