The truth about intelligence: How useful is a high IQ? | AI

Feature

18 July 2018, updated 20 July 2018

A smart brain might help you do well in tests, but there are many other ways it can affect your life, both positively and negatively

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Exams are not the only route to success, as billionaire businessmen Richard Branson and Alan Sugar – who left school aged 15 and 16 – will attest. Nevertheless, good grades can open doors, and intelligence certainly helps when it comes to educational attainment. IQ test performance accounts for roughly two-thirds of the variance in people’s school exam scores – other factors including motivation and mental and physical health also influence how well children do.

But intelligence isn’t just useful in school. IQ predicts how people will respond to workplace training and how well they will do their job, even in non-academic professions such as being a car mechanic or carpenter. It also predicts social mobility. This is, perhaps, because general intelligence reflects people’s ability to handle complexity in everyday affairs, according to Stuart Richie at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Many tasks, from supermarket shopping to juggling our diaries, require us to deal with unexpected situations, to reason and make judgements and to identify and solve problems. This is true of our social interactions too.

People who score better in IQ tests are also healthier and live longer. One explanation could be that they are better educated, so more likely to be in professional jobs that command higher salaries, helping them afford things like gym memberships and healthier foods. Another is that learning, reasoning and problem-solving skills are useful in avoiding accidents, preventing chronic disease and sticking …

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