Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Ace an IQ Test

Raven's Progressive Matrices Example
Image via Wikipedia
I have been doing a lot of "perceptual learning" in vision therapy lately and one of things that comes up are those pesky matrix questions.  You know the questions that have a series of shapes and you are to deduce the next pattern.  I have always hated these silly questions on standardized tests.  And periodically, I am pestered with them in vision therapy.  So I decided to investigate them.

These questions are known as Raven's Matrices that were developed to assess intelligence in a culture neutral kind of way. 

They follow a series of rules:
  • Momentum:  If the first symbol and the next symbol look the same, except for one little thing moves or changes or adds to itself, and then it moves or changes or adds to itself by the same amount on the next symbol, then that’s momentum
  • Set Completion:   Think of each symbol having a number of properties: size, color, shape, etc. If you can’t sem to follow a progression like you can in Momentum, but it just looks like a bunch of random, but somewhat related things with similar properties, then the problem can be set completion.
  • Composition: If one symbol looks like the other two put together, then it is just composition. You just have to figure out in what way it should be put together. Maybe the rule is, always put it on the inside of the first. Maybe it’s, always put it on the outside.
  • Subtraction:  Subtraction is much like composition, look for one thing looks like the other two put together, but with a twist. The subtraction could be complete, just one shape minus the other. Or it could be XOR (exclusive-or).
  • Functions:  If the first symbol in a row looks like the last symbol, but the middle symbol looks weird or especially if it’s a line or arrows or something simple, then that middle symbol might be a “function.” By function I mean something that geometrically transforms the first symbol into the third symbol.
  • Replacement:  Replacement is where they trick you. The rule might be very simple, but it becomes very hard to figure out quickly, because the elements inside the symbol change for arbitrary reasons simultaneously.
  • Commonality:  If all the symbols look randomly chosen with a bunch of properties and possible configurations, then start to look for commonalities. Don’t look for a 1.2.3. pattern like movement, just look for rules that each symbol has in common. 
Finally for the harder questions,  you can have questions which use multiple rules. 

Dr. Raven's Site:  http://www.johnraven.co.uk

However, all this analysis leads me to question:  How much is developing perceptual learning and how much of using the above analysis is using a rule set to compensate?  I wonder a lot these days about how much I more I am able to see and be aware of in the world by simply having my eyes work together properly and how much is a combination of better vision and knowing a lot more rules and compensations?  Should I be learning new rules or should I simply be trying to perceive?

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