IQ thoughts

Voice Card  -  Volume 10  -  Larry Card Number 4  -  Sat, Oct 21, 1989 11:10 PM

This volume's Mr. Wizard contribution regarding reading times reminded me of an old idea that I had while a graduate student the U of U. I, along with a member of the Educational Psychology Department there, were in the initial planning stages of a research project to see if we could determine an individuals IQ by using reading times. (We wouldn't actually determine IQ, but try to correlate IQ with reading times).

The type of reading time that we were to use, was not the traditional length of "how long you spend on reading something" (a duration of attention measure) but a depth of attention measure. Depth of attention would be measured by the individual's reaction time to a tone sounding through a pair of headphones while they were reading text on a computer screen. The assumption here is that the longer it takes someone to react or respond to the tone, the more attention that person was paying to what (s)he was reading.

Our notion was that IQ should be correlated with how well a reader could focus on what was important in the text. Importance would be determined by a set of parameters given to the reader prior to reading and focus would be measured by the aforementioned reaction time measure. Therefore, a reader with a supposed higher IQ would pay more attention to those items in the text considered important and less attention to those items considered unimportant.

The theoretical basis for this approach is that IQ is really a product of a "central processor or decision maker" in the mind that controls other cognitive functions. In simple terms, the more efficiently an individual makes decisions, the more intelligent he or she is.

Although the notion of a central processor as the core of intelligence is a relatively new idea, the notion that IQ is related to reaction time or decision making time has been around a long time. Nearly 120 years ago, Sir Francis Galton (who, by the way, was a half cousin to Darwin) expressed the theoretical preconception that reaction time is related to IQ. Given the technology of 120 years ago, Galton was never able to demonstrate such a relationship.

However, more recent psychologists (most notably the famed {or infamous} A. R. Jensen) have been able to establish such a relationship. In fact, his idea of culture-fair IQ tests is based upon measures of reaction (or as he calls it, inspection) time.

I would be interested in hearing other ponarvian's views on this matter of intelligence. Do you think intelligence can be measured by something as simple as reaction time? Is it possible that this is a culture-fair measure? Do central processors really exist?