We’ve all heard someone comment on our personalities, saying that we have an “old soul” or “young at heart.” It turns out that these might not just be expressions that are anecdotal but could even be backed by science. There’s a concept that has gained a lot of traction in recent years called mental age. Determining both mental and emotional intelligence, mental age shows how far ahead or behind someone can be of the expectations at a given age.
While many consider mental age to be a newer concept, it actually goes back for a few centuries. Earlier scientists theorized that intelligence was based mainly on skull size. In their eyes, the larger the skull, the larger the brain, and the higher the intelligence. There have been studies that suggest that there’s a link, but it’s not as strong as first believed.
Once science began to develop, there were more scientific ways to actually measure intelligence. With more modern testing, someone’s mental age is calculated and then divided by their actual age with a maximum of 18. Test makers believed that mental age no longer increases in adulthood, therefore making 18 the cutoff line. The result is multiplied by 100, which is then considered their intelligence quotient (a.k.a. IQ).
Those with an IQ of at least 145 are determined to be very gifted, while those that are in the 90 to 109 range are considered average. The lowest possible IQ score is 40, with 80 being the baseline for being below average.
The concept of mental age being put into an identifiable number comes from a French psychologist named Alfred Binet. Binet studied the human brain and psychology all the way up to his death in October 1911. He and psychologist Theodore Simon created the intelligence test in the early 20th century and tweaked it multiple times before Binet’s death
Testing for mental age then made its way to the United States, where it was again tweaked at Stanford University, hence the Stanford-Binet intelligence test name. In more recent years, a mental age has been given to someone by taking someone’s score on an IQ test and dividing it by the average score of people that age. The end result is then multiplied by the person’s real age until the age of 14.
For this reason, you see a lot of children that are either placed into advanced classes during their elementary school years or possibly held back. About one percent of students skip at least one grade due to their mental age and testing, while roughly 10 percent of children are held back at least one time before high school.
There are other mental age tests that don’t measure IQ, as well. A more recent test that has garnered a lot of attention lately is the Arealme mental age test. In this test, users are asked questions about their own personalities that include their fashion sense and quickness to come to anger. These are mostly “yes or no” questions that will determine your mental age based on your responses, gender, and real age.
At the end of the day, there isn’t a finite way of determining how old you are, mentally. Since it’s a concept, you can only be defined by your physical age. For now, it remains a psychological state of mind. You can be much more advanced in terms of intelligence than people in your same age bracket, but determining exactly how much more you know can be next to impossible.
“A person may be a moron or an imbecile if he is lacking in judgment,” Alfred Binet said. “But with good judgment, he can never be either. Indeed the rest of the intellectual faculties seem of little importance in comparison with judgment.”