Visual information processing and intelligence

Ian J. Deary (Lead / Corresponding author), Rory J. McCrimmon, Jonathan Bradshaw

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)


    Measures of inspection time (IT) have robust, moderately-sized correlations with IQ-type test scores. However, the reason for the IT-IQ correlation is not understood. Although the original theory asserted that IT performance was based on a single parameter—essentially speed of visual processing—peculiarities of the task have afforded other interpretations of IT differences and the IT-IQ association. In the present report two new visual processing tasks, visual change detection (VCD) and visual movement detection (VMD) are found to be correlated at or above .4 with IT and with non-verbal scores from the Alice Heim 4 test of general intelligence. VCD and VMD, in common with IT, assess the stimulus duration that is required by subjects in order to make an accurate discrimination. VCD and VMD, however, require a broader attentional focus than IT and do not involve backward masking. Measures of contrast sensitivity, a difficult discrimination task in which stimuli are not time-limited, had near-to-zero correlations with other visual processing tasks and with IQ-type test scores. We tested the hypothesis that only the latent trait derived from the speeded visual processing tasks (rather than task-specific features) would correlate with cognitive ability, and this was supported. The present study adds weight to the view that it is the ability to make accurate discriminations in the face of limited stimulus time that causes IT to correlate with psychometric intelligence. The psychological correlates of VCD, in terms of neural circuits that detect “difference” suggest a new line of investigation into the psychobiological bases of human intelligence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)461-479
    Number of pages19
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


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