Tuesday, June 21, 2011

IQ Tests

For some reason I've never written much about IQ tests.  I vaguely recall taking them as an elementary school student, though of course we never heard our actual score -- though I suspect the behavior of the nuns at Sacred Heart School toward me can be explained by my unimpressive score.

Okay, enough about me.  IQ tests are an interesting subset of what people know, more like how people think, and I point to this Ten Interesting Facts about IQ Tests mainly because the folks there were nice enough to contact me about them. 

A couple of the points really do kinda sorta fit how we learn about politics and the media.  For example, IQ tests measure only "certain intellectual skills."  We talk a lot about the role of cognitive ability in persuasion and information processing.  It's a key factor that often helps decide how we process information, which in turn can influence the consequences of such information (i.e., whether we're persuaded).  Intellectual skills probably plays into this.  In a related sense, "environmental factors" can play a role in IQ.  From a media processing perspective, this is absolutely true -- from socio-demographics to where you are when you hear/read the news to a host of other factors.

And my favorite:  IQ tests are fallible.  I only with the nuns at Sacred Heart had read that one many years ago.  But on a methodological point, researchers need to keep in mind that often our questions are often little better than blunt instruments designed to get at deeper concepts.  Education is often used as a surrogate of cognitive ability, but I think we'd all agree it's far from perfect.  It's just the best -- and easiest -- thing we have in a survey scenario.

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