The origin of the IQ Test


Mankind has always been on a mission to better itself in whatever field or endeavor it sought out
to accomplish. In doing so, our race came upon the need to quantify and differentiate. This is ever
more valid for the human intelligence.

Pinpointing the birthdate of the IQ Test is, more often than not, an arduous journey that can vary
from author to author. In the early 19th century, Paul Broca and Sir Francis Galton were two of the
first academics who pondered on the importance of measuring intelligence under what we now
know is the wrong assumption that intellectual prowess is directly linked to the size of the human
skull – the bigger your head, the smarter you are. Around the same period, Wilhelm Wundt
suggested that mankind’s innate capacity to process thoughts was the real method of measuring
one’s intelligence. In today’s day and age, it is fair to say that both these lines of thinking are no
longer relevant, but were in fact the predecessors of what is now called the modern IQ Test.
At the beginning of the 1900s, two French psychologists by the names of Alfred Binet and Theodore
Simon were solicited by the Ministry of Education to create a test that would assist in distinguishing
between children who suffer from any form of mental impedance and those who did not have any
disorders but were what we normally refer to as “lazy”. It is important to provide the historical
context that led to the need for this test: a recent law had been passed making it mandatory for
children to attend school, thus the need to devise a way of branding a child’s needs based on their
intellectual capacity.

Binet and Simon’s initial approach was to formulate questions founded on subjects that are not
commonly trained at school such as focus, memory and problem-solving skills. The goal of this
process was to regulate and ultimately predict the overall success of the child at an academic level.
Once Binet started processing the data he had obtained, it came to his attention that physical age
was not a defining factor when it came to correctly answering the questions – some potential
scholars were better at answering more complex questions when compared with older children.
The opposite was also valid. Intrigued by this prospect, Binet then came to suggest the idea of
mental age, this being the measurement of intelligence based on a child’s average ability within a
specific age group.

After obtaining and analyzing a significant amount of data, the first intelligence test was born under
the name Binet-Simon Scale. This innovative method became the foundation of the intelligence
tests that are still carried out during our times. This is not to say that Binet, the test’s creator, didn’t
find some flaws in its effectiveness: it is not reasonable that a person’s level of intelligence be
labelled based solely on a standardized test. Binet emphasized that several intellectual factors need
to be considered and that an ideal result would only be possible when comparing subjects with
similar upbringings. The initial use of the term IQ dates back to 1912 when William Stern, a German
psychologist, entertained the idea of an intelligence quotient, based on the works of Binet.
Despite its limitations, the Binet-Simon Scale was a remarkable milestone in quantifying the human
psyche and quickly found a place for itself within the United States where it was first used by Lewis
Termin, a Stanford University psychologist, who applied the test to a sample of American applicants.
This evolution of the initial test was published in 1916 as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale and
remains the standard intelligence test used in the country to this day. The result of this test, also
known as the IQ or Intelligence Quotient score is calculated by dividing the test taker’s mental age
by their chronological age and then multiplying this number by 100. For instance, considering a child
with a mental age of 15 and a chronological age of 12, their IQ would be 125 (15 ÷ 12 x 100).
The IQ Test’s first massive trial by fire happened during World War I where 2 million recruits were
asked to undergo this examination with the intent of allocating soldiers to certain roles and
leadership positions. In 1917 two tests were developed by Robert Yerkes, the then chair of the
Committee on the Psychological Examination of Recruits – the Alpha and Beta tests. The Alpha test
was planned as a written test, while the Beta test was comprised of images oriented at soldiers who
could not read and/or speak English. Despite the end of the war, these tests remained prominent in
everyday life. As an example, they were used as a selection process for new immigrants intending
to enter the United States. The massive use of this test did however lead to wrong preconceptions
about specific nationalities which, in its place, led to restrictions related to human influx.
Unhappy with the restrictions of the Stanford-Binet scale, American psychologist David Wechsler
issued a new intelligence test, acknowledged as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), in
1955. Much like Binet, Wechsler thought that intelligence involved different mental abilities.
Wechsler also established two different tests explicitly oriented to children: the Wechsler
Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence
(WPPSI). The adult equivalent of the test has undergone intense revisions since its maiden version
and is currently known as the WAIS-IV.

The WAIS-IV covers ten subtests as well as five complementary tests. The test covers four key areas
of intelligence: verbal understanding, perceptual reasoning, memory and processing speed. Instead
of utilizing a chronological and mental age premise, the WAIS score is obtained by associating the
subject’s score with individuals in the same age group. This scoring method has become the
standard technique in intelligence testing and is also used in the modern revision of the StanfordBinet test.
As is valid for all forms of human experience, quantifying one’s intelligence is not a simple process
and, as has been mentioned, suffered several updates throughout the decades. What is true though
is that we can rest assured that great minds are constantly studying and perfecting what we know
about the mystery that still is the human mind.

Reducing Dementia Through Brain Training


Life is made out of unforeseeable circumstances, some pleasant and heartwarming, others bitter
and full of pain. Illness is without a doubt the main source of discomfort and lack of quality of
life. Dementia, a general term used to describe the loss of memory and other related thinking
abilities, can lead to other more serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s. But what if there are
simple ways of training our brains into preventing or at least delaying the effects of this
troublesome disease?

Training one’s brain is a continuous task that, when done correctly, has exceptional results not
only on a person’s mental prowess but also on their wellbeing as a whole. Common forms of
activities that challenge the brain are crossword puzzles, sudoku and a wide variety of computer
games. Many studies have been undertaken with the sole goal of answering one question: can
brain training prevent dementia? Some say yes. Evidence shows that cognitive training can
improve both memory and thinking, especially among middle-aged or older individuals.
Evidence also suggests that brain training may even help older adults to perform their daily tasks
at a more satisfying pace, however, further studies are required in order to consolidate these

Brain training is based on the idea that if you do not use something, you will end up losing it. As
such, the more you challenge your brain the less likely you are to suffer any form of cognitive
impairment, which obviously includes dementia. The premise for this theory is that individuals
who perform highly complex jobs or who do crosswords, puzzles or learn new hobbies tend to
have lower rates of dementia.

The biggest study taken to date with the use of computer brain training was sponsored by the
Alzheimer’s Society and counted with nearly 7,000 people above the age of 50. The brain training
program in display tested the individual’s cognitive and problem-solving skills. The outcomes
unveiled that there were progresses in reasoning and the recollection of words six months after
the test. The further the exercises were accomplished; the more likely participants were to see
enhancements in these brain functions. Some people in the study took cognitive tests but did
not participate in the brain training games. This type of study is considered precise because the
investigators can compare the results of those who did brain training with those who did not.
This helps to analyze the true effect of a study on a patient. Those above 60 years of age who
partook in the study described that the brain training test also improved their ability to
experience their daily activities such as handling a household budget, making meals, shopping
or even using public transportation.

There are a great variety of commercial brain training games and products on the marketplace,
some of which have been tested in rigorous studies while most of them have not. This can be a
delicate matter as brain training games are designed to challenge different brain functions so be
on the alert when choosing a training game. These may not have scientific evidence backing
them up which may mean that they are making false claims for their own financial benefit.
Alzheimer’s disease affects 5.4 million people in America alone, most of which are over 65. As
our society ages, higher is the number of individuals who suffer from this disease. Alzheimer’s
causes issues with memory, discerning and conduct, and while it is normal to sporadically
overlook things as you get older, Alzheimer’s is not a standard part of aging. Alzheimer’s disease
is the most frequent form of dementia, a general term for memory and thinking difficulties that
are so severe that they can affect day to day events, accounting for at least 60 percent of
dementia cases, mostly among those 65 and older. In some situations, however, it can distress
younger people. Alzheimer’s is a progressive and sadly uncurable disease. Nevertheless,
investigators have confidence that it is possible to try and delay the onset of symptoms or stop
them from progressing at a fast pace. One of the ways researchers trust as a form of delaying
the start of dementia is with the help of brain training. The premise behind brain training is that
just as exercise helps you keep your body in good shape, mental exercises help your brain stay
nice and fit.

A rigorous study discovered that brain-training actions can decrease the risk of dementia. The
technique used is called speed-of-processing, being the main objective to have the person
speedily recognize and recall an object that is before them.

Throughout the study, applicants were arbitrarily placed in one of three training groups: verbal
memory skills training, reasoning and problem-solving skills and the third for speed-ofprocessing training.  All through speed-of-processing training, contributors acknowledged an
object in front of them, as well as objects in their peripheral vision. As the game carried on,
applicants had less time to identify objects and also faced distractions on the screen.

The group of contributors that established speed-of-processing brain-training sessions
experienced a 29 percent reduced risk of dementia for the following 10 years. Still, academics
note that more revisions need to be performed in order to understand why speed-of-processing
brain training is effective, as opposed to the other types of brain training.

Despite the fact that it is uncertain if games tailored explicitly in the direction of dementia and
Alzheimer’s prevention actually work, there is proof that maintaining your mind sharp and taking
good care of yourself can help keep your brain healthy as well.

Taking care of oneself, such as getting 150 minutes of exercise per week, eating a healthy diet
filled with fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy may encourage brain health.
Additionally, staying mentally and socially dynamic as you age may help to keep your brain
healthy. Consider lively events such as adult education classes, handicraft workshops, reading a
stimulating book, doing crossword puzzles or other errands that expose your mind to new and
fulfillng tasks.

The Smartest People You Have Never Heard of


Trying to come up with a list of the smartest people who ever stepped foot on the planet is
anything but an easy task to accomplish. Intelligence is highly subjective and so are the skills that
define someone as smart. Being intelligent is one thing, using that intelligence to in some way
advance humanity, is something entirely different. At an IQ level, anything above 140 is generally
considered near genius. Nonetheless, here is a list of some of the brainiest unsung humans who
ever lived.

William Sidis


William James Sidis was an American child prodigy said to have an IQ between 250 and 300,
possibly the highest score ever. Apart from his above-average math skills, which allowed William
to join Harvard at the age of 11, he also spoke 40 languages. Sadly, William did not live up to
expectations and matured into an average human being, landing mediocre jobs and getting into
trouble with the law on several occasions.


Judit Polgár

Judit Polgár
With an IQ of 170, Judit Polgár was a Hungarian chess player who is widely considered to be the
best female chess player of all time. At the age of 15 years and 4 months, Polgár won the title of
Grandmaster, at the time the youngest to have done so. She is also the youngest person to ever
break into the FIDE top 100 players rating list. She was the top-rated woman in the world from
January 1989 until her retirement on 13 August 2014.


Philip Emeagwali

Philip Emeagwali is a Nigerian computer scientist who won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize for priceperformance in high-performance computing applications, by using an innovative mathematical
formula and applying it in an oil reservoir modeling calculation. With an IQ of 190, Philip was
voted as the greatest African scientist of all time. As an interesting sidenote, his math work is
often considered as being influential in the construction of the internet.


Srinivasa Ramanujan

Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who made significant contributions to
analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions, together with solutions to
mathematical problems then deemed unknowable. Ramanujan, who had almost no proper
training in mathematics, initially developed his own research in isolation. His estimated IQ was


Hypatia of Alexandria

Hypatia was a Greek astronomer, philosopher and mathematician who lived in Egypt, then part
of the Eastern Roman Empire. Although heralded by Pandrosion, another Alexandrine female
mathematician, she is the first female mathematician whose life is reasonably well recorded.
With an estimated IQ of 170-190, she was brutally murdered by a group of Christian fanatics
after being accused of witchcraft.


Gottfried Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a renowned German polymath and one of the most significant
logicians, mathematicians and natural philosophers of the Enlightenment and is best known for
inventing calculus. In philosophy, Leibniz is most illustrious for his optimism – his conclusion that
our universe is, in a limited sense, the best possible one that God could have created. Leibniz’s
IQ estimates range from 182 to 205.


Andrew Wiles

Sir Andrew John Wiles is an English mathematician and a Royal Society Research Professor at
the University of Oxford, specialized in number theory. In 1995, Wiles verified a 358-year-old
mathematical theory called Fermat’s Last Theorem, which until then was registered in the
Guinness Book of World Records as the “most difficult math problem” in the world. He was
appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. Sir Andrew Wiles is
said to have an IQ of 170.


Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish theologian, scientist, philosopher and mystic. He is best
known for his book on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell. In 1741 he began to experience dreams
and visions which concluded in a “spiritual arising” in which he received a revelation that he was
appointed by Jesus Christ to write The Heavenly Doctrine to reform Christianity.


Christopher Hirata

Christopher Hirata is an American cosmologist and astrophysicist who was hired by NASA at the
age of 16 to do some research on the colonization of Mars. Christopher was only 13 when this
child prodigy won the gold medal in 1996 at the International Physics Olympiad. He also received
his PhD under the supervision of Uroš Seljak in 2005 from Princeton University in Astrophysics.


Kim Ung-Yong

Kim Ung-Yong is a South Korean professor and former child prodigy said to hold the highest IQ
score (210) according to the Guinness World Records. At the age of one, Kim had learned both
the Korean alphabet and 1,000 Chinese characters by studying the Thousand Character Classic,
a 6th-century Chinese poem. At three years old, he began to solve calculus problems. At 5, Kim
had acquired astonishing linguistic skills and could speak Korean, English, French, German and


Ainan Cawley

Ainan Celeste Cawley is a Singaporean boy prodigy who, according to his parents, had said his
first word when he was two weeks old, could walk at six months of age and build difficult
sentences by his first birthday. Cawley gave his first public speech at the age of six and at seven
years and one month of age, he had passed the GCSE chemistry and studied chemistry at the
Singapore Polytechnic a year later. At the age of 9, he was able to recite pi to 518 decimal places
and could remember the periodic table.


Christopher Langan

Christopher Michael Langan is an American autodidact who is considered an intellectual prodigy.
ABC’s 20/20 estimated that Langan’s IQ is anywhere between 195 and 210 dubbing him what
most journalists consider as the smartest man in America. Growing up, Christopher Langan
quickly showed above-average skills: he could speak at six months of age, read by his third
birthday and even question the existence of God by age five. He obtained a perfect score on his
SAT, despite having fallen asleep during the test. He is an avid learner, regardless of the subject,
and can study math, languages and philosophy for long periods of time each day.