Why IQ tests are culturally flawed and unfair

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REY ELBO

REY ELBO

THE short answer is that we come from different worlds, and many of us don’t understand the question of the other “world” and yet we are constrained to take the intelligence tests as required by industrial psychologists, who say job applicants may only proceed further in the hiring process if they pass the exam.

OK, fine. Now, let’s take this question: “Which one of the five is different from the other four – (a) dog (b) cat (c) car (d) bird (e) fish?” Just like many of you who are intelligent enough to read this piece, you would probably answer – letter (c) for “car” because it is the only inanimate object in the list.

On the other hand, some Filipino or Japanese job applicants would probably answer – letter (e) for “fish” as it is the only one capable of living and sustaining itself in water. You can’t blame the Filipino and Japanese job applicants because both live in a country categorized as an archipelago, or bounded by water.

Some test-takers would give the answer letter (d) for “bird,” because it’s the only one that can fly on its own. That’s how many applicants can fail in IQ tests, unless they’re taking Adrian Dove’s Counterbalance General Intelligence Test, also known as Chitling Test, to help correct the barriers between and among people from different cultures.


Here’s a sample of the Chitling Test; never mind its grammatical imperfection: “Money don’t get everything, it’s true.” Choose one: (a) but I don’t have none and I’m so blue, (b) but what it don’t get I can’t use, (c) so make do with what you’ve got, (d) but I don’t know that and neither do you. The correct answer is letter (d), according to Saundra Ciccarelli and J. Noland White in “Psychology” (2012).

Still, if you’ll review many samples of the Chitling Test found on the internet, you’ll discover that they’re not yet universally fair to test-takers despite the attempts to create and update IQ tests to ensure they’re free from cultural and language barriers, or at least they’re reasonable for everyone.

In the early 1970s, when I was a clumsy working student surviving with a measly P50 weekly pay as a bank messenger, I took more than 100 IQ tests as a hobby but not necessarily to secure another job but to master all the IQ tests that were being given by some employers in Makati.

I was an undergraduate then, but employers would only be happy to give me the IQ exams as part of their manpower pooling of “endo” workers at the time. I was not informed of the actual results. However, the clue was evident – I was allowed to proceed through several levels of job interviews until I was able to memorize all the killer questions posed to me by interviewers, who had no idea I was just enjoying the experience.

That’s how I became fascinated with the work of personnel managers, who have metamorphosed into what is known today as human resource managers, or human capital managers, by people who having nothing to do but to sell some books.

Four decades of evolution have shaped my experience in people management long before Dave Ulrich prescribed that HR managers must wear the four hats of: an employee champion, administrative champion, change agent and business partner.

But how many of you out there are brave enough to ask if the IQ tests being administered by HR departments are fair and square to all applicants? Remember, beggar-applicants can’t be complainers. If many intelligence tests are culturally flawed and unfair, why do organizations still use them?

“Wala lang!” Let’s go with the flow of blind psychologists. Well, if you can’t explain to me what’s happening, then you don’t know what you’re doing. Or maybe the correct question is – do you have evidence to prove that those who pass the IQ tests with flying colors end up getting promoted in their jobs several times over in a short period of time? Were they fast-trackers?

Prof. Joyce Mondejar-Dy, chairperson of the Industrial and Organizational Division of the Psychological Association of the Philippines, has another perspective: “Many HR heads are not strategic, and mostly compliant with what the majority are doing. They don’t have licensed psychometricians, nor industrial psychologists who can help them customize a battery of screening tests and practices.” Maybe, that’s one reason.

So, how do we resolve it? American motivation speaker Denis Waitley has this to say: “The winner’s edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is all in the attitude, not aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success.”

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random thoughts on Elbonomics.

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