MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that
the ability of IQ tests to predict your future -- in areas such as
job success, education and any brushes with the law -- has a lot to
do with how motivated you are when you take the test.
In other words, an IQ test may provide good insight into a
test-taker's life, "but it might not predict it for the reason you
think," explained study author Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant
professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Intelligence quotient (IQ) tests are valued in part because
researchers have linked scores to success or failure later in life.
"It predicts how long you'll live, whether you'll stay married,
your grade point average," Duckworth noted.
On top of that, IQ tests seem to measure not only intelligence
but the ability to become smarter.
"Social scientists think they're accurate measures of how well people can learn: this kid's got a 120, so they can learn really well," Duckworth said. "This kid's got an IQ of 95, so they can't learn that well."
But not everyone who takes an IQ test gives it their full
attention. "I do a lot of work in urban classrooms, and it was
salient to me that some of these kids did not care," Duckworth
explained. "They put their pencils and heads down after one or two
questions. It was obvious that they were not trying to do it. They
hadn't even started trying."
Duckworth said that she and her colleagues "wanted to know how
much of the test's predictive power is measuring what it should be
measuring, and how it much of it is from your actual
They first reviewed previous studies, and found that giving
incentives to test-takers to do a good job boosted scores.
In addition, the authors analyzed data from a long-term study
that followed 250 teenage boys from Pittsburgh into adulthood. They
were videotaped while taking an IQ test, and researchers gauged how
motivated they appeared.
When they adjusted their statistics to take away the influence
of motivation upon the results, the researchers found that the IQ
tests did a poorer job of predicting what would happen to the boys
later in life.
It's possible that some of the things that make someone
motivated -- compliance, a natural interest in solving problems,
competitiveness -- are high in those who do well on the tests and
may help them do better in life, Duckworth said.
However, the findings "don't say these IQ scores are all about
motivation," Duckworth said. "It's not saying anyone can get 140 if
they try hard enough."
Robert Sternberg, a psychology professor and provost at Oklahoma
State University, praised the study but added that the findings
aren't exactly shocking. "To almost anyone except some subset of
those psychologists who study IQ testing, it will come as little
surprise that motivation is an extremely powerful determinant of
performance in school and in life," he said.
The study is published in this week's
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For more about
IQ, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.