IQ Scores Fail to Predict Academic Performance in Children With Autism

by InquilineKea1 min read18th Nov 20109 comments


IQ and g-factorAcademic Papers
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I find this study extremely interesting. Before anyone starts to spout anti-IQ rhetoric - let me say that I realize that the predictive effects of IQ (which are extensively documented in research journals) are only as good as they are simply because most people aren't that psychologically different from each other (owing both to genetic factors and socialization), which will natural reduce the variance in performance due to other factors (and increase the associated variance in performance attributed to IQ). In fact, one of the major findings in the IQ literature is that in the general population, the primary sources of intelligence are highly correlated with each other. Verbal intelligence is correlated with mathematical intelligence, and both of those are are even highly correlated with reaction times. But among people who are autistic, this finding may be less accurate than it is among neurotypicals. Some of us Aspies are exceptionally talented at certain things while simultaneously being incredibly incompetent at other things.

Of course, findings only apply to the population at large and may not apply to specific subsets of people. Most research shows that people who sleep more get higher grades - but this is definitely not true for certain subgroups of people - there are plenty of intelligent people at MIT/Caltech who sleep far less than the average student in a state school. The same logic applies to skipping classes and lower grades (Caltech's classes have notoriously high absence rates since the students there are independent studiers). Similarly, IQ tests (and other assessments normalized to the general population) may not necessarily predict performance among certain subgroups of people, especially those who are non-neurotypical. This logic could apply to GPAs and SAT scores too (I know a mathematical genius with asperger's at UChicago, who only got 600s on his SATs for example). And I also suspect that it may apply to subgroups of people with Attention Deficit Disorder. There's s a good chance that other factors may interfere with IQ, which may increase variance in performance due to other environmental factors (and decrease variance in performance due to autism).And simply increasing the variation in environment will naturally reduce the variation in IQ due to comparatively immalleable factors (early childhood influence is just as immalleable as genetics once you start measuring IQs of older children and teenagers, for example).

I'm still pretty sure that IQ tests will measure *something* in Aspies (as the article says, it's that Aspies tend to have uneven performance that tends to make them stick out). Scores on the individual scales will still say something about the Aspie's range of strengths and weaknesses.

Anyways, I think this topic would be very interesting to this group, since it has a high population of non-neurotypical thinkers. In particular, I'd like to encourage the discussion of other metrics that may predict performance among neurotypicals, but not necessarily among non-neurotypicals. In particular, it has a lot of significant relation to signalling theory. If someone's a high school dropout and didn't continue onto college, for example, chances are that he probably isn't the type of person who would get along with people on lesswrong. But if you learn that he has Asperger's and other traits of an unusual background, then you might figure that the "high school dropout" signal has significantly less validity in that case, and he might have a much higher chance of getting along with people on lesswrong.