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Biology 202
2004 First Web Paper
On Serendip

Intelligence Quoi?

Amanda Glendinning

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

-F. Scott Fitzgerald 1936 (Bartlett's Familiar Quotations 694:17)

IQ. Intelligence Quotient is defined as "the ratio of tested mental age to biological age." (1) Intelligence is defined as "a. The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge. b. The faculty of thought and reason. c. Superior powers of mind." (1) The IQ allows people to quantify and to create a range that all people can understand. While people do not think about what intelligence actually is much, intelligence is an important portion of society. What is IQ and why is it important in our society? What affects the outcome of that IQ test?

IQ is a method that does not factor in talent or outer exhibition or knowledge. All the results are based on a closed test during which one's intelligence is tested. Made up of several different sections depending on the test, most include questions in different sections. The WAIS test is made of four sections; the reading composite (which is word reading, reading comprehension, and pseudo word decoding), the mathematics composite (which is numerical operations and math reasoning), the written languages composite (which is spelling and written comprehension), and the oral composite (which is listening comprehension and oral expression.) (2) The scores are taken and compiled into four other sections: verbal comprehension, perceptual organization index, working memory index, and processing speed index. These are all looked at not just with scores but with percentiles. For example, on my POI, I got a 97, which means that my score was higher than 97 out of 100 adults my own age. (2) This is all combined into whatever one's actually IQ is. It is important that the IQ is only compared to people of the same age because brains are thought to continue developing until about age twenty-nine. (3)

The scores of these tests are looked at on a curve. People of the same age are compared and the scores are calculated "in a proper sense with the mental age in the numerator and the chronological age in the denominator." (3) The test is what determines the mental age. The number that comes from the equation creates the classification of the results. The classification varies from test to test but one form is that a person is under average if the IQ is under 85, average if it is between 85 and 115, and above average if it is above 115. An IQ between 75 and 85 is classified as debility, between 35 and 70 as imbecility, and below 35 as having oligophrenia or feeble-mindedness. (3)

What is a genius? To be a member of Mensa, one must be in the top two percent of IQ scores. Depending on the test, it means being above a certain score: for Cattell above 148, for Stanford Binet 132, for WAIS 130, and for Otis-Lennon 132, among many. (4) Geniuses are those who leave marks in history based on their intelligent gifts to the world. Today, they are those who are pulled aside early in school and win the Nobel Prizes. Gifted people are encouraged through special schooling and families. Good resources can help increase the results of the IQ test. A brain can be trained to be more intelligent.

The opposite end of the scale is mental retardation. The condition of mental retardation is defined as having these criteria: "intellectual functioning level (IQ) is below 70-75; significant limitations exist in two or more adaptive skill areas; and the condition is present from childhood (defined as age 18 or less)" (6). Those with mental retardation (at times known as oligophrenia) can have it due to a number of reasons including genetic conditions, problems during pregnancy, problems at birth, problems after birth, and poverty and cultural deprivation. (6) Some of the same reasons can manipulate the opposite end of the IQ scale as well.

There are many studies to determine what affects the intelligence quotient. One suggestion is birth order does. In 1973, the first test was done in Holland by Lillian Belmont and Francis Marolla about family size, birth order, and IQ. They found that children from larger families did poorer on tests, the firstborns of any family size always scored better than later-borns as well as in a declining pattern for birth status, and as family size increased the performance decreased. (5)

As was mentioned before, another suggestion is that one's environment affects the way that one turns out. This would be truer for those with lower IQs. It is difficult to increase IQ a large amount based on the food that one is fed. On the other hand, a poor diet can lead to mental retardation.

Whatever affects IQ, it is important in the way it grades one's intelligence. We must remember though that while a person may be extremely smart by the books, on the street or socially it can be a different story. Intelligence, not the quantitative IQ, truly is what is important.


1) 1) The American Heritage College dic•tion•ar•y, Fourth Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
2) Dr. Thomas Brown; WAIS IQ Test I took January 2003.
4) 4)Mensa International
5) 5)Human Intelligence
6) 6)Introduction to Mental Retarddation
7) The American Heritage College dic•tion•ar•y, Fourth Edition
8) Dr. Thomas Brown and the IQ test I took January 2003

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