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Researchers Say Traditional IQ Test Unreliable

Update Date: Dec 20, 2012 09:23 AM EST

Rubbishing the current methods of calculating a person's Intelligence Quotient or IQ, researchers from Western University, after conducting the largest online intelligence study on record, conclude that the notion of measuring one's IQ by a singular, standardized test is highly misleading.

The study included 100,000 participants and their test was open to anyone in the world.

The article, "Fractionating human intelligence," was written by Adrian M. Owen and Adam Hampshire from Western's Brain and Mind Institute (London, Canada) and Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs, Science Museum Group (London, U.K), according to a report in Medical Xpress.

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In their test, the researchers had asked respondents to complete 12 cognitive tests, which would tap their memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities, as well as a survey about their background and lifestyle habits.

"The uptake was astonishing," says Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging and senior investigator on the project. "We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds from every corner of the world."

The results of the study revealed that when a wide range of cognitive abilities were explored, the performance could be explained in three distinct components: short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component.

According to the researchers, no one component could explain everything or determine IQ. Researchers also used functional MRI scans to show that these differences in cognitive ability are connected to different circuits in the brain. The test that was open to the world showed that with so many respondents around the world belonging to different age, gender, culture etc, there is enormous information about the role played by these factors while playing computer games and influencing our brain function.

"Regular brain training didn't help people's cognitive performance at all yet aging had a profound negative effect on both memory and reasoning abilities," says Owen.

Hampshire added: "Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory. And smokers performed poorly on the short-term memory and the verbal factors, while people who frequently suffer from anxiety performed badly on the short-term memory factor in particular".

A new version of the test is available here: http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/theIQchallenge

"To ensure the results aren't biased, we can't say much about the agenda other than that there are many more fascinating questions about variations in cognitive ability that we want to answer," explains Hampshire.

The study was published today in the journal Neuron. 

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