Thoughts About IQ

In To the Point by David BlackLeave a Comment

What do you think about IQ? Can you raise your IQ? Are you stuck with what you were born with?

Dr. Carol Dweck has a book,” MINDSET”, that has a different opinion. She states that IQ can be improved by your mindset, of positive attitudes and actions that will result in a smarter you.


I recently wrote an article and also made a presentation about the importance of improving your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). I also made a statement of a commonly held belief by a lot of smart people about how your IQ is FIXED, and you were sort of stuck with what you were born with.

I had read this somewhere, and I am sure I have heard it hundreds of times, that what you got is all that you get. I recently bought the audio of a book by Carol Dweck, PhD, called “MINDSET, the new psychology of Success”. I was drawn to the book because I recognized that the author had been mentioned in other books as I delved into my interest in EQ.

As I listened to her book, I saw myself in her words. She describes two types of mindsets. The first is the FIXED mindset, one that believes that your abilities are limited by your basic IQ. She described what this really was and the history of IQ tests.

The first IQ test was developed in the early 1900’s by Alfred Binet, a French researcher and professor, who was asked by the French school system to identify children who may require more assistance in learning in the schools. These focused on things such as ability to pay attention, memory and problem-solving skills, all based on the average abilities of children of a certain age. Even back then he recognized that intelligence is influenced by a number of factors, and can only be compared among children with similar backgrounds.

Can you see any problem here? This has had various modification and changes over the years, with more levels of sophistication, but somehow, the belief and teaching that your IQ cannot change has become ingrained into our educational system and our belief system.

This belief is so widely held it is rarely challenged. I took it as fact. I embraced it. It supported my belief that I am smart and that was a big factor in my becoming a successful dentist. Unfortunately, this has often doomed many people to not achieving a higher level of success, because it can be used as an excuse to not push themselves. Also, teachers may have put a person in a certain category, which changes their approach to teaching that person.

The second mindset is a GROWTH mindset. Dr. Dweck states that IQ tests only tell where a person is in their development at a certain point in time and has little or no bearing on what they can become. There are many factors that contribute to growth in a person, including determination, environment, and hard work. If a person uses a failure to understand they need to work harder or smarter on a problem, they can grow from it. If a person seeks perfection and considers themselves a failure if they do not do a perfect job, they will not grow, but rather regress or stay in the same place intellectually.

I was born and raised in a small town in West Virginia. We had limited science and math curriculum in our school for reasons of class size and limited resources. I dropped my first college Algebra class and took “Bonehead Math” the second semester to catch up. That meant I had to take three semesters of Algebra to get my one credit I needed to get my required math in pre-dentistry. Instead of quitting or changing majors, I worked harder, with my goal always in sight. I had a similar story with Organic Chemistry. I had every chance to quit, to change my major, but stuck it out with my goal in sight.

Another person who was from my small hometown is a little better known than I am. His name is Gen. Charles E. Yeager. He was a classmate of my father and uncle. He is the hero in a book, “The Right Stuff”, about the development of flight and the NASA program. He was the first man to fly faster than sound. Dr. Dweck quotes from the book that even after all the fame he gained, he attributed his success to hard work and constantly learning about the things he was participating in. There were obvious dangers and he was going into unknown areas of flight research, and he kept pushing. He did not let the fact that he graduated from that small high school, with limited resources, hold him back. He had a GROWTH mindset.

I am more than a little disappointed in myself that I have held a FIXED mindset for so many years. This has probably allowed me to judge people and elevate myself more than I should. It no doubt has caused me to put people in a box when they came into my office, as people who wouldn’t be able to understand how to care for themselves.

Like all beliefs that we have, it is not easy to change the way we think, and things we have embraced for many years. Reading one book will not make a radical change in the way I think or act, but it has opened my mind to realize the flaw in my thinking. This pushes me to at least explore this new approach to IQ and what it means about the development of our intellect and how we look at the people we work with.

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