Do Intelligence and age go hand-in-hand? Essay Example

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Do Intelligence and age go hand-in-hand?

This report has been prepared for the purpose of investigating whether or not intelligence and age are correlated in some way. It will investigate statistics concerning the IQs of individuals of various ages in order to give concrete findings concerning the question at hand. To this effect, in this report, an analysis of the IQ test scores of people of different ages has been done; the results of this have also been outlined in detail.


Whether or not intelligence and age go hand-hand has long been a subject that has sparked considerable debate. It has been widely accepted that the cognitive abilities of human beings are at their peak when individuals are in their teens or their twenties (Sigelman, Rider, 2009). These years also coincide with the years that students are normally found studying in school up to university level. It has also been perceived by many that the IQ of an individual tends to drop with the advancement of age (Hillier, Barrow, 2010). However, these perceptions continue to be contested by researchers and scholars alike; their findings have spoken differently, to a certain extent.

The statement “wisdom comes with age” has been used on many occasions. As far back as history goes, people in different communities have been going to their elderly leaders for the solving of disputes and for counsel. In today’s society, a large number of the people in society with Doctorate degrees and PhDs have achieved these in their latter years. Thus, this shows that elderly individuals also possess a great wealth of intelligence that cannot be ignored, and adds to the initial argument.

According to scientific research, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex has been noted as being more active in young adults during the performance of tasks that require a high load of cognitive memory (Payne, 2005). However, in compensation for changes in memory activity with advancement of age, the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex’s activity in fact increases in older adults. This enables the older individuals still to maintain relatively high 1Q scores.

Case’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, assisted the National Institute of Health-funded investigation in conducting an experiment to determine how age effects coding tasks (Case Western Reserve University, 2006). The tests were done in the psychology lab of the Case’s Mandel School. In the test, 30 average college students aged around 20 years on average and 30 elderly individuals aged around 70 years on average were used. In the test, the individuals were given substitution tests whereby they were to substitute numbers for a variety of symbols, e.g. A for 1 and C for 3. Apart from letters, geometrical symbols were also used in substitution, both simple and complex. The results of this test were that the 20 year old test subjects were found to be 34% faster than their 70 year old counterparts in effectively completing their tasks. It was apparent faster motor skills gave the youth a considerable advantage over their counterparts (Case Western Reserve University, 2006).

Something was also noted in the substitution of the simple and complex symbols: the two groups were closely matched in the substitution of the complex symbols, but the 70 year olds performed rather poorly in substituting the simpler symbols. The researchers conducting the test cited the problem to be visual impairment. Because they were not able to see the symbols very well, they were not able to remember them well (Case Western Reserve University, 2006). This test showed that the elderly are not as mentally dulled as people sometimes perceive them to be because of old age. People usually look at their slowness in motor functions, memory and speech and assume that their IQs are diminished. However, this is not the case, and the test confirms it in the way the youth and their elderly counterparts were closely matched in the substitution of complex symbols.

As much as older folk are noted to be slower, they have been seen to be sharper in their reasoning. They are more focused and calculated in their thinking as compared to the youth (Hillier & Barrow, 2010). This is because they are not rushed like the youth. Their maturity and their experiences over the years have taught them to think things through first; these have also shown them where to put caution and the manner in which to handle certain things. Youth are sometimes hasty in their decision-making, riding on their energy and adrenalin. Because of this, youth usually end up coming to the elderly for advice, as they know they will receive sound counsel. This also confirms that the intelligence of the elderly does not necessarily go down with age. However, it will be affected by physiological and psychological changes to the human body that occur over time (Leake, 2008).

In order to acquire a more certain determination concerning whether intelligence goes hand-in-hand with time; I conducted to test study that involved the assistance of 15 test subjects. These subjects were of both sexes, and their ages ranged from 16 years of age to 69 years of age. They are individuals that are of different professions. I called them to a central testing point, and administered a brief IQ test to each one of them. They were each given five minutes to complete the test.

ID Number

Score on IQ Test

Age (years)


Total Scores For IQ & Age

Average IQ & Age

Median IQ & Age

Mode IQ & Age

Calculate % Males

Do Intelligence and age go hand-in-hand?

IQ Scores


The 16 year old female and the 19 year old male are average high school students. The 22 year old male and the 23 year old female are university students. The 23 year old male is a student out of campus looking for a job, while the 25 year old woman is a business lady. The 28 year old male is a blue collar worker who had dropped out of school early in his youth. The 30 and 35 year old males, as well as the 41 year old females have white collar jobs. The 46, 52, and 59 year old males currently own their own businesses. The 64 year old female and the 68 year old male are retired civil workers.

The 16 year old and the 19 year old completed the tests in the shortest time. These and the test subjects in their twenties, except the 28 year old, showed that youthfulness worked to their advantage. When taking the test, these had little problem answering the questions effectively; the main reason why they missed to answer one or two questions correctly was because of haste and a little miscalculation on the mathematical questions. The 28 year old male had dropped out of school at a very young age, and this left his mathematical ability wanting. In comparison to the subjects in their twenties, the subjects in their thirties performance was a little lower than the former. This may have been influenced by the fact that they did the test when they were exhausted- after working hours in the evening. The subjects in their forties showed that their IQs had not been affected by age. The notable changes were with the subjects who were 59 years and above. They took the longest to complete the tests. Problems with memory were the main problem that they had; they could not remember well how to do some of the mathematical questions or some of the facts. However, their ability to reason was still intact, even though it was slow.


The tests showed that the intellectual capabilities of the aged are a bit lower than those of the youth. It is imperative to note that the aged were at least able to answer some of the questions. This showed that their reasoning capacity was still intact; they were being let down by the aging of their brains. Their memories were failing, hence the reasons they failed to answer the questions correctly. In consideration of the results of all the subjects who came to be tested, their scores only differed a little. The youth performed just a little better than the others, and the aged were just a bit lower. Therefore, one could conclude that, to a large extent, intelligence is a quality that remains even with the passage of time; however, it is affected mainly by the physiological and psychological changes that occur in an individual when he or she ages.


This study was to determine whether intelligence goes hand in hand with age or whether it changes as time goes by. This was done by administering an IQ test to 15 test subjects whose ages varied from the age of 16 to 68. Each subject was given the same time limits to complete the test; the tests were done on the same day. The main findings were that subjects in their youth scored the a bit higher than the rest, and the aged subjects scored a bit lower than the rest. It was noted that the aged performed poorly because of loss of memory; this was due to physiological deterioration. These findings were not convincing enough to show that the young are more intelligent than the old. Therefore, the conclusion of this study were that intelligence remains constant with the advancement of age; however, it is affected physiological and psychological changes that occur when an individual ages.


Case Western Reserve University (2006). Does IQ Drop With Age, Or Does Something Else

Impact Intelligence?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 25, 2011, from <>

Graham, C. & Plucker, J. (2008) Human Intelligence; Indiana University.

Hillier, S. M., Barrow, G. M., (2010) Aging, the Individual, and Society, Belmont, CA:

Wadsworth-Cengage Learning

Leake, J. (2008) Age Proof Your Brain; Sunday Times; Elderly brains are slower but sharper,

say researchers.

Payne, J., (2005) The Effects of Aging on Intelligence, and the Idea of g, Saint Paul, MN:

Macalester College, retrieved on 25th August 2011 from <>

Sigelman, C. K., Rider, E.A., (2009) Life-Span Human Development, Belmont, CA:

Wadsworth-Cengage Learning.