What Does IQ Really Mean?

We’ve all heard of the term IQ (or Intelligence Quotient). But what does it really represent and how significant is your or your child’s score is an IQ test? What does it really mean to have a low, moderate, or high IQ?

A standard IQ test is designed to measure a person’s performance relative to their peers, most commonly, their age group. This is particularly the case with children and adolescents. The average IQ has been nominated at 100 points, with roughly half of the population falling within the 90 to 110 range.

Intelligence tests have changed over the last hundred years when they were first introduced to test the abilities of French schoolchildren back in the early 20th century by the French psychologist Alfred Binet.

An intelligence test purports to measure intelligence, but what exactly is intelligence? Many of the earlier tests were extremely biased from a gender, racial and social-economic viewpoint and did not present a true and accurate assessment of a person’s intelligence. As a result of this inaccurate testing, many researchers, backed by the biases of the general public, believed that people of Caucasian background, for example, were more intelligent than those of, for example, African-American background. Males were considered more intelligent than females.

Fortunately, attempts to rule out false and misleading results have resulted in more accurate and reliable IQ tests. Yet there still remains a problem when applying these tests, particularly in the way they can and are interpreted by non-psychologists.

There is no doubt that what an IQ test measures and the ultimate score calculated does have an impact on the life on the tested person. In a gross sense, possessing an IQ of 120 on an IQ test potentially opens many more doors than someone who scores 70 on a similar test. Yet we must bear in mind that IQ tests are not infallible and most importantly that they measure only a limited aspect of intelligence.

IQ tests record only certain types of mental abilities, particularly analytical thinking and mathematical and spatial ability. But intelligence is much more than one’s capacity to mentally rotate shapes and identify patterns. IQ tests can’t measure the degree of a person’s social skills, motivation, or artistic and musical gifts. Most importantly, intelligence tests do not take into account Emotional Intelligence, which has long been recognized, at least by social psychologists, as being indicative of success in life.

So while it is pleasant to find out that your child has an IQ of 145, it is just as important to provide your child with an emotional and physical environment that is both nurturing and supportive. It is not uncommon for a gifted child to lead an unfulfilled life because its parents were emotionally absent, or placed so much pressure on that child to achieve that ultimately the child opted out of life.

Whatever your child’s gifts, whether academic, artistic, or social, it is important to provide an environment where your child can be the best it can be. IQ test results are only, at best, one facet of your child’s total potential.

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