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Culture:

A way of life, especially the general customs, beliefs, experience and perceptions that have evolved within a particular group of people at a particular time. Over time these aspects of culture evolve.

In Part 1 of this series we explored some basic issues surrounding the significance of IQ tests. An example was given of American work that established that IQ tests are, in essence, culture pattern tests. We referred to the fact that because individual development, especially in children is evolving, it is not possible to assign an absolute measure of intelligence on grounds of logic or in statistical terms. There is, however, a considerable "investment" in the IQ myth on the part of those who happen to secure reasonable scores and those who set the tests and a large community of "professionals" and academics who make their living based on this system. There is even an association for people with "high" IQs. As a result what is being reviewed in this series is not as well known as perhaps it should be because of the inertia of interested parties or those with influence who do not fully understand the issue because there has been a failure to question or doubt its value.

Intelligence Quotient:


Why culture undermines the IQ concept

In Part 1 of this series we cited an example of an individual who scored completely different IQs according to his experience. Just to recap we present below this example on the IQ test "normal distribution".


The first test score was 95 and the second score was 129 and then some time later the score was 149. The differences between these scores, all relating to a single person, can only be explained by the individual's cultural environment made up of family, school and later occupation. These factors totally outweighed any ability of the IQ tests to assign an absolute measure of "intelligence" to that individual. Indeed, the IQ tests failed to determine anything of utility concerning any measure of intelligence other than to record changes in cultural conditions of the individual.

The reason this individual was set the first two IQ tests was that he was a part of an assessment which predicted, because of the individual's domestic circumstances, that he would fail or get a low IQ test score. This is indeed what happened with the first score of 95. However, through a process of explanation to the individual why IQ tests were set and what was expected of the person sitting the test, the score jumped to 129 within about 3 weeks.

The reason for failing the first test was that in word association questions the individual cold mix and match the words set out in different combinations with a justifiable explanation. In pattern sequences he could identify sequences other than those expected by the test. When it was explained to this individual that the examiner only wanted the most obvious answer then the score went up.

The message from this experience is that a child with an enquiring mind, able to discover hidden relationships, is likely, without an initial guidance, to score badly.

It will be recalled that in Part 1 we cited Charles Darwin's statement:

"I have been speculating last night what makes a man discover of undiscovered things; and a most perplexing problem it is. Many men who are very clever - much cleverer than the discoverers - never originate anything."
We have reviewed the influence of culture on results secured in IQ tests where we have defined culture as

"A way of life, especially the general customs, beliefs, experience and perceptions that have evolved within a particular group of people at a particular time. Over time these aspects of culture evolve."

The critical factor would appear to be the section:

"... experience and perceptions that have evolved within a particular group of people at a particular time. Over time these aspects of culture evolve."

How cultural experience impacts individuals varies significantly even at a young age. Indeed,

The statistical analysis

We have received several communications requesting further explanation on the statistical arguments concerning the weakness of IQ tests. We have asked an expert conversant with location-state theory to prepare a more detailed exposition which will feature in a subsequent piece in this series.

This overall topic is somewhat complex but given the investment of this government in making use of IQ as an explanation for economic policy, let alone having something to do with education, it is an important topic. We therefore need to issue the series in absorbable and intelligible bits.
the cultural experience and perceptions, even within a single family, can vary with sibling position. Some of these influences of sibling position are pertinent to the case of IQ tests. In the case of the individual (see box on right) who scored 95 on this first test. This poor result was already predicted and the reasons were related to his sibling position. The person concerned was the youngest in his family and the other siblings were two boys. One was 9 years older than the individual concerned and the other 5 years older.

Before advancing this tract, whereas there has been a lot of research into the impact of sibling position on personalities it is emphasized that there are always exceptions to any general conclusions on personalities. Most of this research did not, however, relate to intelligence.

Cultural setting 1

In general, the first born being the first child of a young couple who have no prior experience of dealing with babies or small children, and impacted by the focus of attention on that child which tends to make an indelible mark. The only references that child has within his "family" are his mother and father. So the "lead" and "direction" in which that child develops approximates very closely to the parent's point of view across many issues. This child's world is highly structured and this continues with entry to school where the parents will be keen that the child "does well". The effect is that the child is encouraged to conform to the requirements of the school in order "to do well". Young parents, without meaning to do this, tend to place an enormous amount of pressure of first borns with respect to their performance in the school environment. Without extending analysis on the first born it is sufficient to state that, in general, first borns tend to score well on IQ tests.

Cultural setting 2

The second child enters a world where there are three others in the family, the parents and the first born. There is normally a rivalry that develops between the children with respect to commanding the attention of parents. In terms of communication, this sibling rivalry will often spill with each child adopting opposing positions on just about any topic as part of their "defending their territory". It is to be noted the oldest child will tend to hold the cultural norm or conservative position and the second child will often react against this. The parents, depending upon their nature, will handle these circumstances differently, quite often by smoothing things down by rationalizing the counter arguments each child has developed, sometimes agreeing with one child or the other or leaving any conclusion totally undefined.

Cultural setting 3

When we come to the third child things take yet another direction. First of all the pressure on this child "to do well" tends to be less and often there is less rivalry between the other two children and the "baby". But the third child is born into a family of four other people far older than himself. The level of conversation, issues discussed between the four are initially quite beyond the comprehension of that child, but the linguistic habits with respect to modes of expression and vocabulary used by the other four becomes a background buzz with which the youngest becomes very familiar. Over time the youngest child gradually picks up and uses words quite beyond what would be considered to be normal for his age. If we could compare the siblings one would normally find the vocabulary of the third child is far more advanced that the brothers at equivalent ages. The second important point is that within a contented family the youngest normally has a very positive and often loving admiration for his older siblings. So when it comes to discussions and arguments or disagreements, on any particular topic, which might not involve the youngest child, he does not feel impelled, to agree with any particular position, as the first child was encouraged to do. The youngest child therefore develops a sense that not all is back and white but there are many possible interpretations concerning any particular topic.

On certain questions all young children have a strong sense of justice or fairness and can normally empathize with those not treated well. So quite often on such questions arguments do not arise but the second child, as per habit and just for the hell of it, might come up with an outrageous argument to justify why he is taking the opposing position to the oldest child.

All of this is absorbed by the youngest child. But what might any of this have to do with IQ tests?

The first issue is that the oldest child has tendency to home in on what is expected and as a result of the fact that IQ tests are culture pattern tests, and the oldest children tend to conform or converge onto the "cultural norm" then such children tend to do well on IQ tests. As such the oldest child can be classified as being convergent. The youngest child, whilst a member of the same family, grew up in a completely different cultural environment due to his being the youngest amongst the group. His intellectual stimulation is more intensive than the older siblings from a very young age. Much within IQ tests create initially a challenge to this type of child because this child is not "convergent" but is, rather, "divergent" and able to see many "arguments" or "solutions" where the examiner expects just one. As a result, he is almost bound to fail an IQ test first time. However, the youngest child does understand the process of how arguments are justified, even being aware of the fallacies proffered in support of outrageous positions drummed up by the middle sibling.

So when it is explained to the subject of this case study that the examiner expects just one answer, the natural response of the youngest child was "how do I know which answer the examiner wants?" as the educationist pondered his answer, the middle brother who witnessed this conversation simply said to the youngest child that he should always give the answers their oldest brother, the first born, would give. This was sufficient for the youngest child to understand what was required. The result was that when he sat another IQ test, soon after, he scored 129. It is worth, as a footnote to be aware that whereas this child though the first IQ test was fun he found the second one particularly tedious and boring.

In the first test where he applied an obviously fertile reasoning he scored badly but when facing a restriction where conditions prevented him from applying his knowledge in interesting and productive ways, he scored well.

We have not, as yet, reached any conclusion as to an answer to Darwin's question as to,

".. what makes a man discover of undiscovered things? ...Many men who are very clever - much cleverer than the discoverers - never originate anything."

There is of course much more to this story since it is nowhere near complete. We will trek onwards on this voyage of discovery in the following article of this series. We hope you will join us ;-)