The Measurement of Intelligence through IQ Tests Can intelligence be measured? Does an IQ test actually measure a person’s intelligence? Does a high score indicate a genius? Does a low score indicate stupidity or merely ignorance? These questions have been asked over and over again by psychiatrists and scientists alike, but to date there are no clear answers. These questions cannot be answered without first defining what is meant by the term intelligence. Once intelligence has been defined then it should be easy to answer these questions; however, multiple definitions of the word tend to lead to further confusion.
In a 1921 symposium entitled “Intelligence and Its Measurement”, psychiatrists were asked to define intelligence
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If intelligence is what a person knows or understands then it is possible to measure intelligence; however, if intelligence is one’s capacity for learning then it is more difficult to measure. If you have a bowl and want to know how much water it will hold then you simply fill the bowl with water, then pour the water into a measuring device, and then you know: That bowl holds two cups, 1/2 a liter, or 25 grams of water. There are many reasons why it is not possible to measure capacity for learning in the same manner: One cannot fill the brain with knowledge, pour the knowledge back out, and measure it. First, there is no way to indicate that the brain is full, no way possible to retrieve all of the information, and no measuring device for knowledge: You cannot have 2 cups, 170 grams, or three feet of knowledge (Block & Dworkin, 1976, p.239)
Assuming that intelligence is what a person knows makes it possible to measure intelligence, but finding an accurate measuring device is difficult. The measurement of intelligence began with the work of Francis Galton who attempted to apply Darwin’s theory of biological evolution to the evolution of human society (Lawler, 1978, p.39-40). Although the tests have changed considerably since then, the type of measurement has remained essentially the same.
An IQ test measures intelligence by finding a person’s mental age, dividing it by his or her chronological age, and