Two posts discussing the following article:
Reference: Duckworth, Quinn, Lynam, Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber. 2011. Role of test motivation in intelligence testing. PNAS http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1018601108
IQ testing.... is simply a task that involves multiple neurological functions, only one of which is general intelligence (which itself is a tricky concept, as there are many components to what we would think of as intelligence, and many different kinds of intelligence). We need to think of IQ as a measure of how people perform on IQ tests, and not necessarily of any one specific neurological function. Since IQ is measuring many variables at once (memory, fund of knowledge, judgment, perception, cognitive processing speed, attention, language, test-taking endurance, and yes – even motivation) it’s difficult to separate out these variables. It can be done to some extent, and the most elaborate battery of IQ tests (called neuropsychological testing) is designed to separate out at least several components of intelligence, like verbal-IQ from memory IQ.
This does not mean that IQ testing is worthless, we just need to have a nuanced and realistic view of what it is and what it is not. This new data on motivation is not surprising at all, and adds to our ability to properly interpret IQ testing.
Duckworth herself recognises that people who actually administer the tests will be well aware of the issue of motivation. She says, “Where the problem lies, in our view, is in the interpretation of IQ scores by economists, sociologists, and research psychologists who have not witnessed variation in test motivation firsthand. [They] might erringly assume that a low IQ score invariably indicates low intelligence.”
Is this view common? Sternberg thinks so, pointing to the fact that Duckworth’s study was newsworthy enough to be published in PNAS, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. “[This shows] how off-track our society has gone in its acceptance of commercial persuasive appeals to buy into standardized tests as some kind of panacea for predicting almost any outcome in life that we value.
“The irony of the study is that it shows the tests indeed can be useful, but as joint measures of cognitive skills and motivation. The tests also indirectly measure many other variables, such as quality of schooling, type of socialization in the home, and parents’ ability to provide their children with a home environment that fosters the kinds of skills that tests measure. IQ tests, like all tests, are agglomerate measures of many things. They are not pure measures of some kind of “intelligence” or anything else.