Science Update - IQ Is Overrated

06 May 2007

Interview with

Bob Hirshon and Chelsea Wald

Bob -   These question and answer shows always make us at Science Update marvel at the incredible raw braininess of Dr. Chris. In fact, we're a little jealous. But this week we have some stories that make us feel just a bit better. It turns out that having a high IQ isn't always what it's cracked up to be. First, Chelsea's here to tell us why that's true in formal education.  Albert EinsteinChelsea -   Kids need more than just high IQs to do well in school. In fact, kids' ability to regulate their thinking and behavior may be more important--especially when they're young. This is from developmental psychologist Clancy Blair of Penn State, who studied students in the US national preschool program Head Start. He found that kids who could best control their impulses, attention, and emotions did better on academic tests--especially in math. He says unlike innate intelligence, this is something kids can get better at with practice--and help. Clancy Blair (Penn State University): You know, I would say to a parent: You want your child to do well in school? Don't worry so much about intelligence. Really think about your child's ability to be well-regulated in the classroom.Chelsea -   He says this suggests that if schools want kids to learn facts, they need to teach these less tangible abilities first.Bob -   Thanks, Chelsea. A new study shows that being smart may help you earn more, but it doesn't help you get rich. Author and economist Jay Zagorsky is at Ohio State University.  Looking at decades of data on over seven thousand Americans, he found that generally, the higher your IQ, the bigger your paycheck.  But there was no relationship between IQ and total wealth: in other words, your savings and assets minus your debts.Jay Zagorsky (The Ohio State University):  One possible reason is that people say 'oh, I'm earning higher income; there's no reason for me to save right now.  I can always earn higher income than say, other people. So whenever I need money, I can just earn it.Bob -   Strangely, he also found that people with just slightly above average intelligence were the least likely to have financial problems, like bankruptcies, overdue bills, and maxed out credit cards - while both the dullest and the brightest got into more trouble.  Chelsea -   Thanks, Bob. Well, we hope that put you in your place, Naked Scientists.  Next time, we'll summon up all our mental powers to tell you about your skin's natural defenses against infections and how bacteria in your stomach could help prevent asthma. Until then, I'm Chelsea Wald...Bob -   ...and I'm Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, The Science Society. Back to you, Naked Scientists...

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