Topic: Selection, Assessment
Publication: Human Performance (2009)
Article: Not much more than g? An examination of the impact of intelligence on NFL performance
Authors: B.D. Lyons, B.J. Hoffman, & J.W. Michel
Reviewed By: Scott Charles Sitrin, M.A.
In most work, intelligence is a key a predictor of job performance. But what about when your job involves physically assaulting your opponent and not letting him say “uncle” until you have successfully moved a pigskin 100 yards into his end zone? For a football player, does intelligence predict performance? Do you, as an owner of a National Football team, select the genius in the tweed jacket with an Ivy League smile?
In investigating the relationship between intelligence and performance, Lyons, Hoffman, and Michel examined the general mental ability and performance of 762 football players drafted during the 2002, 2003, and 2004 NFL Drafts. Since there are relatively few kickers and punters, they were excluded. Cognitive ability was evaluated using the Wonderlic a performance was assessed three ways: future NFL performance, including position specific criterion such as total tackles and touchdowns over a three-year period; draft position, referring to when the player was selected by a professional team in the NFL Draft; and number of games started. Shockingly enough, cognitive ability did not relate to performance.
So, general mental ability does not appear to predict performance of professional players. That’s not to say that intelligence is not related to the performance of professional football players. (Confused yet?) Rather, this study shows that intelligence as measured by the Wonderlic does not relate to football performance. It is possible that intelligence as measured by another instrument could show a relationship to athletic performance. As a take home message, be thoughtful in selecting the tool that you use to measure something. The Wonderlic may be a helpful measure of intelligence in business settings, but its use in alternative contexts such as the world of the NFL may not be as valid.
Lyons, B.D., Hoffman, B.J., & Michel, J.W. (2009). Not much more than g? An examination of the impact of intelligence on NFL performance. Human Performance, 22, 225-245.