What’s Your Motion Quotient? (Video)

Take a look at this video: do you see the lines moving in the small circle? What direction do they go? If you answered, “right,” you’re absolutely correct. Now what about the larger circle? Do you see the lines moving this time? If you missed it, they were passing to the left. Finally, you’ll see a series of lines, some in small circles and others in large ones. Can you see any of those movements?

Believe it or not, how you view those basic black-and-white lines says a lot about your IQ. According to a new study published last week in the journal Current Biology, subjects with higher IQs—as determined by a standard IQ test—more easily saw the bars move in the smaller circles than the larger ones. Researchers from the University of Rochester in New York found people’s ability to efficiently filter visual information in the background and focus on foreground objects is strongly linked to IQ.

It’s actually not such a new concept, either. Back in the 19th century, the scientists who created IQ testing had a feeling that highly intelligent people possess supersensory discrimination. Basically, people who are better able to automatically suppress background motion tend to perform better in other standard measures of intelligence. Prior research has indicated those with higher IQs make simple perceptual judgments faster and have faster reflexes.

What happens in brains of high-IQ people is, they’re automatically processing motion of small moving objects efficiently, whereas they’re suppressing the background,” study co-author Due Tadin, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester, said.

Meanwhile, study participants with higher IQs were terrible at detecting the motion in the larger areas. Of course in most scenarios, such as driving a car or walking down a hallway, background movement is less important than objects moving in the foreground.

From previous research, we expected that all participants would be worse at detecting the movement of large images, but high IQ individuals were much, much worse,” said University of Rochester doctoral candidate Michael Melnick.

The researchers believe the relationship between IQ and motion suppression points to a fundamental cognitive process that underlies intelligence. While the brain is constantly bombarded with an vast amount of sensory information, its efficiency is marked by how quickly if processes signals, as well as its ability to suppress less-meaningful information.

Because intelligence is such a broad construct, you can’t really track it back to one part of the brain. But since this task is so simple and so closely linked to IQ, it may give us clues about what makes a brain more efficient, and, consequently, more intelligent.” Tadin said. “We know from prior research which parts of the brain are involved in visual suppression of background motion. This new link to intelligence provides a good target for looking at what is different about the neural processing, what’s different about the neurochemistry, what’s different about the neurotransmitters of people with different IQs.