How well someone draws as a child might predict intelligence as a 14-year-old, a large-scale study of twins in the journal Psychological Science suggests.
Researchers at King’s College London asked 7,700 pairs of four-year-old identical and fraternal twins in London to draw pictures of a child. The researchers rated these artworks on a scale of 0 to 12, depending on how many body parts the young artists chose to include. (Torsos are often adorably lacking in kids’ drawings; arms often come in threes.) The subjects all took verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests at age four, and then again at age 14.
The children who had higher-rated drawings tended to do better on intelligence tests, they found–although it was only a moderate correlation. This was expected, researchers said. But they were surprised to find that drawing and test results for identical twins (who share 100% of their genes) were more similar than those for fraternal twins (who share only 50% of their genes). These findings suggest not only that childhood drawing skills can be an indicator of intelligence in adulthood, but that genes play a role in artistic and cognitive ability–something for which there’s already a growing body of evidence.
This shouldn’t be seen as more reason for parents to pat themselves on the back about their “gifted and talented” four-year-olds, or for parents of the artistically challenged to despair. Genes are only one of the factors that predict artistic and intellectual success, as many studies show. And the researchers’ rating system focused on accuracy, not creativity–some of Picasso’s best portraits had an odd number of body parts.