Date: Wed, 6 Dec 1995 23:58:43 -0800

From: Rima & Kim McKinzey rkm[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]SLIP.NET

Subject: Vocabulary & IQ

As the psychologist husband in question, I've been asked to clarify.

First, I qualify as a well-educated, up-to-date, licensed clinical

psychologist (Ph.D.). I'm a member of APA, & have been an examiner for CA.

I am qualified to document a person's IQ (whether for SSI, school, court,

or Mensa), and keep informed on available indices of IQ.

I don't think there's a better intro to the topic than Matarrazzo. I defer

to him as an authority.

IQ isn't a difficult concept; the various definitions are usually

summarized as "figuring things out," altho I prefer "adapting to novel

tasks." Once the concept has been operationalized (i.e., a criterion has

been agreed upon), standarized measures can be devised to fulfill the need

for the measure. Historically, that need came when schools sought a way of

giving special aid to the lower 2% of the child population, and again when

this nation's military sought a way of making the most of the hordes of men

suddenly being processed at the entry of WWI.

As psychologists kept at it, our tests got more sophisticated (the WAIS-III

is in development!). Spearman's G (the notion of a general, overarching

factor) and related special intellectual abilities (see the description of

Gardner's ideas) seemed pretty reasonable as an approach. My predecessors

discovered that once a G score (such as the WAIS-R FSIQ) was formulated,

Vocabulary (followed by Similarities) correlated the highest with the

overall score in both adults and children. Hence, the PPVT, Shipley ILS,

and shorter forms of the WAIS usually include some well-normed measure of

vocabulary. Hence, Rima's carefully chosen "vocabulary is amongst our best


Now: what to do about people who are not from the normative population? We

have a host of "culture-free" tests; I like the Raven Progressive Matrices

best. Those tests use language-free problems to get at the IQ, and do

acceptably at getting at IQ potential.

The referral question must be considered. If the question is: this child

is having trouble in school. Should we give special attention to her? The

answer is, yes, why do you need an IQ? If the question is: will this

applicant do well in a computer customer service position? I'll use a

highly verbal test, or even verbal ability during an interview. If the

question is : should we kill this defendant, or let him live? The answer

is: here are the results of both verbal and non-verbal measures, plus many


it is historically characteristic of reductionist thinking in psychology

to equate vocabulary with intelligence.

Has anyone ever done this? Or are we talking about useful predictors?

I hear of psychologists using the vocabulary to assess the level of

cognitive development

as well as intelligence.

My apologies to your husband the psychologist


While this might be a relatively effective device for a homogeneous population

(and I doubt that it is really effective there)

Science (as opposed to opinion) disagrees.

in the midst of diversity, it is almost as poopy as dialect prejudice.

The presence of some folks in the population that are not represented in

the normative sample of the given test does not invalidate the test, it

only limits the interpretation.

My father ...told me about Leonard

Bloomfield's success in raising his childrens' IQs in a very short time by

simply drilling them in vocabulary.

Surely this group understands the fallacy of "teaching the test"?

I'd be surprised if there were

any significant differences in vocabulary size by discipline. Has any

research been done on this?

Oddly enough, yes.

R.K.McKinzey, Ph.D.