Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

Signature EEG of IQ?

Tom Wolfe makes a pretty wild claim about researchers' ability to measure intelligent brain activity, physically & directly:

Not long ago, according to two neuroscientists I interviewed, a firm called Neurometrics sought out investors and tried to market an amazing but simple invention known as the IQ Cap. The idea was to provide a way of testing intelligence that would be free of "cultural bias," one that would not force anyone to deal with words or concepts that might be familiar to people from one culture but not to people from another. The IQ Cap recorded only brain waves; and a computer, not a potentially biased human test-giver, analyzed the results.

It was not a complicated process. You attached sixteen electrodes to the scalp of the person you wanted to test. You had to muss up his hair a little, but you didn't have to cut it, much less shave it. Then you had him stare at a marker on a blank wall. This particular researcher used a raspberry- red thumbtack. Then you pushed a toggle switch. In sixteen seconds the Cap's computer box gave you an accurate prediction (within one-half of a standard deviation) of what the subject would score on all eleven subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale or, in the case of children, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children--all from sixteen seconds' worth of brain waves. There was nothing culturally biased about the test whatsoever. What could be cultural about staring at a thumbtack on a wall? The savings in time and money were breathtaking. The conventional IQ test took two hours to complete; and the overhead, in terms of paying test-givers, test-scorers, test-preparers, and the rent, was $100 an hour at the very least. The IQ Cap required about fifteen minutes and sixteen seconds--it took about fifteen minutes to put the electrodes on the scalp--and about a tenth of a penny's worth of electricity.
This claim is completely new to me.

I spent some time with Google trying to see whether "the IQ Cap" actually worked as described. So far, I have found no independent confirmations or debunking. I have found Wolfe himself reasserting it in a 1999 interview. Research help, anyone?

(Cautionary notes: 1) I'm well aware that intelligence is very very complicated, yadda yadda yadda. Even if the IQ Cap perfectly measures g, its underlying science may bring us no closer to AI or anything else other than an ability to cheaply observe an aspect of living flourishing brains. 2) Wolfe was overzealous in tying "nature over nurture" to the IQ Cap's efficacy. The IQ Cap could be 100% accurate and IQ could be 100% nurture.)
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