Saturday, April 18, 2009

Raising IQ

I rather liked the Kristof article in the New York Times. It does a particularly good job of pointing out how malleable IQ scores really are:

One gauge of that is that when poor children are adopted into upper-middle-class households, their I.Q.’s rise by 12 to 18 points, depending on the study.
...Another indication of malleability is that I.Q. has risen sharply over time. Indeed, the average I.Q. of a person in 1917 would amount to only 73 on today’s I.Q. test. Half the population of 1917 would be considered mentally retarded by today’s measurements, Professor Nisbett says.

...Good schooling correlates particularly closely to higher I.Q.’s. One indication of the importance of school is that children’s I.Q.’s drop or stagnate over the summer months when they are on vacation (particularly for kids whose parents don’t inflict books or summer programs on them).

of course he also points out the genetic component when mentioning:

Identical twins raised apart, for example, have I.Q.’s that are remarkably similar. They are even closer on average than those of fraternal twins who grow up together.
but he does a pretty good job of ignoring it. Which is probably reasonable in all but the smartest and dumbest people. Even in the smartest people, IQ doesn't correlate so strongly with success that it really matters. As Malcom Gladwell points out above a certain cut-off you are smart enough to do anything. At worst the few point IQ difference will require you to practice a little more. This is why Terman's mass testing of IQ in the first half of the twentieth century failed to identify any great thinkers in advance, but ruled out two future Nobel prize winners(William Shockley and Luis Alvarez) as not being geniuses.

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