Psychiatry & Psychology--General/intelligence per se


QUESTION: What really is it that 'intelligence' tests really measure?
...Do you agree that in the context of intelligence/mind per se i.e. as a Kantian 'thing-in-itself'; it is a non-empirical entity, which like energy, in physics, that in turn, can only be understood/measured in terms of it's interaction with matter; so on the same token,intelligence can only be estimated by means of acquired (not inherited) learning/thinking skills, obtained through heredity/environmental interaction across lifespan. 'IQ' in reality therefore, is simply a assessment-based statistical artefact, categorizing the level of one's acquired cognitive skills according to preselected cultural norms, rather than intrinsic intelligence as such. Should such tests really be termed 'intelligence tests' rather than say, 'acquired cognitive skills assessments? What do you think from your perspective as an expert? Thanks.

ANSWER: Hi, John thanks for your question. It's very abstract, so I'm sure I don't fully understand it. I can say that ALL psychological testing, of every human quality, is at best an indirect measure of any mental condition. Direct measures are impossible, because we cannot insert things in the brain. I don't agree that the abilities are acquired, because the tests are designed in such a way that few people would have any experience with those activities. IQ tests are moderately correlated with a number of things, which you can see here


John, I will add that many times people can misuse IQ tests, to either label people, or to indicate somehow that the person is bad or that something is wrong with them. This is a misuse of the test, and should not be done. Also, the tests have been criticized for discriminating against different races or cultures. To some extent, this has improved over time. In, the US, the items are screen to reduce bias, and the sample group is representative of the previous census. The tests are less representative of persons in other countries and other cultures.   

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QUESTION: Thankyou for your reply and yes, am in agreement regarding both the limitations and discriminatory misuse of these tests.
In my previous post I mentioned the term 'skills' rather than 'abilities', as Im aware of the etymological difference between the two terms; the former, referring to levels of acquired proficiency, primarily in discernment; something that is developed through interaction with learning environment over time; the latter,implying a natural (inherent) quality of fitness for the acquisition of skills, that in turn, are assessed in schematic form on 'intelligence' tests in this case. I have previously taken such tests; FSIQ in late teens, 106, at which time any suggestion that this was an underestimate, was virtually dismissed with a laugh by those qualified in my opinion, to have known better. Now,many years later, score 140+,(wais iii) even prorated on one occasion on a wais shortform test at 150. To me, this reflects a progressive acquisition of 'skills'; through self-education; (not test practice) - the actualizing of the underlying ability potential. So score levels in my opinion, are in reality, statistically graded levels of learning/thinking skill acquisition, that in keeping with your statement regarding the impossibility of measuring, say intellect, in this case, which ontologically speaking, cannot be directly understood.

Hi, John, thanks for your question. BTW, I have distant relatives in the Perth area. Don't recall the surname.

So, there are a number of reasons for individual error (as opposed to statistical measurement error (SEM)).

Regarding gifted persons, the WISC has been criticized for it's overemphasis on timed tests (Kaufman 1992, 1994; Sparrow & Gurland, 1998), etc.)

Emotional concerns, such as depression or anxiety, can result in a lower score.

Attention problems, such as ADHD, can also reduce scores - and the effect of ADHD lowers as children age into adulthood.

Older tests had a lower ceiling; that is, they had fewer difficult items, so if the child failed only a few items, even if by chance or inattention, then the testing would have stopped, resulting in a lower score.

Most testing of children is performed by school psychologists, who have a lower level of training and education. Thus, it's possible that the testing was done incorrectly.

IMO, there are a significant portion of gifted persons who see the world differently. At a young age, they can be mistaken for being of lower intelligence, perhaps because they are paying more attention to their own thoughts, or they are being curious about things, or because they do not develop social skills at the same level as most people. It's easily possible to miss the intelligence of these persons, because the right questions are not being asked.

What happens as these children age into adulthood is that they learn what to expect of other people, and they develop better social skills. They can then better apply their intelligence toward meeting the expectations of others around them. IOW, when presented with a block problem as a child, the child might be spending time calculating the number of possible ways to arrange the blocks. But as an adult, he knows that the evaluator is expecting one particular response.

So, if that's what you mean by learning ability, then I agree.

And, I also agree that it is possible to increase one's score, at least to some extent - for example, scores on vocabulary, similarities, and information can be increased if the person learns that material through education.  

Psychiatry & Psychology--General

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.


any related to psychology, especially related to forensic psychology


15 years as a licensed psychologist, 15 years in private practice. My practice began primarily doing individual and group psychotherapy, is now devoted to assessments, but I occasionally do take on clients in therapy.

American Psychological Association

B.A. psychology, B.A., music, Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978 MCS, computer science, University of Dayton, 1984 MA, psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1991 Psy.D., psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1993 post doctoral training in Neuropsychology, Fielding Institute, 1995-1997

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