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Back To Vidyya News From The Annual American Psychological Society Meeting

You Can Accurately Guess The IQ Of Others Within Seconds

In less than a minute's worth of conversation, most college students can accurately assess a fellow student's intelligence within a few points of his or her actual IQ, researchers report.

"People were within a relatively close range of (guessing) someone's actual intelligence," explained Nora A. Murphy, a doctoral student at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She presented the findings here Friday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society.

In their study, Murphy and colleagues Drs. Judith A. Hall and C. Randall Colvin videotaped the first-time meetings of 44 pairs of college students. Speaking with Reuters Health, Murphy explained that most of these short, introductory conversations were "very basic" in nature. "They talked about the classes they took, they talked about their majors, they talked about where they lived on campus."

The researchers then played 22 of the 1-minute videos to a group of students including 203 women and 77 men who were enrolled in an introductory psychology class. Viewers were asked to guess the IQ, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and grade point average (GPA) scores of each of the students depicted in the tapes.

The investigators compared those estimates to the students' actual test scores, gleaned from college records.

"When we correlated the perceived intelligence--what they thought the person's intelligence was--compared with his (or her) actual intelligence, we found that people were fairly accurate," Murphy said. On the whole, student test scores and viewers 'perceived intelligence' scores were "highly similar," she said.

"We have some evidence that responsiveness to your conversation partner--how engaged you are in that person's conversation, how well you respond to different questions, as well as the number of questions you ask" all give off clues to intelligence, Murphy said.

Nonverbal factors may have a large role to play, as well. In fact, viewers' intelligence assessments remained somewhat accurate even when they watched the tapes with the sound off, Murphy said.

Of course, some of us may be more intuitive in picking up on these cues than others. The Boston researcher speculates that "women will probably be better at this skill, because women are better (at) reading nonverbal communication. We're now teasing apart different groups and ethnicities to see who is better at accurately assessing intelligence."

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