Monday, November 9, 2009

Why childhood IQ tests are completely bunk

Connor has been participating in a study at the National Institute of Health. The initial step was having a very detailed MRI, which required him to lay still for about an hour. This was an unqualified success, and he ranks as the youngest participant in the study. Apparently, it is very difficult to get a four year old to lie still for that long, in a giant machine, that makes tons of sound. The secret? Connor doesn't watch television, movies, etc. The MRI machine had a DVD player in it, and it played some show that was obviously new to him, and he was rather impressed with it. He actually did so well, that they begged me to allow him to have another MRI for a corresponding study, this one being just a relatively quick one which would take about 30 minutes. This machine did not have a DVD player in it, but Connor took the test after participating in the second part of the first study (described below) and was without a nap that afternoon. He fell asleep during the MRI, which the researchers totally loved.

Stage two was an IQ test - and if they get any result at all, I would question its validity. Connor was happy to participate for a brief time, but then he got bored. At one point, the psychologist asked him "Can you tell me about a shoe?" and he responded "I don't know anything interesting I could tell you about a shoe". The psychologist blinked, I held back laughter, and then she prodded "is there anything at all you tell me about a shoe, even if it's not interesting?", and Connor proudly announced "it's a shoe". And he would absolutely not say anything else. Then she tried to ask him about several other mundane objects, and he would repeat back the object's name. That's it.

During another portion of the test, she asked "what does a bottle do?" and he announced "it holds liquids". So she asked "what kind of liquid?" and he looked her right in the eye and dead panned "any liquid", as if she were asking him a totally stupid question (which she was). And it was at this point in the test that I had personal confirmation he was my child because I hate it when people ask me stupid questions - and yes, no matter what you were told in school, there are stupid questions - and I took this as a sign that Connor does not like them either. He was a little more cooperative during this test, but at one point he decided to torture the research by delivering a brief soliloquy about the importance of shoes, and many random facts about shoes such as the materials they can be made of, the colors they can be, why you can't wear them inside at home, etc. The researcher, doing her best to hide her annoyance, looked up and said "so you do know about shoes?". He said "nothing interesting".

He thought the putting together of red and white blocks to match patterns was pretty fun, and there's one part of the test where he was supposed to fill in different lines, based on symbols and a key. I thought he was going to really dig this, but instead, he sailed through the practice portion really excited, and then when the researcher went to time him, he did about a row of these things, and then just scribbled all over the entire paper, which about killed the researcher. She would very calmly stop her watch, and explain to Connor that he needed to do one at a time, and that it was hard to see what he was doing with all the scribbling. I knew Connor had checked out by this point, so I don't think I even tried to get him to do it.

So...the NIH has allegedly awesome photographs of Connor's brain and who knows what for the IQ portion of the test - and Connor has $225. I'm not sure who came out ahead on this one, but it did satisfy Connor's desire to be in a study "just like Helen is".

1 comment:

  1. I love that Connor outsmarted the test! That is why I too think IQ tests tell us nothing about any intelligence that matters. In my book, Connor, your life IQ if off the charts!