IQ vs. motivation vs. activity level

Sunday May 15, 2011

I enjoyed and generally agree with the thesis of this article from big think. It says, basically, that IQ is not as important as people think, because both a) measures of intelligence are biased by participant motivation (even a genius will have a low score if they just don't feel like doing the test, a dumb kid who tries hard will do relatively better than one who doesn't try) and b) with or without high IQ, success depends on motivation.

This seems pretty self-evident to me, but now there's a study and everything. I really wish they wouldn't be jerks and just put the whole report online for free so I could read the whole thing, but they don't. I wonder chiefly how they really went about measuring motivation. Is it something like, "is the kid still trying to work on the test at the end of the time, or does he just finish quickly and put his head down?" I just don't know. They say in the abstract that they had people watching the kids or something.

Next, motivation itself is a pretty abstract thing. I've thought for some time that the more important thing is probably just the overall level of activity that a person maintains naturally. Some people spend weeks on the couch, other people go do things. Some people say they want to write a book but never put pen to paper, others write novels upon novels. (Stephen King? Ridiculous.) And that kind of prolificacy is not necessarily sufficient for genius, but you'll never hear about a lazy genius either. You only hear about them if they DO something.

This is what I think about for myself, a lot. Am I doing something? I should be. I slip into non-productivity too easily. Gotta keep doing. Not ADHD randomness, but purpose-driven effort. Maybe that's my motivation.

Update: Steven Johnson, author of "Where good ideas come from" notes that people famous for their good ideas generally had a lot of hobbies. He recommends having a lot of hobbies because it encourages idea cross-polination, basically. But it's the kind of thing you only do if you're very active.

This post was originally hosted elsewhere.