Adult Creativity and Intelligence: Changes with Age

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  • 0:07 Intelligence and Age
  • 0:44 Research Results
  • 1:18 Challenges to…
  • 3:14 Changing Components
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Does IQ increase as we get older? Does it decrease? Does it remain the same? Explore the different ways to answer these questions and discover the roles of crystallized and fluid intelligence in this lesson.

Intelligence and Age

Here we have 10-year-old Dave, 30-year-old Dave, 50-year-old Dave and 70-year-old Dave. Which Dave is the most intelligent?

This is a much more complicated question than you might think! Does intelligence increase with age, decrease with age, remain the same, or does it undergo other types of changes? The effect of age on IQ is a controversial topic among researchers. The answer to this question will also depend on how you define intelligence. Is there more than one type of intelligence? Can intelligence truly be measured by a test score?

Research Results

It has been shown that scores on IQ tests actually decrease with age. This chart shows how scores on Wechsler IQ tests peak between 25 and 29 years old, then decline throughout the rest of adulthood, with a decline becoming more steep after the age of 70. This would mean that 30-year-old Dave is the smartest, right?

Wechsler IQ Test results peak at ages 25-29
Adult Intelligence Test Results

For many years, it was accepted that a person's IQ increases until early adulthood and then begins to diminish as they grow older. This idea has been challenged by new theories and research in recent years.

Challenges to Traditional Thought

When information regarding IQ scores and age is examined in a different way, it can be shown that individuals rank in the same order that they did when they took the test at different ages. This means that intelligence remains stable throughout a person's life. In other words, due to age-related changes, older people can perform worse on an intelligence test without it indicating any drop in actual IQ.

This would mean that 10-year-old, 30-year-old, 50-year-old and 70-year-old Dave are actually equally intelligent. Is this really possible? How can a person's IQ score drop, but their intelligence remain stable?

One reason is given in a study that shows physical advantages for younger adults help them to score higher on IQ tests. In other words, manual dexterity and better eyesight help younger adults perform better on IQ tests even though they may not have a higher level of intelligence. It has also been suggested that changes in IQ tests over the years can make for misleading research results. This is because the researchers may not be comparing scores from equal tests.

The Brand hypothesis is another reason that comparisons of IQ at different ages may not be fair. The Brand hypothesis is the idea that a person's attitude and approach to test taking may impact their scores on IQ tests. The Brand hypothesis supports the idea that younger people obtain better scores on timed tests not only because of physical advantages, but also because they're more likely to guess while older people are more likely to attempt to get every test item correct.

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