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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

IQ Test

tldr: I made an 'iq test': in clojure. Have a go. (make sure you've got cookies enabled first)

A while ago I got a bit annoyed with some 'IQ tests'.


It occurred to me that the main problem with them was that they have very strong practise effects.

I'm not sure that you can talk about measuring something if by measuring it you change it for ever.

Most people seem to think that IQ tests are telling you something about the speed of your brain, and something about your ability at abstract reasoning on novel problems.

I don't think they're telling you anything of the sort. They're telling you whether you've seen problems like this before.

From that point of view the reason for the mysterious 'Flynn Effect' (IQ scores are rocketing over time / our ancestors were morons) seems pretty obvious, and it throws all sorts of beliefs about intelligence differences between classes, races and nations into a new light.

Psychologist friends tell me that in order to qualify as an IQ test, a test has to be pretty much immune to practice effects, but I just can't see how this can possibly be true. Certainly I got much better at IQ tests by doing a few, and the same is true for my Mum, who went from barely being able to answer the questions to happily knocking off all the puzzles quickly with a couple of lessons from me.

Anyway, I reckon that an IQ test is measuring a combination of things.

  • Brain Speed
  • Speed of Learning
  • Previous Experience
  • Practice

And I wondered how to get rid of the second two, which aren't that interesting.

Starting from a real IQ test I stripped out everything that I thought was dodgy, and ended up with a simple symmetry spotting game.

It's got huge practice effects. (Once you've figured it out, there's a speed you can do the puzzles at, and you can get about four times faster with minimal practice).

But because it can generate puzzles at random, you can practice as much as you like.

So my hope is that it 'benchmarks the brain', by measuring the speed you can do a task which feels like a model of abstract/mathematical thought.

And now my question is:

"Are there differences between people, or is everyone equally good at this once they've figured it out?"

Please help me decide by having a go at it.

A score between 40 and 50 is good on the first go. If you then have another go the following day, you should be much better at it, and this effect seems to continue until you eventually level out at a very much higher speed.

Also, I have no idea at all how to write a web app, and I'm sure I've left lots of nasty exploits open.

Feel free to hack it and deface it as much as you like, as long as you tell me how you've done it so I can fix it!

Another problem with the idea of IQ testing is a thing called 'stereotype threat', which is when you're so busy worrying about whether 'your kind' are good at this sort of thing that your performance drops off. Using this, people have apparently reversed the strongest results in experimental psychology regarding gender differences.

I can imagine exactly how this might work, and to this day thank the Good Lord that I never realised that the English stereotype of Irish stupidity applied to me. I always felt English when I was growing up. Perhaps I didn't notice because I am half-Irish, and we are a bit dim.

I hope that my thing will be immune to this sort of thing too, because you can just practise peacefully with no-one watching until you know how good you are at it, and play until you've got a score that you think you can't improve on.

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