Quotient or IQ? Clarify these concepts

In popular parlance, when talking about aspects related to intelligence and cognitive abilities in general, it is common to hear the expressions IQ and IQ used as if they were synonymous.

It is not uncommon to find people, both those who major in psychology and those who have studied medicine and other fields, who use both terms indiscriminately. Even books that deal with this subject use the two words interchangeably.

The purpose of this article is to explain which term is appropriate in addition to clarify the difference between quotient and coefficient, Give some examples related to their definitions and approach this debate from a historical perspective.

    Quotient or IQ: what’s the difference?

    Using the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), we can find the definitions of “quotient” and “coefficient”.

    According to the RAE, the word quotient refers to the result obtained by dividing one quantity by another, while the word coefficient has among its meanings the term used to denote a numerical expression of a “ property or characteristic, which is generally expressed like the relation between two quantities. Although the SAR gives definitions differentiated by “quotient” and “coefficient”, the truth is that illustrate them with a similar expression: IQ.

    The same case occurs in another institution specializing in the clarification of linguistic doubts: the BBVA Foundation. In fact, this organization has an entry on its website that deals with the “quotient” versus “IQ” debate, stating that they are essentially the same and that both expressions are correct.

    Thus, from the definitions given and by resorting to the world of mathematics, let’s illustrate with formulas what exactly are the terms “quotient” and “coefficient”. To do this, we will put aside its relationship with intelligence construction, and then come back to it.

    Basic definitions

    A coefficient is, in essence, a factor, that is, something that multiplies into something else, like a linear function: y = ax + b. In this formula, a is the coefficient of x, because it multiplies it.

    Also with the coefficient, in scientific fields such as physics it is referred to a formula that seeks to discern the value of the property of a given element, As the “coefficient of expansion”, which relates the length of an object to its increase in temperature: L = α At, ΔL being the increase in length, α the coefficient of expansion and À the increase in temperature .

    A quotient basically divides something by something. A clear example of this is the way the IC was calculated in its early days, by psychologists like Alfred Binet and William Stern. They basically divided mental age by chronological age and multiplied it by 100 to get decimal values. Some might think that it is really a coefficient because it is multiplied by 100, but the truth is that it is not because this value is not always the same, moreover, it does not multiply in a variable value.

    As we can see, in institutions specializing in language such as the SAR or the BBVA Foundation, sometimes the specialist opinion of professionals is not taken into account of a certain field, as are psychologists and pedagogues.

    These institutions focus on how the language is used in society and on its evolution. For this reason, in recent years, terms such as “toballa” or “cocreta” have been accepted in dictionaries, while specifying that their use is not formal, but reflects linguistic reality.

    If psychologists and other professionals specializing in health and social sciences respect the criteria and professionalism of linguists, philologists and other specialists in the humanities and letters, we demand that the only correct expression be that of “intelligence quotient”.

      Historical context

      The first person to use the term “IQ” was the German psychologist William Stern, In 1912, creation of the German word “intelligenzquotient”. This term refers to the relative intellectual capacity of a person at the time of their assessment. This is assessed by the results you have obtained in psychometric tests, and by comparing them with other people in your same age group. The IQ is distributed to the population in the form of a Gaussian bell, with a central value of 100 and a standard deviation of 15.

      Alfred Binet, another psychologist of great importance born in Nice, France, calculated the IQ of the children who came to his consultation by division: the person’s mental age divided by his chronological age, and multiplied the result by 100. So, the correct term is quotient because a division is performed.

      As we said before, the original term came from the German “intelligenzquotient”, and to be translated into English was literally done, “intelligence quotient”. On the other hand, among Spanish speakers, whether specialized or not, continue to hesitate today, especially if linguistic institutions they treat both “quotient” and “coefficient” as if they were synonymous in practice.

      Although today the calculation of the IC has changed and alternatives have been offered to the tests based on those used by Binet and Stern, among other psychologists of the time, the truth is that the most appropriate is always the expression “IQ”.

      However, as we stated earlier, there are many, both those who specialize in psychology and those who do not, who still use the term “IQ”. Based on this article and what has been explained in it, there is no longer any reason to be wrong.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Quotient. (2018.). In the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (23rd edition). Retrieved from https://dle.rae.es/?w=cociente
      • Coefficient. (2018). In the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (23rd edition). Retrieved from https://dle.rae.es/?id=9e8d8Dc

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