Does improving your educa t ion al so boost your in telligence? Yes—to a greater degree than widely understood, a new study suggests.
Although some scholars maintain that education has little effect on intelligence quotient (IQ) scores, others claim that IQ scores are indeed malleable, primarily through intervention in early childhood. The causal effect of education on IQ at later ages is often difficult to uncover because analyses based on observational data are plagued by problems of reverse causation and self-selection into further education. The authors exploit a reform that increased compulsory schooling from 7 to 9 y in Norway in the 1960s to estimate the effect of education on IQ. They find that this schooling reform, which primarily affected education in the middle teenage years, had a substantial effect on IQ scores measured at the age of 19 y.
Educa t ion is how much you know; in tel li gence is your abil ity to fig ure out and un der stand new things. Wheth er bol ster ing the first al so im proves the sec ond has long been con tro ver sial; some scien tists claim school ing helps en hance in tel li gence, while oth ers in sist in tel li gence is largely fixed from birth.
Grow ing ev i dence in re cent years al ready in di cates that early-childhood educa t ional ex pe ri ences do lead to bet ter in tel li gence-test scores, said re search ers Chris tian N. Brinch and Taryn Ann Gal lo way of the Uni vers ity of Os lo, Nor way, who car ried out the new stu dy. There fore, they added, the outstand ing ques tion has been wheth er we’re al so sus cep ti ble to this ef fect in our less-impressionable lat er years. Re search da ta is al so con sist ent with that, they went on, but it might simply be that higher in tel li gence spurs peo ple to get bet ter school ing, cre at ing the il lu sion that the ef fect works the oth er way around.
To work around that prob lem, Brinch and Gal lo way ex am ined how men’s in tel li gence test scores fared af ter a com pul so ry school ing re form in Nor way that length ened mid dle school educa t ion by two years. Be cause stu dents had no choice in the change, the in ves ti ga tors hoped to elim i nate effects re sult ing from self-pro pelled educa t ional de ci sions.
The re form was im ple mented in dif fer ent cit ies be gin ning in 1955 and af fected child ren in their mid-teens.
Brinch and Gal lo way ob tained da ta on Nor we gian men born be tween 1950 and 1958, in clud ing their place of res i dence at age 14, the lev el of educa t ion com plet ed by age 30, and scores from in tel ligence tests giv en by the Nor we gian mil i tary to all draft-eligible men at about age 19.
Af ter com par ing the scores be fore and af ter the re form, Brinch and Gal lo way found that av er age Intel li gence Quo tient, or I.Q., scores rose by 0.6 points. I.Q. score is a com mon way to meas ure in tel ligence and at tempts to gauge a per son’s men tal age di vid ed by ac tu al age. The aver age score is 100.
The re sults in di cat ed that an ad di tion al year of school ing raised IQ by 3.7 points, Brinch and Gal loway said. “Given that IQ is as so ci at ed with a host of so cial and eco nom ic out comes,” they wrote, “in sights on this is sue are of clear and def i nite rel e vance for so ci ety.”