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Creative? Want to raise your I.Q.? Let's talk toothpicks

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

Want to hear about the toothpick test? Dr. J.P. Guilford was a prominent psychologist who produced 25 books, 30 tests and 300 articles. He wrote The Nature of Human Intelligence in 1967, the year he retired.

Guilford believed that the I.Q. test was incomplete in measuring human intelligence because it doesn't consider creativity. He says that creativity recognizes that there is more than one solution to any problem, and devised a test to measure creativity, a test he calls the "Alternative Uses Test" which asks the participants to imagine and write as many uses as they can think of for a toothpick, a brick or a paperclip.

Hoping to raise my I.Q., I gave myself a toothpick test to measure my creativity — and failed. I came up with only eight uses for toothpicks: removing bits of beef, pork, poultry, goat, lamb and fish from my teeth and building toy bridges and towers. But I spent only three hours imagining answers, so maybe I gave up too soon.

Then I remembered the current legal crisis involving parents who bribed prestigious universities to grant entry to their children or hired some ringer to write the entrance exam for the students. So I realized I could hire some more imaginative hotshot to take the toothpick test for me to increase my creativity I.Q. I suppose there might be more than eight potential uses for toothpicks if somebody spent more time thinking about it.

Then I thought about the elite college football players invited to participate at NFL tryout camps. They strip these guys down to their workout shorts and shoes and test them for speed, strength, agility and, for some of them, their ability to throw or catch a football.

How fast can they run 40 yards? How high can they jump? How far can they jump (from a standing position) and how many times can they press 225 pounds? You can't fake a good result, you can't get somebody else to take test for you and you can't bribe the scouts. And if you can demonstrate great creativity by imagining 175 uses for toothpicks, it won't help you one bit.

Is there any way to fake or bluff good test results? How can my imagination help me get lower blood pressures readings or lower weight in a physical exam? How can a person bluff or fake his or her way through a driver's test exam?

People keep trying — that's why we have to look out for counterfeit $20 bills.

I'm reminded of the rules in the National Football League against substance abuse. Players are given random tests from time to time to try to keep the league clean from players using performance enhancing or dangerous drugs.

The case of Viking running back Onterrio Smith comes to mind. Smith was drafted in the fourth round in 2003 draft and by 2005 he had two drug violations.

Then at the Minneapolis and St. Paul airport in 2005 he was stopped for a random urine test. Smith was prepared.He was wearing a urine belt, a mysterious device called a Wizzinator kit. It contained (somebody else's) clean urine (dried, but the kit provided the means of liquifying the powder) and gave a phony sample. Somehow he didn't get away with it and was suspended for the entire 2005 season. He achieved two results: he made the Wizzinator a famous device (you can Google it and see exactly how it's made and how it's used) and terminated his career.

Are you creative? Want to raise your I.Q.? How many uses can you imagine for toothpicks?

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