Isn't "IQ" rather arbitrary and dependent upon which series of tests are taken? How can estimates of the IQs of dead people make any sense if the number itself doesn't mean much.

I turned off the estimated link provided when it claimed that the (small sample) average score for soldiers was 133. As one with access to all records in the Marine Corps office, I'd estimate the average to be closer to 105 - which is close enough to what is considered to be, by definition, the overall population average, right?.

I'd always heard that "genius" was above 160, but then it doesn't make sense that Einstein was 160. He's the paragon of  "genius". I'd have thought that Einstein would be approaching the level of H3xx at 180.

I know what my military test score was (it was called GCT, I think), but what is it a count of? I've just sent an email to Mensa asking what a Mensa score means. I believe membership is Mensa indicates top 2%. But I wonder if there's a number associated with that.

Who knows what IQ means = (outside "Intelligence Quotient")?

Tags: genius, intelligence, tests

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In college I majored in math, economics and physics. I did computer work for ten years before I heard about Mensa. They accepted the tests I had taken 20 years earlier when I went into the Navy. My work required some moving and I went to Mensa meetings in two major cities.

In the first, a woman member told me Mensa men can be cruel in very clever ways. My own take on that Mensa was that some were okay people while others, and don't take this as a fault, were socially retarded.

People are socially retarded for several reasons; I know one of them. To stay out of my dad's sometimes violent ways I kept my face in books. I didn't often hang around with other kids but won most grade school spelling bees. In 11th and 12th grades I went to a small high school where there was nothing to do but hang out with other boys. Their constant talk about cars or the last week's footbalI game bored me silly and I didn't take part. So yes, I too was socially retarded.

In the second Mensa, in another city after I came out of my shell, I liked the people there but my work kept me away from most meetings.

After I quit computer work I went to college again to study art and the social sciences. A psych instructor said IQ is the \number people get after they take an IQ test.

That was around 1980 when IQ test makers were reeling from criticism that they were, without knowing it, putting their own socio-economic values into their questions. During the next several years I read about researchers finding many different kinds of intelligence.

During my computer years, the 1960s and early 1970s, the idea of artificial intelligence got computer people excited. But early attempts at language translation were disappointing. Around 1996, in a group conversation a man asked me what I thought of AI. I said that if we ever find out what real intelligence is, we might do something with AI. It brought chuckles from others in the group. I was glad; some of them knew I was tutoring their high school kids in algebra.

"early attempts at language translation were disappointing"

I remember an urban legend from that time: in testing their translator, the programmers put in "traffic jam", translated it to French, then translated the results back into English. The result "car-flavored marmalade". 

Another legend told of translating "The flesh is weak but the spirit is willing" into Russian, back into English, and obtaining something about meat and the vodka's being good.

Isn't "IQ" rather arbitrary and dependent upon which series of tests are taken?

No, and yes. My understanding of the origin of IQ testing is that it served as a diagnostic for learning deficiencies. If 'intelligence' is reasonably defined for the purpose of the test and the testing method is consistent, then the results should not be arbitrary (though there are arbitrary factors which could skew individual results).

Different testing methods may provide different numeric results, but this could be a matter of refining the testing method to get superior or more granular results, or the test is modified to fulfill a slightly different purpose. Still, I don't think you should be getting wildly different results.

The problem arises when people lose sight of the purpose for and the limitations of the test. There is no perfect way to quantify what we very generally term 'intelligence' in common usage. If an IQ test was geared as a good predictor of academic aptitude, then there should be some correlation between IQ score and academic results such as standardized test scores. Under the assumption that a student performed to the best of their ability on a given test, it's reasonable to estimate their IQ based on test results. It's consistent and practical within that definition of intelligence. I doubt most of evaluate intelligence with such a narrow definition though.

I'd have thought that Einstein would be approaching the level of H3xx at 180.

I've never really seen the point of assessing IQ past a certain point unless its for high IQ societies. There is a point in primary education where it's helpful to identify students needing enrichment programs, but that threshold falls below genius level.

Even if we assume for the sake of argument that the scores are pretty accurate, aptitude and appreciable performance won't necessarily match. There could be discrepancies in motivation or opportunity. Someone like Einstein could hypothetically be extraordinary in a limited number of aspects yet rather average in others, where other individuals could be strongly talented across the board resulting in a higher overall IQ. Also, Einstein and his contributions could simply be overestimated compared to others because he was a cultural icon.

The news: "People in prisons are learning computer skills."

Me (in the late 1960s): "What? That endangers my future employment!"

A serious discussion about IQ requires discussion also of its relationship to law breaking behavior, and even anti-social personality disorder (formerly known as psychopathy or sociopathy).

After a half-hour chat in 1975 with a high-ranking member of Congress, I returned to my car not knowing if I had a knife in my back. Two people more expert than I in politics had warned me he was "smooth". A man who told me he had worked in the Congressmember's first election 20 years earlier told me he regretted having done so. At a speech contest I met the Congressmember's sister; she told me she didn't know what had happened with her brother.

I soon started researching psycho/sociopathy but much of what I found was anecdotal. More recent research using brain scans has revealed much. Googling <Robert Hare> or <workplace psychopathy> are two places to start.

The first full-length book I've seen on the subject is Kevin Dutton's 2012 The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us about Success. I'm into it, but not far enough to comment here.

Have fun learning.

@Tom - I don't know if you watch any TED talks but Jon Ronson did a great one on psychopathy, and I'll link it here in case you get a chance to watch it.

Thanks, Strega. People I know say they like TED talks but they watch more computer than I (hm, some people watch tv; others watch computer?) I liked it: informative, well presented, and short.

Jon Ronson. An interesting name; it could be Ron Jonson.

@Tom: Yes - another portion of our most brilliant minds are behind bars. Another example to show that those who are not generally given the same level of education and resources, (and healthy upbringing in general) who end up behind bars and would have possibly otherwise been able to pass an IQ test (among other accomplishments) end up using their "skill" in other ways.

If you are interested in psycopathy, another interesting read is, "the Sociopath Next Door." You'll look at the world a little differently after reading that book.

Belle, they would have become cyber-criminals rather than holding up convenience stores, taking their criminality up a couple notches. 

"Character is what you have when the lights go out." A bad person will be bad with whatever tools are at hand. A good person can be trusted.

@Unseen...

Belle, they would have become cyber-criminals rather than holding up convenience stores, taking their criminality up a couple notches. 

some of them are. However, there are other ways to become wealthy and have a sense of power that are much more desirable to many of today's convicts.

"Character is what you have when the lights go out."

You must distinguish character for a sociopath vs a shall we say "normal" person. Remember: They have no conscience. The lights are never on by our standards of how we would measure character.

some of them are. However, there are other ways to become wealthy and have a sense of power that are much more desirable to many of today's convicts.

Most criminals in prison are criminals to get by without work (or perhaps because they can't find work), not in an attempt to become wealthy,

You must distinguish character for a sociopath vs a shall we say "normal" person. Remember: They have no conscience. The lights are never on by our standards of how we would measure character.

Okayyy... What is your point? Mine was that a bad person is a bad person. Most of the time, once they convince themselves that being bad is okay, there is little chance of turning them back. Sure it happens, but not as often as the opposite.

My point unseen is as previously stated: there are VERY intelligent men and women who are also behind bars who's IQ would be that of a genius. The socioeconomic and sociological factors that contribute to them becoming a criminal makes a lot of the choices for them, and also contributes to the development of psycopathy. It is another reason I believe the "2%" statistic is skewed.

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