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In defense of IQ testing

Psychologist Stuart Ritchie on the power of IQ tests

The idea that we can measure people’s intelligence and sum it up in a single number has often been controversial, but in recent weeks the topic of IQ testing popped up in a surprising context: an apparent war of words between the President of United States of America (Donald Trump), and his Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson).

But can IQ tests really tell you anything more than how well that individual has been trained on IQ tests?

Does IQ testing really tell us anything important?

Yes! Says Stuart Ritchie – emphatically yes!

Stuart researches why intelligence differs between people, and how we can best measure these differences. He is passionate about the importance of IQ testing and what these tests can tell us about individuals – predicting everything from academic achievement to life expectancy.

Stuart is also keen to help IQ tests shed their controversial and even sinister reputation. He argues that while people might think an IQ test means someone’s destiny is set in stone, in fact, IQ tests are shown to be more effective than parent or teacher referrals in increasing representation of minority groups on programmes of gifted children. In other words, they can actually help level the social playing field. In this article with the Washinton Post, Stuart explains why IQ tests matter and why we dismiss them as mere “point-scoring” exercises at our peril.

Read more about Stuart’s thoughts on the importance of IQ research:

President Trump believes in IQ tests. He’s not wrong. (Washington Post)

About Stuart Ritchie

Stuart Ritchie is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Cognitive Ageing at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include human intelligence differences (between people and with age), and their relation to the brain, genetics, and education. In 2015 he was awarded the Rising Star award by the Association for Psychological Science.


Ritchie, Stuart. Intelligence: All That Matters. Hodder & Stoughton, 2015.

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