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IQ Tests, Definition Changes and Expired Psychological Classifications

Updated on November 3, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.

Is IQ score useful? Computers and robots can produce higher IQ scores than can humans.
Is IQ score useful? Computers and robots can produce higher IQ scores than can humans. | Source

IQ Tests Not Always Accurate

A human being cannot pass or fail an IQ test, but the outcome of a single test administration is likely not as accurate as the public believes it to be.


Why have definitions of the levels of intelligence changed, other than to release a greater number of individuals from state institutions or group homes and to afford a larger number of students a "social pass" through high school graduation?

Inaccuracies and a Need For Change

As a professional in clinical and health psychology practices for 15 years, I administered thousands of children's and adults' intelligence tests and witnessed a number of weaknesses in the validity of testing and variations in test score outcomes based on a number of factors.

These factors can have long term and short term relevancy and include malnutrition, fasting, and long term failure to eat a healthy diet; long term exposure to lead, vehicle exhaust, smog, and heavy smoking; illness, concussion, pain; inaccurate eyeglass prescription; depression, anxiety, and other psychological conditions; and other causes.

I find that accepting only one IQ test result measured one time for a client is akin to measuring blood pressure at only one time - inaccurate in the long term. Consider the fact that we assign an inanimate object an IQ of around 15 and you may wish to throw out the whole practice of IQ testing.

In fact, I have written elsewhere about IQ and its inconsistencies. In addition, a high IQ score does not translate automatically to success anywhere, even in classroom achievement, where IQ score is accepted as being most accurately applicable among all its settings of use.

IQ Results Have Been Used For Name-Calling

At the outset, let us recognize that the adverse and belabored use of name-calling, employing the term "idiot", "stupid", or other words having negative connotation shows:

  • An inability to communicate clearly (an indication on IQ tests of lower intelligence);
  • A lack of vocabulary (also an indicator of lower intelligence);
  • Verbal Abuse and Bullying in belittling the target of the name-calling;
  • A direct reference to the denigration of people with IQ scores of lower than 90 to 110 ("average"), taken from an expired psychological system of classifying IQs; and
  • Negative Labeling.

Name-calling is not classy or intelligent behavior. Denigrating a person's characteristics based on a possibly inaccurate test score is worse.

However, we see it more frequently in muckraking campaigns during political elections, in religious arguments; and in intellectual/educational discussions gone awry.

Notice that by the rules of official debate, name-calling is disallowed.

Name calling is a dinosaur.
Name calling is a dinosaur. | Source

Name-calling is not classy or intelligent behavior. Denigrating a person's characteristics based on a possibly inaccurate test score is worse.

What is "Stupid" - is it Low IQ?

From the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2012 - 2015.

Stupid (adjective)

1a : Mentally slow - obtuse

1b : Hallmarked by unintelligent decisions or acts : behaving unintelligently or carelessly

1c : Without intelligence or reason : brutish (rather like an animal or Neanderthal)

2 : Dulled in feeling or sensation, as in "still stupid from the sedative."

3 : Results of unreasoned thinking or acting : senseless, as in "a stupid decision."

4 a : Having no interest, point, or practical application, as in "a stupid event."

4 b : Vexatious or exasperating: The broken down car is "stupid."

Preferred, Less Abusive Meanings in Mental Health Practice

Stupid (adjective)

1 An action is stupid, but not a person.

An action is stupid, because a) it went wrong and b) the person performing it actually knew better than to do it; that is, the person knew it would go wrong. The person needs to exercise better judgement.

2 Try not to use the word "stupid" at all.

Intelligence is more than an IQ score.
Intelligence is more than an IQ score. | Source

Expired Psychological Classifications

If you enjoy The Three Stooges, you often hear them calling one another names that were formerly assigned to conditions of low IQ among patients in state hospitals.

These classifications existed in psychiatric institutions in America and in England from the 1800s through the first half of the 20th Century. Examples of these terms are: Idiot! Moron! Imbecile! Feeble-Minded!

In the early 1900s, Americans still thought that such name-calling abuse was funny - no hilarious. Many laughed to see people slapping and slugging each other in comedy routines.They also laughed at the mentally ill and physically disabled.

Audiences received what they paid for - verbal and physical abuse on stage, abuse that was very strong and very exaggerated, until movies allowed the Stooges to fake much of the physical contact. The verbal abuse was status quo.

The Expired Psychological Classification System:

The original "IQ" designations used for name-calling came from The Stanford Revision and Extension of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale; IQs 70 and below; 1916. The categories were replaced by new definitions after WWII.

Original Low-IQ Designations

  • Feeble-Minded: General category for IQs below 70.
  • Moron: IQ 50 - 69
  • Imbecile: IQ 20 - 49
  • Idiot: IQ below 20
  • (Inanimate object): 15

Multiple Intelligences Theory

Howard Gardner's definitions and observations of a variety of types of intelligence may be a better estimation of an individual's potentials than is any IQ Scale. Most people seem to possess a set of two or three separate areas of higher intelligence among the intelligence types. Unfortunately, the number of types change periodically, based on others' interpretations: 13, 11, or 7 types.

The Best Test of Intelligence May be Problem-Solving

Reading and writing achievement became the hallmark proxy measurements for intelligence during the Welfare-to-Work (W2W) and Summer Youth Employment programs operated in some US States from 1992 through 2005.

Adult and youth clients entered and left programs based on their scores and I remember scoring a few thousand such tests each year for over a decade.


Those scores did not measure whole intelligence, however; we know that some individuals who cannot read or cannot write still have higher intelligence, because they have a system of survival that works. For example, tribal cultures with no written language have not been unintelligent overall. Youth in a building trades program in my city quickly became able to construct a house before they reached reading and printing proficiency.

Although research is needed to confirm some local theories, a group of teachers in my city found that dropping high school students into a completely foreign culture was an effective means of testing intelligence. In the setting a of classroom exercise in a multicultural school, student subjects are individually placed into a group of individuals from another culture for two hours and not permitted to speak or write English and did not know the foreign language - often a Somali or Ethiopian dialect.

Each subject was to obtain food, money, and shelter through their problem-solving skills. It was an eye-opening exercise in which some students performed well without speaking or writing English. No IQ score was assigned.

Problem-solving skills may measure intelligence more accurately than some official IQ tests we have today.


  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Style Manual, Editions III, III-R, IV, IV-R, and 5. 1983 - 2013.
  • Gardner, H. Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons. July 4, 2006.
  • Hothersall, D.; PhD, Prof. History of Psychology. McGraw-Hill Education. July 17, 2003.
  • Hothersall, D.; PhD, Prof. Psychology 301. 1968 - 1975.
  • Inglish, P. Public and private practice experience in intelligence testing and research; 1983 - 2017.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Let's see how the new Stooge movie does at the box office! The bio-pic on TV several years ago showed how sad the physical part of it all was.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 

      8 years ago from SE MA

      Three Stooges: I have always felt that anyone who finds them "funny" is of low intelligence or immature.

      As to name calling.. I have mixed feelings. It certainly can be cathartic!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      That's what I usually think as well. Thanks for your experiences.

    • profile image


      9 years ago


      As always, your shine. :)

      I had a seventh grade English teacher who once told our class that if we had to resort to name calling for description, and "curse words" to express ourselves, she had little hope for us.

      She made her point and nearly 30 years later, I still remember her making it.


    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      Angie: What an interesting contrast between your own experience in businesses and those of us in North America. Perhaps UK media doesn't show such examples in their TV shows or films? Canada gets both British and American programming as well as our own shows. I have to say that at least in terms of the British programs I have seen I do not remember such language in programs in general. Meanwhile, I do remember Basil in Fawlty Towers having lots of frustrations at work while not attacking anyone.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi Angie -

      I've been taken aback by patients calling clinic staffers here all sorts of obscenities as soon as they walk in and glad when some offenders have been ejected. I have stopped frequenting restaurants that permit very loud streams of obscenities from a few among patrons that don't want to hear them -- managers are afraid of being literally shot, so they say, and send crew after these people, then the crew refuse to go as well. Patrons are walking out as I hear in newscasts, which will likely cause these places to close.

      I'd say in your experience are people that can express themselves effectively and people that have the manners for smooth interactions.

      One of my summer school students saw pro wrestling on TV and copied it at his first summer job by slamming a filled 6-foot pamphlets table over near customers. He was fired and not permitted to participate in the city programs for the remainder of his 4 years of high school. When the case worker prescribed Anger Management training he said, "I wasn't even angry; I was just doing what they do on TV. Everyone thinks it's OK."

      If it was OK, he would not have been fired.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      9 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      In the UK I have never heard name-calling in any place I have ever worked or on public transport. We have a leaflet up in the doctors saying staff are not to be abused. I'm not sure if that is pre-emptive but I've never seen anyone abusing staff.

      As a general rule here we only hear abuse (usually more colourful than idiot or stupid) from teenagers showing off or fighting or in incidents of road rage. I once owned a public house and all the young men used the 'f' word as a normal piece of their vocabulary. I asked them to mind their language in the pub and they did.

      Perhaps I am just lucky or perhaps we are not so easily angered on this side of the pond?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      At least share with a few friends!

    • Alexandria Hope profile image

      Alexandria Hope 

      9 years ago

      This is incredible. Fantastic job; I wish I could share it with the whole world!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      We have some un-thought-about talking done in our society, I think more than 20 years ago. Sometimes the abundance of words becomes static in the environment; some of it is directly abusive; some of it is an attempt to control another person's time (which is abuse); and much of it is unprofessional in a workplace setting - especially name calling and profanity.

      Rewind and start over? I think we can do that individually by not accepting name calling and profanity and by disengaging (walking away from, not having conversations) with individuals that dump it toward us. If we own a company, we can disallow name calling and profanity as unprofessional and the dis-allowance is not a violation of Freedom of Speech. For instance, these are not legally allowed on our City Bus system, under penalty of ejection from the bus and action via police. Many Greyhound Bus Drivers announce this (company policy) as well at the beginning of trips and at rest stops and each station. One I know is a Vietnam Vet that says he did not fight for us to disrespect ourselves and others in these ways.

      That's a few things we can do.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      9 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Good subject, Patty ... sadly a lot of name-calling has now moved beyond 'idiot' and 'stupid'.

      I put all the deeply unpleasant profanities bandied about without thought between today's youth down to modern films and TV programmes. There must be some way to back pedal on such vile and violent language?

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      9 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Patty, You did a great job on this hub...very thorough and informative....Thanks

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      9 years ago from Central Texas

      Another right-on-target Hub -- thanks.My grandmother used to liken name calling to profanity and considered it the lack of ability/education to carry on a civilized conversation. Voted Up. Best, Sis

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      9 years ago from Jamaica

      My fiance and I are always quarelling because he has a habit of calling people foolish. The Jamaican slang is "fool-fool" but it basically means the same thing. I hate labels and I realize that people who do name calling are actually the ones with the low IQ. I know I might get a lot of flack for that statement but it's my own personal experience that people compare their own knowledge and understanding with others and end up seeing themselves as superior, that's why they use name-calling as a way of pushing their ego or trying to show how "intelligent" they are. I could be wrong but that's the way I see it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      That's right. When reviewing films at pre-release screenings, I've seen too many parents taking young kids with them to violent films. Occasionally, a film studio representative will not permit the children in to see it. After film release, I've only seen one case of theater management not permitting elementary school kids into an R film with parents.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm not sure who came up with "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" rhyme but it's an idea that has been promoted as stoically the right one. It puts the physical self above the psychological self which is a pretty antiquated view.

      What surprises me about the hoo-haa about bullying is the hypocrisy of our culture. We apparently want only to watch violence in picture theatres and we're surrounded by examples of extreme and unjust violence often perpetrated by our governments, yet we expect children to be as sweet as pie to one another and not emulate society.

      The problem is not bullying in the classroom it's bullying in society and it's rampant.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Some individuals even still believe that they deserve to be able to name call and profane others with these terms and more.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Unfortunately, these terms are still being used frequently today.

    • changer22 profile image


      9 years ago

      This is a really compelling hub. I think more people should speak out about the dangers of bullying and how it affects people. I watched the news recently and I heard another story about a girl who killed herself because she was being bullied at school. It's so sad to hear about stories like this.

    • Trsmd profile image


      9 years ago from India

      Thanks Patty for publishing a page for my question and providing clarity between these two words, stupid and idiot..

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      9 years ago from USA

      As the victim of bullying through grammar school and high school, your article caught my attention. I am very much against name calling and labeling. It is interesting to learn that some labels were actual medical "conditions" at one time.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      Oh, the history of pysychology is full of terms that are no longer valid anymore as well as conditions that were considered psychological diseases at one time.

      I happen to hate political correctness while still appreciating the intentions of people who use such terms. I would prefer that people either use neutral terms like you find doctors using or simply did not talk about the condition at all.

      In regards to movies:

      I try to keep in mind when I am watching movies from the studio system era that these movies were not made for me as an audience member. I find this does allow me to watch the movie and accept it for what it is.

      A more extreme example of this than stupid or name calling of any kind is the use of black face. I hate it. But Holiday Inn wasn't filmed in 2012 and I shouldn't judge it as if it had been. I an less likely to watch it than White Christmas as a result, however.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It was a long time ago, so many people are surprised by it.

    • Fortadam profile image

      Michael Adams 

      9 years ago from USA

      What a great article! I had no idea that those names were once accepted as medical terminology. Guess that shouldn't surprise me though ...


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