They may look like random doodles and smiley faces, but a new study suggests that children's drawings are an indicator of their intelligence -- and not just their current smarts but rather their intelligence later in life.
For the study, 7,752 pairs of four-year-old identical and fraternal twins were asked to draw a picture of a child. Each drawing was scored on a 12-point scale, with high scores going to drawings that realistically reflected eyes, nose, mouth, hair, arms, and other human features. The children were also given verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests, and the kids whose drawings garnered high scores tended to score higher on the intelligence tests.
When the researchers followed up a decade later, the same pattern was observed: kids whose drawings got high scores at age four tended to score higher on the intelligence tests at age 14. The researchers also found that drawings from the identical twins in the study were more similar to one another than drawings from non-identical twins, which suggests the link between drawing and later intelligence is influenced by genes.
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Here are examples of the children's drawings. Scores are from left to right: Top: 6, 10, 6; Bottom: 6,1 0, 7.
"I think that there may be a link between early drawing and later intelligence because both ‘good drawing’ and high intelligence indicate a well put together brain," the study's lead author, Dr. Rosalind Arden, a researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College in London, told The Huffington Post in an email. "Drawing is the end result of lots of cognitive processes: Perception, focus, observation, attention, figuring out how to get a shape down on paper, staying on task."
But Dr. Arden said not to worry if you or your child isn't very good at drawing pictures of people.
"We found evidence of a small link between early drawing and later intelligence," she said in the email. "If you, or your child, are of the Klutz school of drawers, that’s nothing to worry about. Nothing in our data says that parents should do anything but enjoy their kids’ drawings."
The study was published in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.