Child’s drawing a predictor of intelligence?

One of the many activities children love to do when they’re young in their free time is to simply draw, and sometimes when their imagination runs wild you can get some real amazing ones. I’ve even had kids attempt to draw pictures of me in the past. Normally you don’t think anything of it, but is there more to it than we think?

A study might suggest so as it suggests that the way children draw at the age of four can be a predictor of later intelligence. Sounds weird? I thought so too when I saw this study come up.

Researchers asked 7,752 pairs of twins to draw a picture of a child which was then scored by the number of features such as head, legs, hands and feet. The children were also asked by the King’s College, London team to complete intelligence tests at age four and 14. They found a moderately strong link between higher drawing scores and the later intelligence test results.

The team, led by Dr Rosalind Arden, of King’s College’s Institute of Psychiatry, used a Draw-a-Child test devised in the 1920s to assess children’s intelligence at the age of four. Dr Arden said: “Drawing is an ancient behaviour, dating back beyond 15,000 years ago. Through drawing, we are attempting to show someone else what’s in our mind. This capacity to reproduce figures is a uniquely human ability and a sign of cognitive ability, in a similar way to writing, which transformed the human species’ ability to store information, and build a civilisation.”

She said it was no surprise the test results correlated with the verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests taken at age four, but added: “What surprised us was that it correlated with intelligence a decade later. The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly. Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”

The researchers also looked at whether a child’s drawing ability was inherited. They did this by separating out the drawings of identical twins and non-identical twins, and comparing them with each other. Identical twins share all their genes with each other, while non-identical twins share only 50% of their genes. However, both usually share the same family background and upbringing. As the drawings from identical twins were more similar to one another than those from non-identical twin pairs, the researchers concluded that drawing ability had a genetic link.

I have to say this is a really interesting study. I don’t know about you but I might pay a lot more attention to what the kids I teach draw and how well they’re drawing now. I will be curious to see if I can find similar results from them, as this is really fascinating to me. It might even add to a conjecture that maybe you could be born an artist, and if that’s the case, could you be born to be any profession? Oh the mind boggles …


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