Ambiguities in IQ Tests

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Ambiguities in IQ Tests

2012-11-04 21:00:05

I have just read a blog post, written by Russian emigrant, who was offered to pass an IQ test to join the Mensa community.

The main point of the post is there are often tasks in IQ test having multiple correct solutions. IQ test authors often instruct in these cases to choose the simplest one. And this is the main problem.

In her blog post Tanya gives some examples of such tasks, like: What is the odd object out in this list?
- Cow, hen, pig, sheep.

You may try yourself to pick a number of correct answers to this question, and which one is to be considered the most simple?

You may find the original post with more examples and discussion here


And have you ever felt this ambiguity in tasks during the IQ test?

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24 Feb 2013 at 23:19

I completely disagree with point being made in the post you link to. Here's my comment to that blog post:

"I disagree. You are creating unnecessary confusion. Seeing more than one alternative is good ONLY IF you take the next step to evaluate them in terms of their reasonableness. Otherwise, you are just turning your own head into soup, which is the opposite of intelligence.

1. Hen is obviously the odd one out there, because it is the only non-mammal in the list. “Kosher” argument is not very good, because it would make the question culturally-specific and narrow. You are not supposed to be distracted by such small possibilities when there is a big and strong one that’s obvious right in front of you. Do you think it’s reasonable to expect the test-makers to be Jewish and to expect test-takers to answer an IQ test from Jewish perspective? That fails the reasoning-from-context test, which is an assumption when you are taking an IQ test. Similarly, deciding according to the number of letters in each word is also not very good. That removes meaning from the question.

2. Same with the sequence of natural numbers. All other explanations are more complex, and Occam’s razor principle demands that you eliminate them as soon as you think of them. Again, thinking of them is not bad in and of itself, but getting stuck at that stage, and beating yourself and telling yourself that you are too creative for IQ tests, and denigrating the test-makers is a big fail.

3. I completely disagree with your 30, 31 sequence example as well. IF the sequence only contained 12 elements, and they mimicked the number of days per month per year exactly, THEN I would agree with you. But there are “…” at the end of the sequence, implying the pattern goes ad infinitum. So, Occam’s razor demands you to NOT add unnecessary confusion. It is POSSIBLE, I suppose, that the test-taker intended you to see the analogy to the sequence of number days in each month, but do you have any EVIDENCE for that? Why would the test-maker give you a question you won't not be able answer based on the evidence in the question? Why should they expect you to think up the untestable based on what they give you? To give you an analogy, if you have ever taken high-school algebra, you know infinite number of polynomials can pass through 6 points on the real number line. But when you are asked to best-fit these points using a polynomial, you know you are being asked to find a 6-th degree polynomial that goes through them, not a 7th, 8th, etc. degree polynomials, even though they most certainly ALSO do the job, but since there are an infinite number of 7th degree polynomials that will do the job (and same for 8th, 9th, etc), it is non-sensical to argue the question is punishing creativity. Do you see my point?

Creativity is not an ability to make up endless possibilities willy-nilly in a manner that’s detached from context/reality. That’s self-confusion/delusion. Creativity is thinking up APPLICABLE alternatives, which requires one to evaluate them according to their reasonableness and applicability to the situation which you are thinking them up FOR. Your criticisms fail at this second step."

23 Jun 2013 at 21:04

Get over yourself, gaussian. Denigrating the test-makers is a no-no? What are you, a child? The question at issue is whether IQ tests are actually as sound as people assume they are, not whether the test-makers' feelings are hurt. My God. You sound like some kid who lives in an authority figure universe where you have to believe what the adults say or else! Sad.

Now, while I agree that the hen is the odd one out because it's the only non-mammal, other examples aren't as reasonable. In other cases, there are indeed numerous and equally likely answers and no reason to prefer one over the other. This argument using Occam's razor is nonsense (not to mention, you get Occam's razor WRONG).

To say that each question is vetted by limiting it to context is nonsense. Not only do tacit cultural values come into play, but there's no such thing as a airtight context. See below.

Are they punishing creativity? That depends. Theoretical creativity? Certainly. Practical creativity? Not necessarily. The former demands openness to all possibilities constrained by the acknowledged facts (with openness to reviewing facts if they should prove to be theory laden). There is a context, but the way problems are solved involves a great deal of mental power and reflection. Practical creativity generally operates in terms of mental economy: give the solution that requires the least mental effort. That's really what's meant here. Not some maximization in relation to the actual state of affairs, not what a thing actually IS, but a minimization of effort. In practical matters, we choose what is most expedient and least costly to ourselves.

Evidence, of course, is another tricky issue. The evidence given does not give reason to choose one ambiguity over another without the inclusion of additional assumptions which are the result of either conditioning or in fact weaker intelligence. Some of this may be conditioning being selected for. I have examples where this applied at job interviews. I was given a problems which asked for what on the surface appeared like an obvious task. However, it soon became obvious to me that there existed multiple solutions or that the accepted answer was, in fact, over

Also, a certain theory of intelligence underpins IQ tests, one which is, based on my study of intelligence, highly wrong and historically/philosophically misinformed. It's a complex subject. Psychologists are not in agreement with the idea of IQ tests. Indeed, its greatest defenders are often failures (how many of the high IQ society members do you see doing groundbreaking work in science, for example? Generally, if they're even working on fundamental things, they're filling on the blanks). Despite my high IQ, I have no stake in the IQ business. I have an open yet critical mind towards people and don't try to patch my self-esteem with test scores. My suspicion, however, is that they may even indicate a certain conformity to a mediocre status quo. Occam's razor isn't an uncontroversial thesis, I might add, and it's silly to appeal to it as if it's merely just the case or innate and thus testable. Being asked a question consciously puts the mind in another state anyhow. The true intellect seeks the truth, not cheap computations. Truth is hard to discover. Construing a pattern in a bowl of cereal isn't.

And finally, you can practice for IQ tests. This is perhaps the most controversial issue of all of these. In that case, IQ can at best give you a lower bound. However, I'm not sure we can say they give a lower bound on "Intelligence" with a big I. I was a member of Mensa and another even tighter society, and I can tell you, most of the people there are sorrowfully lacking in intelligence.

So anyone, like guassian, who so easily grants IQ tests a pass is clearly of questionable intelligence.

11 Feb 2015 at 03:07

Hen. Only two legs. All other four legs. Simple enough?

09 May 2015 at 17:21

I tentatively agree with "hen" as the answer, but my argumentation is different: it is the only animal of the four that could not be used for human transport. Of course, "pig" is the only word that refers to an individual human being, "cow" is the only animal frequently used in Harry Caray's expletives, and "sheep" is the only animal that sounds like an English term for "maritime vessel" when pronounced by some non-native speakers. In short: let's get real...I considered multiple choice tests passé in kintergarden. I think Mensa is a ridiculous concept...unless they serve Schnitzel with Jägermeistersoße. I realize that may have been rather untoward. Whatever. I give this post .985 stars on a scale of at least nine planets. Its a decent fielding percentage for a dream catcher. O Strunk and White, I forgot an apostrophe.