General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

How much can the use of a tool raise the users IQ?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10839points) November 23rd, 2010

A calculator for instance. A pencil and paper. A camera. What are the net effect of tools on intelligence. Has anyone done a study on this?

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25 Answers

jerv's avatar

IQ isn’t really what you know (contrary to what many standardized tests seem to think) so much as your ability to learn and to apply what you know to a particular situation to solve a problem.

In some cases, a tool can help you use that intelligence to do more than you would be able to do without the use of tools (cranes can lift more than brains, but it takes brains to figure out how to make a crane) or allow you to take steps to amassing more knowledge, but the tools cannot actually increase your intelligence.

marinelife's avatar

This study seems to say yes:

“The ordinary hand calculator is an example.
Although not artificially intelligent, it undertakes significant
cognitive processing on behalf of the user and thus is a partner
in what Pea (1989) has come to call “distributed intelligence.”

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Intelligence (IQ) is the brain’s ability to process information and get an answer.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

It won’t necessarily raise one’s IQ, since as stated that’s not what IQ is really about. However, depending on the type of tool, it can raise one’s skills or understanding. Learning to properly use a camera will help one take better pictures and apply those skills to other objects. Learning one language will often help when learning another. Someone may have an IQ of a genius but has never learned to use a tool; and conversely, someone who uses tools all the time (like most of the population) doesn’t necessarily have to be particularly smart.

Some tools may reduce skills and knowledge, though. Calculators for instance: they are so widespread nowadays that most people have trouble figuring out basic addition and subtraction without their help. My 70-year-old coworker often figures out math problems in his head before I have the chance to grab a calculator and punch in the numbers.

Ltryptophan's avatar

I have the same capability set using a calculator as without using a calculator?

No, so how much smarter did the calculator make me.

jerv's avatar

Calculators are merely faster. We were doing things like calculating the 1,000th digit of pi long before calculators were invented. And how much dumber are we for not knowing how to do that math ourselves?

Calculators and computers are a bad example. If nothing else, they only work if the operator has the intelligence to figure out the correct inputs and how to properly interpret the output.

Coloma's avatar

Hmmm..I’m more prone to scratching out the numbers on a piece of paper than grabbing the calculator, but it is a handy little device. :-)

I ‘store’ most phone numbers in my head too.

Can’t say anything has really had a huge impact on my intelligence.

LostInParadise's avatar

Over the years there has been a universal rise in IQ scores. This is generally attributed to the increasing complexity of life. This complexity in turn results from the increasing use we make of various tools, both physical and conceptual.

Ltryptophan's avatar

So if you take an IQ test with only your own mental wits, you think you will score the same as if you add a pen and a pad to the mix?

BarnacleBill's avatar

The usage of a tool provides a venue for more complex thinking. A good example would be a computer. Look at the number people who come to Fluther looking for an answer to a question that they can’t seem to find because they don’t know how to construct the search variables to get the desired answer. Same with a calculator; if you can’t think abstractly, a calculator does nothing to enhance your mental abilities. If you can think abstractly, it’s a tool to create something new with.

jerv's avatar

@Ltryptophan A pen and pad will allow me to do math faster (though not as fast as a calculator) but you have to be fairly intelligent to figure square roots in the first place, let alone do more complex math. There are many people who can do calculus in their heads, and many that cannot do it even with a computer.

Besides, there is more to intelligence than math. Spatial relations, pattern recognition/matching, linguistic ability, and many other factors also come into play, and I don’t see a pad and pen or a calculator helping me out there.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@jerv, I repeat my question, if you take an IQ test with only your own mental wits, you think you will score the same as if you add a pen and a pad to the mix?

YARNLADY's avatar

There is no way to accurately measure I. Q., but it is based on innate ability, not on education, so the use of tools probably would not change anything.

Cruiser's avatar

No study other than observation….both of my boys seemed to have been bettered by sitting in my lap and being taught the nuances of a piano keyboard….after that, the use of tools and life in general seem to be second nature to them.

Trillian's avatar

@Ltryptophan What are you proposing is done with the pen and paper? Parsing a sentence? Long division? Figuring the slope? In the days of the westward expansion until I don’t know when school children gave exhibitions of what they had learned by doing arethmetic in their heads. And grammar. It seems like pen and paper may be a crutch, enabling a person to do less mental activity, thus effectively reducing the IQ. I have no data to back this up, just a thought…

Ltryptophan's avatar

First, I posit that with writing tools anyone will accomplish more and faster than you could with only your mind.

Second, Since the first premise is true, then I say you are smarter when equipped in that way than when you are not.

Maybe yall are getting hung up on the IQ aspect of this question. IQ is about innate ability. Once you add something to that, then it is no longer IQ. It is something else. That’s fine. You want to get down to brass tacks, that’s fine.

But, if some tool, given to an IQ test taker would boost their score, then the amount of that boost is how much that tool added to the users IQ.

So, How much do tools add to the normal mans intelligence regularly?

LostInParadise's avatar

The mind is pliable. Our mental abilities are not fixed at birth. Solving problems enhances our IQ. As I pointed out above, IQ scores have been rising over the last 100 years or so. Life has become more complicated and our minds have been rising to the challenge. Mastering the use of tools is certainly a part of this.

As for pencil and paper, Socrates opposed their use because he felt it diminished mental abilities. He was clearly mistaken. Whatever abilities we lose by being able to write things down is more then compensated for by the greater complexity of things that can be tackled by being able to put them in writing.

Trillian's avatar

@Ltryptophan Your first position is false. You have nothing to back that up, only your perception and opinion. Writing tools will not necessarily accomplish anything faster than the mind. It takes much more time to write or even speak a thought than it does to think it, especially since the mind can conceptualize in a twinkling but then it needs time to frame, find the correct terms for and articulate the thought.
To ask you question based on your premise is therefor invalid. To compound it and say “Since the first premise is true…” only adds to the mess. Your first premise is not true.
And your statement tells me that you did not want information from us, you wanted confirmation. I am unable to give it to you, and since you want confirmation rather than information, I fully expect you to dismiss what I say as you have done to every other thing said to you on the subject. Another time, I will be more careful in reading your questions. I wish to have nothing to do with discussions where people don’t want an actual discussion but simply to have everyone agree with their ideas.

mattbrowne's avatar

Stimulation between birth and 6 years has a much higher effect than between 30 and 36 for example.

jerv's avatar

Give me the answer sheet and I’ll blue that test out of the water, but that won’t mean I’m smarter.

And to answer your question directly, I’ve done it both ways and wound up with the same score; the only difference was speed. Not a good question to ask me.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@trillian you cannot back up your claim that my claim is false except by opinion. Your claim that my position is false is false.

Trillian's avatar

@Ltryptophan You can show me some evidence that backs up your claim and I’d be happy to take a look at it. Until then, you just have a personal opinion statement which I pointed out for what it was. Your exact term was “posit”. You cannot use a “posit” as an accepted fact. The fact that it takes longer to write or speak something than to think it is self evident.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Erroneous thoughts are certainly instantaneous. So take a moment and consider: this question is about how much smart leverage is created by tools.

If you think tools add nothing to our ability to solve problems then that is your opinion.

I hold that they do. Calculators , pen and pad, these are great fundamental examples.

All that is left is to figure just how much they do.

If you don’t agree, then we must agree to disagree.

Trillian's avatar

I said nothing of the sort. I merely pointed out that your “posit” cannot be taken as a proven fact when in fact it is not. You said; “First, I posit that with writing tools anyone will accomplish more and faster than you could with only your mind.
Second, Since the first premise is true,...”
It is a premise, not a fact. And as I stated, I’d love to see some studies backing up your theory. But that’s all it is, a theory and not a given.
And I again say that you don’t want other’s ideas, you want to have your theory agreed with, not rational discussion. You want confirmation not information.
I’m sure that someone else will give it to you.

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