Do Video Games Measure Intelligence?



The next time you’re playing a brain training game on your phone or game console, you might actually be taking an intelligence test.

If you’ve ever played Big Brain Academy on the Wii, you probably thought “this has nothing to do with my intelligence.” And on the face of it, these games are somewhat marketed to us as brain training tools to help us get sharper and have a good time doing it. Yet we never really consider another option: Perhaps these games are actually measuring our intelligence.

In a paper just published in the journal Intelligence, “Can we reliably measure the general factor of intelligence (g) through commercial video games? Yes, we can!” researchers M. Ángeles Quiroga, Sergio Escorial, Francisco J. Román, Daniel Morillo, Andrea Jarabo, Jesús Privado, Miguel Hernández, Borja Gallego, and Roberto Colom discovered that people’s performance on Wii’s Big Brain Academy corresponded quite highly to their performance on actual IQ tests. 

The abstract follows:

Here we show, for the very first time, that commercial video games can be used to reliably measure individual differences in general intelligence (g). One hundred and eighty eight university undergraduates took part in the study. They played twelve video games under strict supervision in the laboratory and completed eleven intelligence tests. Several factor models were tested for answering the question of whether or not video games and intelligence tests do measure the same underlying high-order latent factor. The final model revealed a very high relationship between the high-order latent factors representing video game and intelligence performance (r = .93). General performance scores derived from video games and intelligence tests showed a correlation value of .963 (R2 adjusted). Therefore, performance on some video games captures a latent factor common to the variance shared by cognitive performance assessed by standard ability tests.

Lumosity, which bills itself as a brain training game, also turns out to measure intelligence to a large degree, as I’ve discussed before. For more detailed commentary and analysis on the study and the more general principles that come from it, I recommend James Thompson’s piece, “Life is an IQ test (and so are video games).”

So the next time you’re playing a brain training game on your phone or game console, you might actually be taking an intelligence test.

© 2015 by Jonathan Wai

You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook. For more of Finding the Next Einstein: Why Smart is Relative go here. This article originally appeared on Psychology Today.

Tags: iq testing, jonathan wai, video games

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