Preschooler Drawings Predict Teen Intelligence

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Many parents of preschoolers swell with pride at their progeny’s artwork. Those crayon drawings of barely discernible people may not show whether the child is destined to a career in art, but they do show how bright the child will be as a young teen. A recent study shows that the quality of preschooler drawings of people seems to predict the child’s intelligence as a teen.

Children who produced the most accurate drawings at 4 years of age usually score highly on intelligence tests (both verbal and non-verbal) given in preschool. However, those same children who could draw accurately in preschool still scored well in verbal and non-verbal testing at age 14, according to the study published in Psychological Science.

The study, conducted by researchers from King’s College London, involved 7,752 pairs of identical and non-identical twins. As 4-year-olds, the children were asked to draw a child. Those artworks were then rated based on what they included, such as eyes, nose, legs, arms and other features. Based on a Draw-a-Child test developed in the 1920s, the rating scale awarded up to 12 points for the accuracy and presence of features, e.g., one point for drawing two legs. The study did not look at artistic talent, just the ability to accurately represent attributes of a child in the sketch. Verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests were also given to the children.

Ten years later, at age 14, the children were once again given verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests. The research team found a correlation between children who received a higher score on their drawing and receiving a higher score on intelligence at age 4 and at age 14, thereby leading to their conclusion that preschool drawings can predict intelligence as a teen.

The Draw-a-Child test was created as a way to test intelligence in children at a young age. So, researchers knew there would be a correlation between the drawings and the other tests administered at age 4. They fact that the sketches created at preschool age correlated with results of intelligence tests given at age 14 was surprising to the research team.

The ability to draw figures or people involves more than artistic talent, according to the researchers. Other abilities, such as observing and holding a pencil, are factors, according to Dr. Rosalind Arden, who was lead author of the paper. Arden noted that the correlation between preschool drawings and later intelligence is moderate, and encouraged parents not to worry if their child does not draw well. “Drawing ability does not determine intelligence,” she commented, pointing out that countless factors, both environmental and genetic, have an affect.

One other finding from the study was a similarity in drawings from identical twins. The study found that identical twins had more similar ability to draw than non-identical twins. One would assume that all sets of twins are typically taught to hold a pencil a certain way or exposed to similar stimuli. However, the research suggested that there is a genetic link tied to drawing ability that was discernible in the identical twins’ renderings. Identical twins have identical genes, but non-identical twins only share 50 percent of their genes. That distinction was obvious in the drawings done.

The researchers emphasize that the study correlations between drawing and intelligence in preschool and the early teen years may not predict abilities later on. Arden offered a guess that the drawing test and cognitive tests at age 4 tapped into similar problems in observing and processing skills. She cautions that scientists are a long way off from understanding the relationship.

By Dyanne Weiss

Washington Post
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