STUDY ALERT: Role of test motivation in intelligence testing

by Scott Barry Kaufman, January 11, 2012 in Study Alerts

TITLE: Role of test motivation in intelligence testing

AUTHORS: Angela Lee Duckwortha,1, Patrick D. Quinnb, Donald R. Lynamc, Rolf Loeberd, and Magda Stouthamer-Loeberd


Intelligence tests are widely assumed to measure maximal intellectual performance, and predictive associations between intelligence quotient (IQ) scores and later-life outcomes are typically interpreted as unbiased estimates of the effect of intellectual ability on academic, professional, and social life outcomes. The current investigation critically examines these assumptions and finds evidence against both. First, we examined whether motivation is less than maximal on intelligence tests administered in the context of low-stakes research situations. Specifically, we completed a meta- analysis of random-assignment experiments testing the effects of material incentives on intelligence-test performance on a collective 2,008 participants. Incentives increased IQ scores by an average of 0.64 SD, with larger effects for individuals with lower baseline IQ scores. Second, we tested whether individual differences in motivation during IQ testing can spuriously inflate the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes. Trained observers rated test motivation among 251 adolescent boys completing intelligence tests using a 15-min “thin-slice” video sample. IQ score predicted life outcomes, including academic performance in adolescence and criminal convictions, employment, and years of education in early adulthood. After adjusting for the influence of test motivation, however, the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes was significantly diminished, particularly for nonacademic outcomes. Collectively, our findings suggest that, under low-stakes research conditions, some individuals try harder than others, and, in this context, test motivation can act as a third-variable confound that inflates estimates of the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes.

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2 Responses to “STUDY ALERT: Role of test motivation in intelligence testing”

  1. Romina says:

    These quiiatles affect a person’s success in the future because they affect the people around them and also themselves. For example, if a person has a good attitude, then people around them will know that and they’ll be willing to be the person’s friend or help them with a favor. We need the help of people all around us because everyone has a moment where they’re stuck and need a little push. Emotional intelligence is needed to push through college and jobs because what most people will face is rejection, and knowing how to deal with that is important because just the feeling of rejection alone can lead to so many other things like giving up or suicide. It’s important to know what to do with those feelings and not letting them swallow us. Motivation is probably the most important because with motivation, you can push your way through rejection and all the other obstacles that will come across your future. As long as you know what you want and maybe have a something or someone in your head telling you to keep going, I truly believe that you’re all set for the future. That was hard to explain, but I hope that helped!

  2. JL says:

    The meta-analysis by Duckworth and colleagues is of dubious value because their results depend heavily on the inclusion of three outlier studies by the scientific fraudster Stephen Breuning. See here:

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