04 March 2007

IQ test: Pick the odd one out

An IQ test is a set of problems, usually including items from different domains such as short-term memory, spatial visualisation, perceptual speed and verbal knowledge, designed and used to measure intelligence. So many different forms of IQ tests have been designed and revised since 1905 when a French psychologist, Alfred Binet, together with his colleague Theodore Simon, devised the first intelligence test, the Binet-Simon intelligence scale, in modern times.

There is always criticism that IQ tests may be biased, especially when the same set of questions are used on people from different cultures or of different races.

I'm not particularly interested in seeking evidence produced by any academic research regarding the validity of IQ testing. I still remembered my IQ was 62 according to a test in 1990 and 135 according to another test in 1997. I don't think I could make such progress in seven years' time and thus never believe this issue is worth exploring.

However, if my memory serves me, it seems that there are always 'pick-the-odd-one-out' questions in whatever form of IQ tests. From the following examples, you will understand why these tests are so biased.

Pick the odd one out:
  1. Asphalt, delight, leave and uncle
  2. Sun, moon, earth and lemon
  3. Da Vinci, Einstein, Kennedy and Marco Polo
And the answers:
  1. Asphalt, because it is the only one that cannot form an idiom with a national adjective. (You can have Turkish delight, French leave and Dutch uncle, but can you have XXX asphalt?)
  2. Earth, because when you were a wee boy or girl you usually coloured sun, moon and lemon 'yellow' with your crayon. (Earth is usually coloured blue or sometimes green.)
  3. Einstein, because he is the only one who doesn't have an airport named after him. (Da Vinci serves Rome, JFK serves New York and Marco Polo serves Venice.)
Bloody heck, are we supposed to know these when doing an IQ test if
  1. we've never heard any of these three English idioms?
  2. we've never done any colouring with crayons in childhood?
  3. we've never visited Rome, New York or Venice?

01 March 2007

Advertising song commission

I was commissioned by a friend last year to write an advertising song for his biotechnology company, Springsbio. However, as I had been busy finishing my thesis, I didn't even lay down one note on my Sibelius until Chinese New Year, let alone arrangement and instrumentation.

This friend made a very strange request. The song has to be pentatonic but not too Chinese, easy to sing along but not too clichéd and similar to other existing successful advertising songs but not lacking originality. Goodness gracious, what will it be?

For some years, I've written music for theatre, advertising jingles and arrangement for church hymns and worship songs, but none of my 'patrons' has ever made such challenging specifications. Spending all day Tuesday, I put theories, concepts and his requirements together and carved out this quasi-scherzo, playful tune.

Lighthearted as it sounds, the motive is absolutely heavily serious. He and his colleagues are all satisfied with this short piece. Thanks to this challenging commission, all the symptoms of PSS (post-submission syndrome), which have been making me disoriented since I submitted, were drastically alleviated. Nevertheless, I wonder how this song would match the image of a biotech company.

Come on, give me more exacting musical tasks!