Children’s Drawings Indicate their Future Intelligence

New research has shown that the way a child draws at four years old is an indicator of how intelligent they’ll be at age 14.

kids drawing

Researchers from King’s College London in the UK have discovered a link between a child’s drawing and their later intelligence, and they’ve traced it back to genetics.

The study, which has been published in Psychological Science, looked at 7,752 pairs of identical and non-identical twins. The scientists asked the children at age four to draw a picture of a child, and the researchers then scored each figure between 0 and 12, depending on how anatomically correct they were.

The children also had their intelligence measured both at ages four and 14, and the scientists found that higher scores on the Draw-a-Child test were moderately linked to high intelligence scores at both ages.

“The Draw-a-Child test was devised in the 1920s to assess children’s intelligence, so the fact that the test correlated with intelligence at age four was expected. What surprised us was that it correlated with intelligence a decade later,” said Rosalind Arden, the lead author of the paper, in a press release.

However, the correlation was only moderate, and it’s important to note the findings don’t suggest that drawing ability determines intelligence. They simply show there’s a link between the two.

“There are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life,” explains Arden.

Interesting, the researchers also looked at the differences between the results of the identical twins and the non-identical twins to measure the heritability of drawing ability. Identical twins share all their genes, whereas non-identical twins share about 50 percent. But all the twins tested shared a similar upbringing and family environment.

Overall the results showed that identical twins had more similar drawing skills at age four than non-identical twins, suggesting a genetic link between children’s drawing differences. They also found that there’s a strong genetical link between drawing at age four and intelligence at age 14.

There is still a lot of research to be done on how genes affect our abilities, but this is interesting early research into the link between drawing and intelligence.

Arden explains: “This does not mean that there is a drawing gene – a child’s ability to draw stems from many other abilities, such as observing, holding a pencil etc. We are a long way off understanding how genes influence all these different types of behaviour.”

“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 adds.

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