Intelligence is Not Static. It's a Set of Skills that We Acquire

David Shenk: I think the really dangerous and oppressive myth of IQ is that IQ tests are identifying some kind of quantity of intelligence that we are born with and that we have this static amount of intelligence that we’re going to carry with us throughout life.

I think we have good tests of intelligence.  The key is to not misinterpret what those tests are telling us.  I think the really dangerous and oppressive myth of IQ is that IQ tests are identifying some kind of quantity of intelligence that we are born with and that we have this static amount of intelligence that we’re going to carry with us throughout life.


So if you have a one hundred IQ you’re going to be average, you have an average intelligence and that is just the way you were born and that’s the way you’re going to be.  If you have less than a one hundred IQ you’re never going to be above average.  It’s just what you’ve got. 

That’s not what IQ is divining at all.  IQ tests and every other sort of intelligence or achievement tests are revealing skills that you have, capabilities.  This is what intelligence experts now say.  Robert Sternberg who is now at Tufts was at Yale for many years and is arguably the leading thinker in intelligence. He now articulates that intelligence is not a set of innate capabilities that is static.  It’s a set of skills that we acquire. 

Some of us acquire more of those skills, some of us acquire less.  Obviously genes do play a role.  We all have exactly the same potential to have exactly the same level of skills, but we don’t know what our limits are in terms of how smart we can be, what skills we can have until we expose ourselves to the right resources.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less