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Preschool Figure Drawings Correlate With IQ a Decade Later

Preschool Figure Drawings Correlate With IQ a Decade Later

A four-year-old child’s drawings of a person can possibly reveal their intelligence levels then and also a decade later, according to a new study at Kings’ College London. But parents shouldn’t worry if their child draws poorly, as it isn’t the only way to determine intelligence.

“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 lead author Dr. Rosalind Arden, of the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

“The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly. Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”

For the study, four-year-old children were asked by their parents to complete a ‘Draw-a-Child’ test. Each figure was scored between zero and 12 depending on the presence and correct quantity of features such as head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, body, arms etc.

A drawing with two legs, two arms, a body and head, but no facial features, for example, would score a four. The children were also given verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests at ages four and 14.

The findings revealed that higher scores on the Draw-a-Child test were moderately associated with higher scores of intelligence at ages four and 14. 

The researchers also looked into the heritability of figure drawing. Identical twins share all their genes, whereas non-identical twins only share about 50 percent, but each pair will have a similar upbringing, family environment, and access to the same materials.

In general, drawings from identical twins at age four were more similar to one another than drawings from non-identical twin pairs. The researchers believe this may be due to a genetic link. They also found that drawing scores at age four and intelligence at age 14 seemed tied to genetics as well.

“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 behavior,” said Arden.

“Drawing is an ancient behavior, 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 civilization,” said Arden.

Source: King’s College London


Child drawing a person photo by shutterstock.

Preschool Figure Drawings Correlate With IQ a Decade Later

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Preschool Figure Drawings Correlate With IQ a Decade Later. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 20 Aug 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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