In an incredible intersection of digital connection and modern neuroscience, over 100,000 people recently took part in the largest test of intelligence and cognitive ability ever undertaken. The results might disprove that there’s any one measure, like IQ, that truly captures the broad range of mental talent seen in the world’s population.
Instead of “IQ” or any one component, it took at least three components to rate someone’s mental performance: Short-term memory, reasoning and verbal acuity.
To make things even more interesting, these three components all seem to map out to separate brain “circuits”. You may excel in one and not in the other two, or be balanced among all three. To put it another way, intelligent people are still intelligent, but now we can appreciate our place on that spectrum with greater depth and color. They even peeled back another layer, using their huge sample size to link performance to certain behaviors. Smokers did poorly on memory and verbal components, while computer gamers did well on memory and reasoning.
Anyone who’s looking knows that there’s variation in people’s cognitive abilities and individual “intelligences”, and trying to score that with one number doesn’t seem to do anyone much good. What sort of talents have we accidentally suppressed by failing to stamp people officially “intelligent”? Who have we discouraged by failing to include their intelligence in the “score”?
On the surface, it comes as no surprise. That in a world full of incredible individuals and unique combinations of passions, knowledge and curiosity… all of them powered by a tangled neural web of unparalleled cognitive complexity, that our “intelligence” would not be well quantified by a single measure. It is difficult to distill a rainbow and still appreciate its colors.