18 Jan 2011

The limitations of IQ

I’m reflecting on an experience of meeting in person, someone who possessed an IQ of 154. I should say ‘claimed to have’ and IQ of 154. It was a very disappointing experience.

That meeting triggered my reflection on others I’ve met with similar IQ’s. One was a young man of about 18 with IQ of 165, another young man with IQ 145, and two females each with IQ’s of 141 and 147 respectively. This lot was spread out over the last 30 years. I’m talking those who could positively verify their IQ’s through membership of Mensa – not hot-air folk who claim to be Mensa-tested painfully lacking in commons signs of intelligence.

But my disappointment in this most recent meeting, led me to gather my thoughts on what was disappointing about all the others, because I could see that there were things in common that disappointed me. The following is a synopsis picking out the common themes:

  1. An over-confidence in their own intelligence bordering on arrogance and an unusual degree of narcissism.
  2. Inability to stay with the main issue under scrutiny or discussion – instead preferring to be distracted quite easily by explorations of endless side issues – and risking loss of focus and time-wasting.
  3. Inability to follow rules of logic. That was quite surprising really, because I expected that these people would naturally be better at the fundamental principles of mathematical reasoning. That expectation is reasonable because traditional IQ tests do check mathematical ability (though not principles of mathematics).
  4. A nauseating tendency to dispense with logic in favour of that which is driven by the emotions or some sense of morality. No – morality does not trump everything – read law, and come back in 4 – 5 years.
  5. An inability to keep concepts within their proper boundaries.
  6. Lack of receptivity – and unwillingness to explore new concepts.
  7. Failings of the flesh – a blindness to the power of instinctual, emotional and unconscious drives.
  8. Unexpected difficulty balancing complex situations – it’s as though they could cope with 3 or 4 variables linearly, but not 5 or 6 that were dynamically related over long(er) periods of time.
  9. Lacking in appraisal of the influence one individual can have on a system – leading to a distorted sense of expectation. That’s probably related to (1) above.
  10. An ability to describe psychological things but relative handicap in understanding their own ‘psychology’ and unconscious factors that may affect them. In essence the abilities to think, reason, analyse, calculate, use words – affords little benefit when looking inward.
  11. They do very stupid things – too many to mention – but I’m talking things that would lead you to wonder “WTF - has this person really got an IQ > 140?”

What was not disappointing was as follows:

  1. An ability to dispense with minutiae.
  2. An awareness of the world that was better than persons with lower IQs
  3. A very wide vocabulary.
  4. Free expression of emotions.
  5. All other things common to high IQ people.

I’m not writing this to assert that IQ is a load of nonsense. And I’m not saying that people with high IQ’s are stupid. I’m documenting this so that I can reflect on it and return to it later – as I gather more evidence. I may well have been unlucky to come across a disappointing sample of high IQ individuals. So, I do not assert that my observations are to be generalised.

The concept of IQ is partly a politicised one that originated in the early 1900s. Modern research is finding that it is deficient as a concept in predicting the usefulness of people in this modern age. Go Google it – you’ll see.