Childhood Drawings May Indicate Intelligence as Teenagers

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Lisa Winter

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1899 Childhood Drawings May Indicate Intelligence as Teenagers
King's College London

If you’ve had a child go through preschool or Kindergarten, you’ve likely had his or her teacher show you the child’s artwork and explain the importance of some of the details. This isn’t just them making conversation; the amount of details and realism can indicate a young child’s intelligence. This test has been around for nearly 90 years. However, new research has found a correlation between how pairs of twins score on the test at age 4 and their intelligence levels at age 14, and also indicates a genetic component behind intelligence. The research was led by Rosalind Arden of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London and the paper was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Psychologist Florence Goodenough first developed a test that examined a child’s drawing of a person to recognize cognitive development back in 1926. It is still widely utilized, though the parameters have been tweaked over the years. Children are now asked to draw a child and are given a score from 0-12 based on inclusion or exclusion of body parts (body, limbs, hands, facial features, etc) and their relative proportions. 


Arden’s study involved administering the test to 7,752 sets of twins at age 4 who completed the drawings separately without guidance of what features to include. At the time of the drawing test, the young children were also given verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests. When the children reached age 14, the verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests were given again. There was a moderate connection between the drawing test at age 4 and score on the intelligence test at age 14.

"The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly,” Arden explained in a press release. “Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”

The researchers also believe they may have uncovered a genetic component behind the drawing test and intelligence. As all of the test subjects were twins, they saw that monozygotic (identical) twins had pictures and scores that were more similar to one another than dizygotic (fraternal) twins, who are just as genetically similar as any other siblings. 

"This does not mean that there is a drawing gene -- a child's ability to draw stems from many other abilities, such as observing, holding a pencil etc.,” Arden continued. “We are a long way off understanding how genes influence all these different types of behavior.”


Image credit: Arden et al. 


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