Archive for IQ

IQ Matters Only in the Classroom


English: Classroom in SIM University.

Having high IQ in the classroom predicts little about how talented your child will be in adult life. Something else predicts his success. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 3 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

The toll it was taking on him was large. “All right, all right, all right,” he muttered after Ericsson read him the list. “All right! All right. Oh . . . geez!” He clapped his hands loudly three times, then grew quiet and seemed to focus further. “Okay. Okay. . . . Four-thirteen-point-one!” he yelled. He was breathing heavily. “Seventy-seven eighty-four!” He was nearly screaming. “Oh six oh three!” Now he was screaming. “Four-nine-four, eight-seven-oh!” Pause. “Nine-forty-six!” Screeching now. Only one digit left. But it isn’t there. “Nine-forty-six-point . . . Oh, nine-forty-six-point . . .” He was screaming and sounding desperate. Finally, hoarse and strangled: “TWO!”

Above is an excerpt from a humorous section of the book on talent. Geoffrey Colvin relays the true story of a young man of average intelligence who was the first to break the human barrier of being able to memorize more than 7 given random digits. What was astonishing about this story is that within a short time of crossing the previous limit of about 7 data points (maybe 9 points at the outer limits), this young college student quickly increased his ability to such a point that he could memorize hundreds of digits at a time, randomly read to him. It was thought impossible for humans to do that. Not only that, once they had understood how he was memorizing differently, the researchers were then able to transfer this new ability to other college students who were just as average as the one first who creatively found a different way of memorizing. The point is this: ground breaking advancements in human abilities does not depend on high-IQ. This example of getting humans to go to the next level with regards to memory also showed that having or not-having a high IQ had little to do with finding the way to the next level of performance.

Emphasized in Geoffrey Colvin’s narration in this chapter is that this student was of average IQ level. This new ability to memorize did not come about because the individual had a high IQ. He explained that previous studies had confirmed that a high IQ only predicted that an individual would be able to do very well in classroom assigned work…but it ONLY predicted he would do well in the context of a classroom. It did not predict any special outcome in abilities or performance outside of the strict limits of the classroom. In short, high IQ’s had NO predictive power to single out who was actually going to be able to do well in a particular field of human talent.

There was one small acknowledged advantage outside of the classroom for those with high IQ: if you had a high IQ it did seem to predict that you would perform better than others at the beginning stages of a newly introduced skill. But that early stage advantage disappeared quickly if the average IQ individuals stayed focused on learning the new skills beyond the early stages of learning. After the initial stages, other factors that contribute to success completely take over and drown out any differences in IQ levels (note: that is, as long as the person wasn’t significantly below average intelligence or had a clear impediment).

So why is there is no correlation between amazing talent and high IQ? Because IQ measures only a certain type of intelligence, a type of classroom cleverness if-you-will, but outside of the classroom, any specific real-life talent only uses a very small proportion of that type of intelligence in order for it to be effective in the real world. It turns out that other skills and types of intelligences merging together in the right combination and proportions is much more important than having just a high-IQ. This would mean that unless you intend for your child to become a professional test taker, you should not rely on your child’s IQ levels to carry him to the high levels of success to be found outside of his formal schooling days.

Conclusion: a high IQ can help you on the classroom portions of formal learning, but you can not depend on it for success outside of the classroom. Both high and average IQ individuals had the same advantage as regards to extraordinary potential for talent achievement.

(updated 1/17/2015)

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