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IQ And Intelligence: Here’s The Difference

Something almost all of us grow up listening to is how much someone’s ‘IQ’ level is, how ‘intelligent’ they are and more than often these two are associated as one and the same but in reality, they are not. IQ and intelligence are two separate things, and here’s why.

Your IQ is a measurement (a number) of the ‘intelligence’ trait that each and everyone has to a greater or lesser degree in comparison with others. In simpler words, the IQ is the unit you measure your intelligence with; they’re not the same thing, that’s like saying kilos and weight are the same where kilos, is just the unit.

It’s amazing that measurements of the IQ preceded discussions on what the concept of intelligence actually held. Usually this would be the other way around, first the concept and then the measurements. Looking at the history of the IQ test concept and the way it was used (and often abused), clarifies the development mentioned.

By the end of the 19th Century, everyone assumed that they had the same abilities and that people only differed in their individual effort level and their heritage. Scientists such as Charles Darwin, Galton and the like put new meanings to these definitions by overturning these assumptions by suggesting variations such as natural selection and evolution, and presenting the differences in intellectual abilities.

Intelligence measurements were initially intended to measure individual differences. Up until today, the move to the next school grade and the choice of school are determined in this way, even though they are not based on actual IQ test scores. There is nothing wrong with this use of intelligence measurements, such as ‘IQ’, but measuring the individual differences has also opened up the possibility of a less positive use.

Thus over time IQ tests have been used to preserve social differences, or for example to have immigrants be returned to their country of origin based on low intelligence. IQ tests have also contributed to the inception of the eugenics movement.

The IQ as a measurement of intelligence is a relative measurement. The IQ holds no meaning on its own, but when compared to others it holds meaning. Basically, compared with 50 Einsteins you would have a very low IQ, compared with 50 children in the second grade you would have a much higher IQ.

Your IQ therefore is a score you achieve relative to a group of others. The average of that group is defined as 100. That is why we call it a ‘quotient’. This is why IQ is not the same thing as intelligence!

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