Years ago, as a recruitment consultant, I administered a battery of tests, including intelligence tests, which comprised abstract reasoning and other areas. I never then considered the extent to which they were culturally biased. I now know that it is very difficult to develop tests that measure intelligence without cultural bias. Some such attempts have been to eliminate language by designing tests with demonstrations and pictures, or by designing culture-fair (rather than culture-free) tests.
By completing an intelligence test from a very different culture to ours, we can experience some of the difficulties involved with culturally biased methods of testing intelligence. Try to complete the following intelligence test, before you read the answers. PS – I failed miserably!
The Original Australian Test of Intelligence (source unknown)
These items relate to the culture of the Edward River Community in Far North Queensland
1. What number comes next in the sequence, one, two, three, __________?
2. How many lunar months are in a year?
3. As wallaby is to animal so cigarette is to __________
4. Three of the following items may be classified with salt-water crocodile. Which are they?
marine turtle brolga frilled lizard black snake (circle your answers)
5. Which items may be classified with sugar?
honey witchetty grub flour water-lillies (circle your answers)
6. We eat food and we __________ water.
7. Sam, Ben and Harry are sitting together. Sam faces Ben and Ben gives him a cigarette. Harry sits quietly with his back to both Ben and Sam and contributes nothing to the animated conversation going on between Sam and Ben. One of the men is Ben’s brother, the other is Ben’s sister’s child. Who is the nephew?
a. Sam b. Harry c. Ben (circle your answer)
8. Suppose your brother in his mid-forties dies unexpectedly. Would you attribute his death to (circle your answer):
a. God b. Fate c. Germs D. No-one e. Someone f. Your brother himself
9. You are out in the bush with your wife and young children and you are all hungry. You have a rifle and bullets. You see three animals all within range – a young emu, a large kangaroo and a small female wallaby. Which should you shoot for food? a. Young emu b. Large kangaroo c. Small female wallaby (circle your answer)
10. Why should you be careful of your cousins?
Scoring Sheet: Original Australian Test of Intelligence
1. One, two, three, many….the kuuk thaayorre system of counting only goes to three…thana, kuthir, pinalam, mong, mong, mong, etc. The word mong is best translated as “many” since it can mean any number between 4 and 9 or 10 after which yuur mong (many figures) would be more appropriate.
2. While thirteen is right in European terms, it is irrelevant in Edward River terms. Their people recognise the lunar month as the time between one phase of the moon and the next appearance of that phase. The annual cycle is described in terms of environmental rhythms rather than fixed divisions of time. The “year” then is the time between the onset of one wet season and the onset of the next wet season – since wet seasons may be early or late, who can be precise?
3. The right answer is “tree”. This stems from the kuuk thaayorre speakers early experience with tobacco which was “stick” tobacco, hence it is classified with tree.
4. Crocodiles, turtles, birds and frill necked lizards are all classified as minh (which broadly might be translated as animals). Snakes along with eels are classified as yak, which may be broadly translated as snake-like creatures.
5. All the items are classified with sugar as belong to the class of objects known as may. Broadly translated, this means vegetable food. Even witchetty grubs found in the roots of trees fall into this category – so does honey which is also associated with trees and hence fruit.
6. “Eat” is the right word – well sort of, anyway. Kuuk thaayorre does not distinguish between eating and drinking, and they use the same verb to describe both functions.
7. The clues are easy for kuuk thaayorre. An avoidance taboo operates between mother’s brother and sister’s son. Politeness requires that sister’s son should never directly face mother’s brother nor talk to him directly in company. Sam and Ben are obviously brothers because of their unrestrained interaction while Harry, with his back turned to both his uncles is obviously the respectful nephew.
8. God has been equated with a mythological character and he is definitely non-malevolent. Both fate and germs are concepts foreign to the kuuk thaayorre belief system. No-one dies without reason and suicide is unknown to them, so the right answer is SOMEONE – which is the case in this sorcery riddled society.
9. The small female wallaby is the right answer. Emu is a food that may be consumed only by very old people. Kangaroos (especially large ones) may not be eaten by parents or their children. The children will get sick otherwise. Everyone knows that….don’t they?
10 Because some of them have to be avoided like the plague. For example, a male must avoid his father’s sister’s daughter, or anyone classified with her. Such relations are called poison cousins in Aboriginal English.
Narayan van de Graaff