Monday, June 10, 2013

IQ-Bright Students Who Do Dumb Things

We’ve all dealt with law students who aced the LSATs, but have no common sense or who have self-destructive personalities. Wouldn’t we like to evaluate potential students on their cognitive functioning? There’s hope on the horizon. From Inside School Research (excerpts):

Decades of cognitive, social and economic research show people with high IQs are often just as likely as those with lower intelligence scores—sometimes even more likely—to fall victim to an array of cognitive biases and other bad thinking strategies.

It’s what University of Toronto researcher Keith E. Stanovich calls “dysrationalia” —a play on dyslexia defined as someone’s “inability to use rational thought and decision-making in spite of more than adequate intelligence.”

The problem highlights a cognitive hole in current intelligence tests, including those used in college-entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT. The tests measure a student’s prior knowledge and abstract problem-solving, but, "intelligence tests are radically incomplete as measures of cognitive functioning,” said Stanovich in a special address at this year's annual meeting of the American Psychological Society. “Though IQ tests do measure the ability to focus on a goal in the face of distraction, they don't measure at all whether the person sets rational goals in the first place.”

For example, a student may be very knowledgeable, but not intellectually curious and closed to information that conflicts with his or her previous understanding. A high IQ may reflect a student’s ability to understand how to calculate compound interest, but it wouldn't necessarily ensure that he or she would choose $100 in a month over $20 tomorrow.

This spring, the John Templeton Foundation awarded a three-year, $1 million grant to develop a “rationality test” to Stanovich and colleague Richard F. West, a psychology professor emeritus at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. The assessment is still 18 to 24 months away from field testing, Stanovich said, but the basic framework is in place.


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