Does IQ Inform Us About Intelligence?



Recently, I was in a dialogue with a few people on Twitter where the subject was IQ. This seems to be something where there is a lot of conversation without any outcome, in general. I had a question, so I brought myself into the middle of an already ongoing discussion. I’m a person with no background in any of the areas that were be brought forward: Psychology or Genetics and I made that clear. I am unsure as to how IQ has anything to do with how anyone will succeed or not in life. It’s a number. It’s a snapshot but does it really indicate, overall, an individual’s intelligence? How may we know? Are there studies showing that children with higher IQ’s are better prepared for success in life?

Is there a genetic component to intelligence? If the parents are smart, does that mean that their offspring will also be at least as smart? It would seem on the surface that this would be true. Is there something else though that may be a factor? I find the whole conversation interesting and I’m willing to learn from those that have spent time considering how intelligence works. We find some though that claim that intelligence is not just something that is heritable individually but something that is determined by group. By saying group, those people are advocating that race and ethnicity are harbingers of intelligence. I reject that. It’s clearly racist and there’s no proof that I’ve ever seen that a person of one race or ethnicity is genteelly smarter than another. Reminds me of the Nazi’s in an earlier era.

How then do we define intelligence? Why is one child better equipped than another?Could it be environment? The parents may be actual geniuses, but does that genius automatically transfer via sperm and egg? Neither of my parents spent a day in college, yet both of their children have advanced degrees. Are we an accident of genetics or products of an environment where education was encouraged? Maybe a bit of both? I don’t know and of course this is an argument occurring, right now, within some areas of academia.

I’m not an academic, but I am an observer.I don’t have access to any academic journals that may attempt to describe intelligence. Honestly, I think it would bore me rather than inform me. But as someone who does observe people, individually  and in groups, I have formed  what would be considered an uninformed opinion. Is it possible that genetics are a factor? Sure, why not. Show me. But isn’t it more possible that environment has more to do with the outcome? This is something I believe is more easily studied.

Asian children score higher on the SAT than their peers of other races. Does that mean that Asians  are generically preferred for intelligence? Does every Asian child score higher than any other? No, but it’s become a meme of sorts that Asian children are smarter than their counterparts. Why is that? Wel;l, and I know this from some friends, Asians place a high value on education, much more than we, in the west generally do. Look at any statistic and find the US is 25th in the world in math and science. 25th. Japan, China, and other Asian countries (including India) are far above. Is that genetic? No, I don’t believe so.

It’s environmental and yes, cultural. Some people place a higher value on education than others and it really has nothing to do with anything other than just that: Education is important. What may be done about this? We spend, in the US, more  money per pupil than most any other country and yet, year by year, we fail to graduate those that may go on to be the leaders that every generation prior, have always gone beyond the previous.

We fail our children by not encouraging them to succeed in life. None of this is genetic . We can’t grow a generation in a test tube that is going to be any more intelligent than those that place them there.


4 thoughts on “Does IQ Inform Us About Intelligence?

  1. That’s a good point on where the initial belief that IQ predicts success. I’ve never gone to that much trouble to look it up, but I would bet I would not define success as one measurable thing.


  2. “Are there studies showing that children with higher IQ’s are better prepared for success in life?” Yes, several. IQ is a fairly strong predictor of many markers of academic success but not a great predictor of other things some of us might think of as success (e.g., happiness). The way I used to explain this to students was that IQ tells us something about someone’s general ability to navigate and adapt to various complex environments. If we were to imagine two people who grew up in small towns and moved to New York City, we’d expect that the one with higher IQ would have an easier time figuring out the subway system than the one with lower IQ.

    The science points to a genetic component. Parents with high IQs are more likely to have a child with a high IQ. This does not mean that environment does not matter; it does.


  3. I have often found that the person who takes the time to read the directions has faster success at tasks. probably nothing to do with IQ, though.


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