What do Fluid Intelligence tests actually test?

Psychology and education have the sum of intelligence neatly wrapped up in two nice bundles: Crystallized intelligence (a “fancy name” for learned facts) and Fluid intelligence (a misleading name for analytical ability that is supposedly independent of one’s prior experiences and knowledge.) Just how a person is supposed to “forget” whatever they have learned and experienced when “being analytical” is beyond imagining – but in the minds of psychologists, anything is possible, no matter how nonsensical it may be “in practice”.

Hint: if you want to come up with a “new” theory, just RENAME existing ideas, and take credit for “discovering” something new and important. Of course, there is a lot of confusion in how individual teachers, psychologists, etc. understand these “separate” types of intelligence.

Sample questions from a website that teachers can use to create tests to use in their classrooms. These “problems” supposedly test fluid intelligence.

Comments are by people who took the test.

#18. What is not part of this group: Apples, bananas, tomatoes, onions (How could a person answer this question without prior “factual knowledge” of apples, bananas, tomatoes and onions?)

A. apples
B. bananas (Correct Answer)
C. tomatoes
D. onions (Your Answer)

Test taker: I selected onions because it is the only vegetable among the choices, making it the biggest difference between the four choices (in my opinion). I suppose for bananas to be correct it coud be the only choice that grows in bunches whereas the other three grow as a single item. Additionally, bananas could be the correct answer because monkeys are know to eat them and not eat the other choices. You make a case for any of these choices (“apples” has the only double letter, has the only core that isn’t typically eaten, etc.). If anyone could explain to me why bananas is the better choice over onions, please let me know. Regardless, the question is ambiguous and should be replaced. Actually – any part of a plant that can be eaten is a vegetable. Fruit are reproductive parts; all fruit are vegetables; all vegetables are not fruit. Not knowing this fact (crystallized knowledge) sets the test taker off in the wrong direction. Shape is the factor

#22 Apartments in the Riverdale Manor cost less than apartments in The Gaslight Commons. Apartments in the Livingston Gate cost more than apartments in the The Gaslight Commons. Of the three apartment buildings, the Livingston Gate costs the most. If the first two statements are true, the third statement is

A. true (Your Answer)
B. false
C. uncertain (Correct Answer)

Test Taker: Let’s set values for each apartment. “If the first two statements are true, the third statement is”. So let’s assume the first two statements are true. Apartments in the Riverdale Manor (RM) cost less than the apartments in The Gaslight Commons (TGC). So we’ll set RM to $50 and TGC to $100. This satisfies the first statement. The second statement is “Apartments in the Livingston Gate (LG) cost more than apartments in TGC.” To satisfy this statement, LG must be more than $100. Now looking at the third statement, “Of the THREE apartment buildings, the Livingston Gate costs the most.” If RM<TGC<LG, then the third statement must be true. At first I thought I got it wrong because there could have been fourth, umentioned apartment, but it specifies three in the question. I am assuming this is another flawed question, but if someone can explain why the answer is uncertain, I would greatly appreciate it.

#28 Fur is to a bear as …….. is to a man

A. teeth
B. skin (Your Answer)
C. hair (Correct Answer)
D. eyes

Test Taker: This one doesn’t upset me as much. I assumed the though process of the analogy would be “Fur completely covers the surface area of a bear :: skin completely covers the survace area of a man” and not “Fur is what comes out of a hair follicle of a bear :: hair is what comes out of a hair follicle of a man”. Regardless, fur, with respect to a bear (noun) is defined as “the short, fine, soft HAIR of certain animals”. For this analogy to be legitimate, the answer would have to be what the hair on a man is specifically called. While I do understand why “hair” is accpeted as an aswer, I also believe “skin” is an equally valid answer. This is the sort with two obvious distractions with two left to ponder. The question is purposely set up to get the student to guess between two “reasonable” answers, with a 50/50 chance to be wrong.

We can easily see that these questions have nothing to do with Fluid Intelligence as defined.

Each requires extensive “learned and memorized” stuff that can be used to solve the problem. The testtaker NEEDS conventional facts (crystallized intelligence) to solve the problem; what’s more, that bag of “facts” is basic to modern western civilization.

Tests like these are composed of the repetition of a few questions with specific structures and methods to solve them. To “excel” at this type of test, the test taker NEEDS crystallized intelligence – that is, he or she must have LEARNED to recognize a specific “problem” structure and the “trick” to solving it. That’s why beaucoup bucks are spent on courses that teach students how to take these tests.


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