Is there any good research on how general IQ correlates with levels of abstractions people can easily handle?

I understand, that abstractions are different, but here it's probably enough to cover base logical reasoning, set (in math sense) membership and such, maybe some other classification. Also, of course there are situations when language already contains metaphors, which allow people to reason (like "file" can be put into "folder"). My question is more about situations, when there are no suitable ready metaphors ("X" can contain "Y"). (memory can also be a factor?)

The notion of complexity of abstract concept systems is also interesting (if there are several), but my hope is to find an answer for any good notion. Basically, "common sense" logic whatever it is is probably enough reference point.

The idea is simple. Lets say, people with IQ greater than X can understand and recognize part-whole relationship and use that understanding in their work. Then, of course, it is easy to calculate how accessible some system is: IQ has very simple statistical definition (given standard deviation).

I am not a psychologist so I do not quite know even what are the right terms to search. However, my interest is in making software applications accessible to more users and user interfaces oftentimes rely on users handling of abstract concepts. So my interest is pragmatic. Still I think this question is more on psychology side than UX.

I believe IQ matters because if a user can't figure out something in a "moment" (in seconds), system is not usable.


1 Answer 1


I think the answer here is easier than you imagine. Many of the tasks associated with IQ and general intelligence tests contain tasks that are specifically about abstraction. For example, an SAT reading comprehension question depends on verbal and reading skills, but tasks like in an IQ test (e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven%27s_Progressive_Matrices) don't correspond to any existing verbal or other knowledge and are therefore tapping a type of abstract thinking.

If that's not what you meant by abstract, consider researching what kinds of cognitive operations are associated with the types of abstraction you had in mind.

Also, note there are a lot of threads in this group about intelligence, and many of them cover the same useful ground, such as different types of intelligence, the difference between IQ and general intelligence, etc. Wikipedia is also a good source on those definitions.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer is reassuring. Any concrete pointer how IQ ranges correspond to levels of abstractions? Or do you mean levels of Raven's matrices roughly corresponds to abstraction levels? $\endgroup$
    – Roman Susi
    May 23, 2019 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ Great. I meant generally that the matrices don't correspond to anything in semantic or linguistic memory; they are themselves abstractions. $\endgroup$ May 24, 2019 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ The question is only partially about "pure" abstractions. Of course, in reality linguistic aspects are involved. But I still believe IQ predicts users' abilities to understand user interfaces. So far most of research I've seen was about mental retardation IQ range. In this question I am more interested in the area around 100 for working age people. The topic seems to be avoided. Maybe, it's somehow "politically incorrect" and avoided by researchers or I just do not know what terms to use for search? $\endgroup$
    – Roman Susi
    May 24, 2019 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps. Or it's (trivially) true and not very useful, since you can't manipulate user intelligence. Imagine it were personality type; still not useful. The best UX tool is still user-centered design, regardless of individual differences. $\endgroup$ May 24, 2019 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ This is true. However, there are already some approaches like www-ihm.lri.fr/~mbl/ENS/FundHCI/2013/papers/… to speak in generalized terms about cognitive dimensions in HCI. So basically if we use an analogy of IQ being muscle power, then no user-centered design is needed to understand most humans can't move 200 kg without some equipment. $\endgroup$
    – Roman Susi
    May 24, 2019 at 9:24

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