Smarter ways to measure intelligence than IQ, says University of Alberta researcher

October 15, 2004

Measuring a child's IQ is an obsolete way to determine intelligence, and in fact, labels youngsters unfairly, according to a University of Alberta professor.

Building on a theory he began researching almost 20 years ago, Dr. J.P. Das has developed ' rules and tools of intelligence' which point to factors other than IQ (Intelligence Quotient) in measuring how 'smart' a child is.

"A child growing up in the slums or in a household with no literacy or books could be very street-smart, yet not have the school learning required for the traditional measurement of IQ," says Das, Professor Emeritus in educational psychology at the University of Alberta.

Das presented his Rules and Tools of Intelligence: How IQ became obsolete in a keynote address at the 28th International Congress of Psychology held in Beijing, China in August, and the system is now being used all over the world, and is being translated into several languages. Using a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Das is currently working with children in an Alberta aboriginal community to explore learning problems.

Das identifies four 'rules of intelligence' that go into information processing. The rules include a belief that intelligence is not fixed, but is influenced by such factors as learning and cultural demands, cognitive abilities, even school attendance, as well as individual ability to process information such as language and face recognition.

The rules guide the research on PASS theory, developed by Das and two colleagues in 1994. PASS (an acronym for Planning, Attention, Simultaneous and Successive processing) has shown that intelligence should not be measured alone by school learning and IQ testing, but by information processing that occurs during this learning. "What goes into intellectual abilities and how a person solves a problem is more important than a score itself," said Das.

A system for cognitive assessment based on PASS has been available since 1997, following standardized testing on 3,000 children and teens, and has been adopted by school districts in the United States, including Los Angeles.

IQ testing can stigmatize a child permanently, causing more harm than good, Das said. "When a child is labelled as gifted, you are happy. But when he is labelled as borderline intelligent, as a parent you think, 'What did I do? I must have committed a sin.'"

Using the PASS rules of intelligence, teachers in the classroom can individualize their program planning for students, Das says. "Rather than categorizing and labelling, a teacher can explore the different thought process of each child as unique."
Das is a founding member of the University of Alberta's Developmental Disabilities Centre, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, in recognition of his contributions to the study of intelligence.

University of Alberta

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