IQ, IEQ and Intelligence

(© 1998 by C.M. Langan)


In ordinary usage, the term intelligence is appreciably constrained by neither definition nor theory. Quite simply, there is no common agreement regarding what intelligence is or how it works. Accordingly, in the narrow context of psychometrics, the term denotes that which is measured by a narrow range of IQ tests exhibiting certain generic similarities, e.g., low-complexity items of stock varieties to be solved within strict time limits. In effect, psychometric standardization has led to a tautological and probably incorrect equation of IQ and intelligence that overrates the former and underrates the latter.

If a newly designed intelligence test differs from existing IQ tests in a way that could affect the precise identity or operant configuration of the measured attribute, then for reasons of logical consistency and descriptive clarity, it cannot be called an "IQ test". Though designed to measure intelligence, it will not necessarily perform this measurement in the same way that an IQ test performs it. Even if its preliminary data seem to correlate highly with IQ data, this is not proof that IQ is being directly measured; the test could be measuring some other set of mental performance factors which happens to coincide with IQ under more or less ambiguous conditions. Because resolving such issues can require more time and data than are readily available, it is inadvisable to call a test an "IQ test" if it differs markedly in structure or protocol from known members of the class.

To avoid the problem of rendering a specific a priori definition of what any such test will measure, it suffices to create a generic alternative description covering all tests which differ in structure or protocol from ordinary IQ tests, and for which high positive correlation with IQ has not yet been established. This new term must refer to a measurable quantity that is specific to the tests it describes, and that may or may not equate to that which is measured by garden variety IQ tests. Since IQ is conventionally synonymous with "general intellectual ability", the term IEQ - standing for Intellectual Efficacy (or Effect) Quantitator - is the natural choice. IEQ denotes an arbitrary form of mental efficacy identical to performance on a specific test, thus circumventing questions regarding the extent to which that test measures exactly what is measured by ordinary IQ tests.

Although not every IEQ test is an IQ test, every IQ test is an IEQ test. IEQ is merely an effect-oriented generalization of IQ which spans certain quantifiable effects of that which we intuitively understand as "intelligence". Once it is established that a particular group of tests uniformly measures the same aspect of the same set of intelligence factors, the IEQ designation can be replaced with a more specific description ... e.g., the still-vague "IQ". But until then, the scientific need for clarity and consistency in the absence of a general theory of intelligence requires that IEQ replace IQ as the primary classification of any set of metrical constraints on intellectual production.

Far from being a semantical catchall, IEQ is rich in theoretical content. IEQ tests that are obviously measuring some aspect of what we understand as "intelligence", but display lower-than-normal positive correlation with ordinary IQ tests, are necessarily measuring a different kind or aspect of intelligence than is ordinarily measured. For example, consider those IEQ tests focussing on the extreme upper end of the intellectual scale, in which the mind lays protracted siege to very difficult problems of high intrinsic complexity. Here, where taking a test begins to resemble a persistent attack on a multifaceted, time-consuming real-world problem, computational demands placed on the mind may differ markedly from those associated with timed, low-complexity IQ tests. Extended concentration, multi-level parallelism, and intercontextual coordination of simultaneous subroutines begin to displace the sort of fire-and-forget linear computation involved in the completion of disconnected analogies, number series and picture sequences, and the spatial dimension of cognition starts to outweigh the temporal. Computational time and space become distinct "metafactors" of intelligence, respectively defining two possible directions - velocity and complexity - for the upward extrapolation of IQ. IEQ, spanning both directions, is the extrapolative medium.

There is an important additional reason for this change of terminology. While the benefits of professional standardization are often considerable, no scholarly or professional organization should be permitted to restrict scientific research, particularly in a field in desperate need of new ideas. Where this occurs, ideological politics can too easily lead to theoretical and methodological stagnation. In recent years, organized pressure has been successfully exerted on state legislatures to grant licensed psychologists exclusive proprietorship over the design, administration and scoring of IQ tests. In New York and California, for example, it is now illegal for a nonpsychologist to test intelligence or any other mental ability or attribute. While the intent is obviously to guard the public from psychological charlatanism while protecting the economic welfare of licensed psychologists, such laws do a tangible disservice not only to those talented amateurs with fresh ideas to contribute, but to the field as a whole.

Because the term IEQ denotes a measurement of test-specific efficacy rather than a general mental ability or attribute, it is not covered by the laws in question. The entirety of civilization is a product of the human intellect and thus a manifestation of intellectual efficacy; were only licensed psychologists permitted to measure intellectual efficacy, virtually no one but a licensed psychologist could measure anything not occurring in nature. For instance, because schoolwork is a manifestation of intellectual efficacy bearing a quantitative relationship to intellectual attributes like intelligence and imagination, no one but a licensed psychologist could legally grade schoolwork! Once the conventional psychological distinction between mind and environment is suspended, there is no clear way to draw the line. Because language is the medium of law, jurisprudence amounts to an extended exercise in applied semantics. Consequently, no judge or jury can fail to recognize the clear and profound distinction between the near-antonyms ability, as resident in the mind, and effect or efficacy as expressed in the external environment ... especially when the science of psychology is explicitly defined on this very distinction.

A full account of the IQ-IEQ distinction would occupy many pages. However, two other points warrant quick mention. First, there is a subliminally potent near-homonymy between IQ and IEQ. Anyone who doubts it need merely say "IQ, IEQ" as rapidly as possible. And second, because statistical analysis is legally restricted only when applied to objects of legal restriction - and as we have just seen, IEQ is not such an object - IEQ tests can be tentatively normed with the use of whatever data might be deemed relevant. In other words, every raw score can be assigned an IEQ number bearing qualified description as an "IQ-extrapolated deviation", a percentile computed, and a "theoretical IQ equivalent" noted. Although every IEQ test should contain a disclaimer distinguishing the latter number from an IQ score - in some cases, converting it to an actual IQ would almost certainly require a substantial unknown correction factor - its inclusion is justified for orientative purposes.

For all of these reasons, amateur test designers and professional psychologists engaged in the construction, administration, or scoring of nonstandard "IQ tests" should immediately relabel their tests as suggested. In so doing, they can protect themselves from unjust legal prosecution, deflect ill-conceived proprietary resentment, and rest assured that they are helping to preserve the openness and integrity of much-needed research on the nature and application of human intelligence.