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My IQ
November 4, 2012 11:53 AM   Subscribe

When I came to the US, I heard about Mensa — the high IQ society. My IQ had never been tested, so I was curious. I was told that there was a special IQ test for non-English speakers and that my fresh immigrant status and lack of English knowledge was not a problem. I signed up.
posted by Foci for Analysis (164 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mensa is the society for people intelligent enough to want to pay to be able to tell people they are a member of a high-IQ club, but who aren't intelligent enough ... well, to not join fucking Mensa.
posted by iotic at 11:58 AM on November 4, 2012 [103 favorites]


Steve Martin - How I Joined Mensa.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:00 PM on November 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


When I was pretty young, maybe 12 or so, I broke an IQ test -- getting a perfect score quicker than the shortest completion in time. I was impressed with myself at the time, but, just a few years later, I realized that the test was just manipulation of patterns, which, although useful and valuable, couldn't possibly be the definition of "intelligence." Additionally, I had been very quick in figuring which answer would be "correct," which is another kind of intelligence, but not the whole story. Pretty soon after that, I stopped worrying about intelligence, becoming secure enough about it that I don't feel a need to prove it or, I suppose, brag about it (despite what this story might lead you to believe). I've got faults, but a lack of smarts and wits aren't part of it.

I've never been tempted by Mensa, except, maybe when I hear that song, and I think they are singing "When they do the Double Dutch, they're in Mensa," which makes Mensa sound kind of fun.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:03 PM on November 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think once you realize the test is a waste of time, you win.
posted by empath at 12:05 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


When my sister and I were kids (her around 12, me 15 or 16), our parents attended a Mensa get-together and took us along with them. She and I both pretty quickly came to the realization that the other attendees were not, shall we say, shining paragons of well-adjusted perspicacity.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:10 PM on November 4, 2012 [15 favorites]


>> Cow, hen, pig, sheep.
>
> The standard answer is supposed to be hen, as it is the only bird. But that is not the only possible correct answer.
> For example, pig is the only one whose meat is not kosher. And, look, sheep has five letters while the rest
> have three.

Testmanship is part of the test. For each question, A. which are the arguably correct answers? (Stretch a point 'till it screams, at this stage) and B. of those answers, which is the one these idiots probably want? (If they have borked the test and there is no actual correct answer, B. still applies.) High-G folks suss this out a couple of heartbeats after they have been allowed to open the test booklet of the first canned test they ever take.
posted by jfuller at 12:11 PM on November 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Is this where we talk about how high our IQ scores are and how we don't care because we're above that?

Seriously, though, curiosity: Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

It seems somewhat irresponsible to me to give a child an IQ test and then tell them their score, but I may be projecting. I think having a number put on my intelligence as a child could never have helped; only hurt. My experience with "how gifted are you" testing was rather frustrating and problematic, and I can't imagine how I would have felt if the result was supposed to tell me how smart I was rather than just did I know enough to be in the gifted program.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:12 PM on November 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


My IQ score: 95, so suck on that! Almost a perfect 100. Wooohooo!
posted by Xoebe at 12:15 PM on November 4, 2012 [76 favorites]


Mensa is the society for people intelligent enough to want to pay to be able to tell people they are a member of a high-IQ club, but who aren't intelligent enough ... well, to not join fucking Mensa.

I take it her point isn't about mensa in particular but about the IQ tests themselves, which are loaded with all kinds of presuppositions.
posted by kenko at 12:15 PM on November 4, 2012


I heard recently that the average score on standardized IQ tests in the US is going up. I took enough standardized tests through my academic career to know that this does not mean that the population is getting smarter; Americans are just getting better at jumping through standardized test hoops.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:16 PM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I received my results, I barely made it to Mensa. I am glad that I am a member of the society of people who value their brains. But it bugs me that I might not have been creative enough to fail their test.
ICEBURN

I love it
posted by edheil at 12:16 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


We had enough turnout at the last Mensa party to do a Sudoku-themed orgy!
posted by Burhanistan at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Complaining about how the test is so easy for you that it's actually hard is the entrance requirement to Super Secret Mensa.
posted by The Prawn Reproach at 12:24 PM on November 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

I was given an IQ test in elementary school. From what I've been told, my teacher and principal encouraged my parents to have me tested. I remember being tested but had no idea why at the time and my parents never told me my "score". They still won't (not that I ever ask) and I'm 31. So, it never really affected me beyond, as an older kid/teen, realizing I was smart enough to warrant it. My parents only ever told me they knew I was smart enough to do whatever I wanted as a career.

I got what I considered to be a mediocre GRE score. Low end of acceptable for most programs, etc. Imagine my surprise when I was told it more than qualified me for Mensa. Ridiculous. No thanks.
posted by peacrow at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just smart enough to know I am not. Of course I think that is the sweet spot.
posted by srboisvert at 12:29 PM on November 4, 2012 [24 favorites]


Seriously, though, curiosity: Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

In my experience...you can know you'in the 99.whatevereth percentile, but still only figure out as an adult, far far too late, that raw abstract intelligence is a very small component of success at any important endeavor in life.
posted by The Prawn Reproach at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2012 [52 favorites]


...and knowing turns you into an insufferable snot in the interim.
posted by The Prawn Reproach at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


It seems somewhat irresponsible to me to give a child an IQ test and then tell them their score, but I may be projecting
One of my childhood memories is being tested for a few hours by Teh Gubmint in a cavernous drafty hall with my friend who was the primary school's "cleverest girl" to my "cleverest boy". They never told me what it was for, what my "score" was and it pissed me off so much I don't think I listened to another authority figure until I was in my 30s.
posted by fullerine at 12:31 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


My favorite test is the Ishihara Color Blindness Test. I score well on that one every time!
posted by Nomyte at 12:33 PM on November 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


I thought that Mensa was just an 1980s thing. But actually it started in 1 October 1946 at Oxford in the UK.

I find it curious that it seems to have fallen out of the cultural spotlight. Has anyone ever been to a meeting?

Oh wait according to the Mensa UK website the last event was in August 2010 and they don't seem to have been very regular.

In a way providing a venue where one could have more interesting discussions on deeper subject matter than the football sounds quite appealing. - but is that what they ever actually did?
posted by mary8nne at 12:36 PM on November 4, 2012


Mensa is the society for people intelligent enough to want to pay to be able to tell people they are a member of a high-IQ club, but who aren't intelligent enough ... well, to not join fucking Mensa.
posted by iotic at 7:58 PM on November 4


This, this, a thousand times this.
posted by Decani at 12:38 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had to take several IQ tests in school. I know for a fact that I've taken the Stanford-Binet and the Henmon-Nelson. I took an IQ test very early on, possibly first grade. Nothing came of that but then I changed schools in third grade. In the new school, I took an IQ test in 4th grade, specifically for "gifted and talented" enrichment and I rather definitively and purposefully did quite poorly on it. (The new school's "enrichment" was a Heaping Helping of More of the Same. I already knew how to do worksheets and I did not see any point to signing up for Extra Worksheets.) Following a talking-to from my parents, I took a second test and actually made something of an effort on that one. (They then attempted to install Extra Worksheets. I refused to play along. Eventually we negotiated an IEP that everybody liked. No worksheets were in evidence.) Then there was one in eighth grade and one in eleventh grade, both of those grade-wide group tests.

I didn't find out what I got on any of them at the time. It was not school policy to tell students, just their parents. Also, my parents did not think it healthy for children to know that sort of thing. All I had was the inception of "enrichment" and IEP stuff, which handed me a great big clue because the school cut-off for that crap was at 130.

When I turned eighteen in the spring of my senior year, I trotted my butt into the guidance counselor's office and demanded (as a legal adult) to see my records, the which they showed me. That was interesting mostly for the look on the poor guy's face, I have to say. Apparently very few students ever march into the guidance counselor's office and demand to see that stuff. While I was there, I looked at my "permanent record" which was also boring as hell and contained none of the items that I was told, in my school-going career, would be "Put on your permanent record, young missy!" How dare they lie like that? Did they think I wasn't going to check? *sigh*
posted by which_chick at 12:39 PM on November 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


I heard recently that the average score on standardized IQ tests in the US is going up.
posted by Huck500 at 12:41 PM on November 4, 2012


In college, I used to get high and play chess with this guy who was really into his IQ score. He kept bragging about it and asking me if I'd ever had mine tested. I thought it was a weird sort of obsession to have since a) we were ostensibly engaged in a competition capable of sorting out which of us was smartest, and b) we were so fucking stoned all the time that evidently neither of us cared to operate at peak intellectual capacity anyway.

That sort of sums up how I feel about IQ tests. There are plenty of other, more fun ways to sort for intelligence, and very few of us give a damn about exercising our full analytical capacities most of the time, so what's the real value of privileging that measure in the first place?
posted by R. Schlock at 12:45 PM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I was in third grade, they gave us an IQ test in elementary school to determine who would be IDed as "gifted" and get to do extra busy work and develop terrible study skills. Unfortunately, they "miscalibrated" the test, and only 3 kids of our preselected group turned out to be geniuses. Curiously, they were all born after December 1 of our birth year (age being a key factor in calculating your score). So they "recalibrated" the results, and boom the whole bunch of us were "gifted"! If we hadn't already determined the IQ tests were ridiculous, and that our preselected group had everything to do with who our parents were and not from any actual evidence of student genius (and that really smart people in our class had been left out of the group), the fact they had to manipulate the results would have done it. It was so ineptly handled all around that the other kids pitied us a little for the extra work and lack of funtime.
posted by julen at 12:45 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mensa is by no means whatsoever the high-IQ society.
posted by jet_silver at 12:46 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Supposedly the most exclusive high-IQ society is the Mega Society. John Sununu is a member, which tells me all I need to know about these clubs.
posted by TedW at 12:48 PM on November 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also, it's never a bad time to recall Stephen Jay Gould, z"l.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:49 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had about as many tests as which_chick. Back in the 80s, at elementary school, I was in the TAG (Talented And Gifted) program, which I mainly remember for being able to build model rockets (wooohooooo) and clay castles. There weren't many of us, and the rockets were awesome, so I taught my friends on the baseball team how to build their own too. It was great, we'd have rocket-launching parties on our huge countryside playground.

In middle school we had an IQ test I remember in particular because my parents and I were actually called to a special meeting. I'd had a super-high score they'd not seen before. I was told this, and then told that I was the only student to be called in for it. My heart sank. I was alone. None of my friends would be sharing the experience. A teacher took out a piece of my writing and I felt like it was evidence to be used against me. "Fraula, you're very intelligent, your mother tells me you wrote this yourself, but it's several grades ahead of your level. What do you want to do with your intelligence?"

I started sobbing. I'd answer the same thing again in a heartbeat, some 25 years later: "I just want people to stop telling me I'm smart and let me be with my friends."
posted by fraula at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2012 [45 favorites]


I was in a TAG program too. My strongest memory from grade school was of a clearly smart but deeply emotionally disturbed kid physically assaulting our teacher because she wouldn't let him play with his action figures during class time.

That taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about high IQ's.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I always quite liked IQ tests, as I was fairly good at them while I've always been terrible at the sorts of tests that actually have an impact on one's life - O Levels, A Levels and so forth. Degree theses, that sort of thing. That said, it's fairly clear that they are mostly good for measuring how good you are at IQ tests. The other thing they measure is how seriously you are to take the test - there are many, many people who would do quite well if they didn't think it was a load of old cock.

Actually, I think that's the thing they're primarily there to do - identify the people who are inclined to take this particular load of old cock seriously.

In addition, I'm fairly sure that there's a big difference between intelligence and cleverness, and these tests are likely to measure the latter. Michael Gove, for example, is obviously a very clever man (if one is generous enough to call him a man), but is really not a particularly intelligent one.
posted by Grangousier at 12:57 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is this where we talk about how high our IQ scores are and how we don't care because we're above that?

For me, the answer is evidently yes, 'cause I'm humble that way, but thanks!

One thing I find weird about Mensa is that they are an organization for people who are proud of how smart they are. Smart people can usually figure out things they need to know (with, of course, glaring exceptions (in everyone's lives, no way am I pointing fingers). Somehow, though, Mensa needs to advertise in the back of free airline magazines. So their audience seems to be people smart enough to pass the test but not smart enough to pack enough books or charge up their ereader before leaving. That is a very specific market....
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:57 PM on November 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jimmy Savile was a member - one of a list of celebrities . Mensa have now posthumously thrown him out.
posted by rongorongo at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometime in my early forties I asked my mother why they'd never told me or treated me as a "genius" ie. high IQ score (around 150). This was partly due to a long realization in my late thirties that I was smarter than I'd ever imagined myself to be but had never had that aspect either supported nor educated. There's a blind grey spot which has never been "trained" and I feel it sometimes when I'm trying to push through or even if I'm trying to write an intelligent comment back on here and I realize i don't have the skill to do so even if the innate ability might be there. I suspect gender was involved in her decision and the path of good housewifely stuff mapped out for my future.

Reading this, I realize that I'd have been bored taking the traditional genii paths of math or science or whatever. Creativity and problem solving and lateral thinking are far more valuable gains, imho, than the pure math and science route that is more common. This way I have nothing to live up to and can faff around to hearts content.
posted by infini at 1:05 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Seriously, though, curiosity: Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

Oh, boy. I got tested a lot, although at the time I didn't understand why.

By the time I entered first grade, I had already known how to read for at least a couple of years, if not more (my mother doesn't know when--I picked it up by watching Sesame Street!), and so I wound up spending a good chunk of the day with the third graders. Ergo, at the end of the year, the administration decided they might as well skip me to third grade and be done with it. Thing is, a new principal came in the next year, and she wanted to bump me back down to second. And so, I got tested. And tested. And tested. I think the school psychologist must have gone through every test available at the time. Ultimately, the new principal gave up, and I stayed where I was.

(I don't remember my scores.)
posted by thomas j wise at 1:07 PM on November 4, 2012


There's a glitch in my brain that's always gotten MENSA mixed up with NAMBLA.
posted by item at 1:08 PM on November 4, 2012 [23 favorites]


My parents were into Mensa, and I went to many of the meetings as a tagalong.

My overall impression of it was fairly positive; our local chapter had a mix of people, some fabulous, some hopelessly self-impressed, some utter losers. The single biggest lesson I drew from the experience is that intelligence, as defined by Mensa, is a magnifier. It makes you more of what you already are. If you're a lousy person to start with, and are very intelligent, you're likely to become a truly serious scumbag. (with my older mind, I think of this as the investment banker effect.) But if you're kind and gentle to start with, and then are blessed with a powerful rational mind as well, it can make something really sublime.

Intelligence is, I think, an intensifier, something that lets you write on the world in bigger letters than you could otherwise manage. But what actually matters is what you want to write, not how large you can write it.
posted by Malor at 1:10 PM on November 4, 2012 [70 favorites]


I don't remember if it was the pseudoscience course or the history of science course, but back in college I learned a bit about eugenics. Turns out eugenicists loved culture-dependent intelligence tests, because then you could easily use them to prove that immigrants had to be sterilized.

On a similar note, if you ever need to convince adults that high school students are stupid, ask the students to name the Presidents in reverse order. Since most people are fuzzy on Presidents from before they were born, the adults get to think themselves quite superior.
posted by ckape at 1:12 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it affect how you think about yourself?

Obligatory 'IQ Tests are bullshit' story:

One of my fondest memories from fourth grade is taking the WISC to determine, in part, whether I would be permitted to skip fifth grade. I was, by that time, already bored out of my skull with the whole, sorry elementary school experience, and I think, looking back, that it must have showed.

The test was administered by a somewhat jumpy 20-something who I assume was probably a psychology TA or the like. It didn't take five minutes before she started ducking out of the room every few questions to confer with my parents, like I was some sort of mutant or something. After watching her stumble through the Digit Span ('repeating number sequences backwards') section, (she was convinced, convinced I tell you, that I was somehow cheating,) I got it into my head to just try my hardest to rattle her.

I finally got my chance in the Comprehension section. The test presented an image of a family sitting around a telephone - a middle-aged couple, an older woman, two children, and a dog. To be honest, I'm not sure what answer they expected from a set-up like that, but I do know that when I started to weave a ten-or-fifteen minute long tale of car accidents, family conflict, death, and betrayal worthy of a particularly overcooked telenovela, it prompted her to leave the room and not come back for a very long time.

I never did get to see my scores from that, but given that I apparently looked like some sort of nine-year-old Charles Xavier to my administrator, I guess I must have passed. That said, I have my own doubts as to whether a test of my ability to pay attention to strings of numbers and put photos of a farmer tilling a field in chronological order really had any sort of bearing on my success in middle school...
posted by fifthrider at 1:12 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

When I was about 8 my parents put me in a school that required IQ testing on entrance. They allowed me to take the test only under the condition that neither they nor I ever be told the result. I think this was a fantastic idea and I've thanked them for it a few times over the course of my life.

Complaining about how the test is so easy for you that it's actually hard is the entrance requirement to Super Secret Mensa.

The first rule of Super Secret Mensa is "G is bullshit anyhow"

posted by RogerB at 1:13 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, IQ tests. I did a single semester of basic psychology in an almost completely worthless literature degree and took two different tests as a lark. The first was a traditional IQ test that had lots of scary numbers in it and I, being completely allergic to anything resembling maths, scored in the sub-normal range. The next one was aimed at people who did not speak English or have any formal education (so, essentially, pattern-matching) and promptly scored 160+.

The end result is that I mistrust tests as being able to tell you anything much about the taker.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:16 PM on November 4, 2012


I got tested in 7th or 8th grade, I don't know whether at the behest of my mom or my teachers. I remember wondering at the time, in a slightly uneasy way, why I was being tested. I don't recall my actual score (other than that it was "above average") but my unease was confirmed when for years afterward my mom frequently and frustratedly exhorted me, "You've got a high IQ; why aren't your grades better??" She never did like my answers.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I almost didn't get into kindergarten when I was four (my birthday is in December, so it was either start a little early or a little late) because the test included such questions as:

1) Find the one that doesn't fit:
A) Dog
B) Log
C) Cat

I picked "log" because it wasn't an animal. I was apparently not supposed to recognize the meanings of the words and just pick the one that didn't rhyme, but they didn't ask for that.

Later that year, I got in trouble for coloring a person with green skin and blue hair because "that's not what people look like."
posted by Scattercat at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


Proctor: All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--
Proctor: Wait, wait... just say slavery.

posted by The Whelk at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


I thought Mensa was for girls! wow. learn a lot at this site
posted by Postroad at 1:21 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


My Mom thought there might be something ...up with my brain cause I was having trouble writing and finished books "too quickly" so she assumed I was skimming them and not really reading.

So I had some kind of test in a really boring school room and found out I was

A) Pretty dyslexic.

B) should probably skip a grade or two.

it ended up punting me into Gifted and Talented for English.
posted by The Whelk at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this where we talk about how high our IQ scores are and how we don't care because we're above that?

No, no. You're looking for Metafilter.
posted by Diablevert at 1:27 PM on November 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


It is difficult for me to comment in this thread because my immense gargantuan genius penis makes it hard to type.
posted by elizardbits at 1:28 PM on November 4, 2012 [29 favorites]


Seriously, though, curiosity: Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

It seems somewhat irresponsible to me to give a child an IQ test and then tell them their score, but I may be projecting. I think having a number put on my intelligence as a child could never have helped; only hurt.


My Grade Six class was tested en masse, and I skipped all of the math questions, as I was hopeless at arithmetic. They didn't tell us our scores, though I eventually weasled mine out of a high school counselor a few years later, and I'd done surprisingly well, considering, though not in the so-called genius range. My IQ score had two effects: it kept me from getting streamed into the non-academic classes, even when I was barely scraping along or failing them all; and it made the word "potential" nearly poisonous for me. I was lectured, often, of how much better I could be doing and yeah, that has reverberated through my entire life. I became a puzzle to be solved: how could I be so intelligent and yet be doing so badly in school? This is a not uncommon issue, I know now, but at the time it seemed a species of perversity, or something. At any rate: the hell with IQ tests, and people who think they mean much of anything. The smartest people I know today are those who are the most perceptive, not the best at knowing which number comes in a sequence.
posted by jokeefe at 1:29 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


They mailed me a free paper self-test back in the late 80's & I scored just high enough on it that I was invited to come take the paid, proctored test, which I thereupon decided I was as being suckered in to a scam. I mean I was lucky smart enough to come give them money? Uh, no.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:29 PM on November 4, 2012


It is difficult for me to comment in this thread because my immense gargantuan genius penis makes it hard to type.

Read that, pictured you with a (detached) two-foot dong spread across your lap, petting it like a Bond villain's Persian.
posted by Diablevert at 1:30 PM on November 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


I scored quite well on my Owls but nothing much ever came of it.
posted by Bonzai at 1:30 PM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also it is really casually wearing the Fields Medal.
posted by elizardbits at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


I thought it was strange I didn't become a genius until I moved back to California. Too bad I still don't live there!
posted by dragonplayer at 1:37 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


anyway, I'm smarter than all of you. I started buying used vinyl in 1989.
posted by philip-random at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


IQ counts for shit. What really matters is action, and the root of that is passion for what one is doing, persistence in doing it, and needing no more than five hours sleep.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:39 PM on November 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


The single biggest lesson I drew from the experience is that intelligence, as defined by Mensa, is a magnifier. It makes you more of what you already are.

No, that's cocaine.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:42 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also it is really casually wearing the Fields Medal.

Do you mean you actually have Fields Medal? Might be a stupid question, but there have been quite a few famous people here.

I wonder if there are any Nobel Prize winners on MeFi.

(And no, you don't count just because you're an EU citizen)
posted by ymgve at 1:44 PM on November 4, 2012


passion for what one is doing, persistence in doing it, and needing no more than five hours sleep.

If I ever met a genie I would so ask it to fix me so I didn't have to sleep anymore. I mean, it'd still be nice to be able to sleep, in case I happened to feel like killing time on a hot lazy afternoon, but OH what I could do if I didn't have to waste a third of every day letting my body do whatever it is my body does while I'm not there to drive it around.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:46 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it affect how you think about yourself?
I was a problem child/youth, and was endlessly tested. I hated those tests. In retrospect, they probably caught the attention of the few people who helped me through school and life - a math teacher, a science teacher, two art teachers, my grandfather, who wasn't otherwise interested in children.
I wasn't told the scores until I was 30+, and then it wasn't even my parents but one of my inlaws who told me. Actually, I'm quite convinced that both my step-parents hated me for it - which enhanced the problems that made me a problem-child at school...
I think it's a lot more important for people is to experience success and happiness in life, and the skills needed for that can be learnt by almost everyone.
posted by mumimor at 1:47 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've got no interest in Mensa, but some of the complaints about the test in this piece are pretty lame. The kosher objection is very weak sauce. There are all sorts of superstitious ways to group animals, but it's perfectly reasonable to expect people to understand that natural groupings are more important/salient than superstitious ones. Though in case they don't, no one question should sink someone if you really are (for some reason) interested in how smart they are.

But, hey, maybe dumb people are just really, really creative smart people...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 1:48 PM on November 4, 2012


I grouped them by type of digestive system.
posted by found missing at 1:52 PM on November 4, 2012


I grouped them by likelihood I could teach the animal tic-tac-toe.
posted by found missing at 1:53 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you mean you actually have Fields Medal?

Yes but it was made of chocolate and I awarded it to myself.
posted by elizardbits at 1:56 PM on November 4, 2012 [14 favorites]


I almost didn't get into kindergarten when I was four (my birthday is in December, so it was either start a little early or a little late) because the test included such questions as:

1) Find the one that doesn't fit:
A) Dog
B) Log
C) Cat


when I was four years old
they tried to test my I.Q.
they showed me a picture
of 3 oranges and a pear
they said,
which one is different?
it does not belong?
they taught me different is wrong

Ani Difranco -- "My IQ"
posted by flarbuse at 1:57 PM on November 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it affect how you think about yourself?

My brother (who is very bright) and I took several of these tests when we were in grade school. It was the 70s. I think there must have been a lot of testing at that time. Maybe it had something to do with the DC school district. Anyway, several rounds of IQ tests, psychology tests, aptitude tests. I'm pretty sure we took an ESP test like in Ghostbusters. We both scored well on the IQ test, but I scored eight points higher. We were told the results instantly. I was young enough to have a full set of baby teeth. My brother was... nine, maybe?

It's been 30 years now and my brother will not. shut. up. about those eight points. We are very different people, with very different lives, and very different accomplishments. But he brings it up every few months or so. I think it makes him feel inferior. And I do get bossy (and sometimes smug) around him, even though I am younger, and even though, deep down, I know that these tests were arbitrary at best and harmful at worst.
posted by mochapickle at 2:00 PM on November 4, 2012


For a while when I was living in California, I was kind of socially isolated and was looking for places to socialize. Mensa was one possibility, and I decided to give it a try. So I attended a "gaming night" as a guest. I have to admit that I noticed something rather difficult to describe. There was a kind of intensity, a richness, kind of like the difference between an average wine and a superb one.

I got into a 2-deck Hearts game. And I had the privilege of witnessing, and being part of, the perfect Hearts trick. The guy with the low score led the jack of spades. The other six of us played both queens, both kings, and both aces. I was last and my king completed the perfection.

He stared at it for a while, maybe waiting for someone else to take it, but of course that's not how the rules read.

Nonetheless, I didn't end up joining. I looked one time at a list of Mensa interest groups, and saw all kinds of new age and fringe science stuff, which proved to me (as if it needed proving) that there's a lot of difference between intelligence and wisdom.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:00 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had to take one of these in kindergarten to see if I would be eligible for G&T classes in first grade. I passed, but I vividly remember getting one question wrong where you had to pick the odd one out of a park bench, a chair, a sofa, and a ladder. I picked the bench, because it only had two legs. But the ladder was supposed to be the wrong one. I don't know why. You can sit on a ladder, too.

My G&T classes were weird anyway. We played a lot of video games during G&T on the teacher's Apple IIe, and I remember learning about analogies and pentominoes and doing stories with holes, and while I enjoyed it more than my normal class time, mostly I remembered how resentful it made both my friends who didn't get into G&T and several teachers who seemed to hate me for leaving class once a week.

Apparently my IQ is only in the 130s (compared to, say, my husband's, which is apparently in the 170s). No skin off my nose.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:03 PM on November 4, 2012


YES BUT CAN YOU DRAW A PIRATE
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:07 PM on November 4, 2012 [28 favorites]


Gin and tonic classes in first grade? Was this in the Hemingway-Barrymore-O'Toole school district?
posted by elizardbits at 2:09 PM on November 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Some people I've talked with over the years about IQ testing have seemed oddly convinced that when taken properly these tests measure your "natural IQ," but if you prepare for them that is "cheating" and you can get a higher score than what you deserve. Supposedly also your IQ doesn't change much over your lifetime. I'm not sure where these ideas come from, but I've yet to have a discussion where people have actually explained to me why they believe these things, other than with some vague appeals to authority. (I do have enough sense to talk about IQ very rarely, so perhaps I've missed all the good citations.)

Some research suggests you can improve your fluid intelligence. Imagine for a moment if this kind of view took over and we saw measurable cognitive ability as not something innate, but a reflection of your current mental fitness and something you can try to improve. You'd think of your test results as just indicating how well you were doing on the day you took the test and it could be meaningful to ask whether you can improve them and is it worth the effort. Just like you can think about whether more physical exercise would be good for you. (You'd also want to ask just what sorts of things a higher cognitive ability as measured by testing is useful for.)

It just seems too early given our limited knowledge of the human mind to make up one's mind about the immutability of IQ one way or the other.

On another note, a little thing about on-line tests I liked to do was to answer all the questions with A and then wonder aloud whether the suspiciously high score I got that way indicated the on-line test was just trying to sell me something, and also subtly suggesting that people who just a while ago were bragging about their results might have not considered fully how accurate they were. Luckily I no longer hang around in forums where people actually brag about their results in on-line IQ tests, so I don't need to do that anymore.
posted by tykky at 2:11 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know, I know. You think the geniuses who named that class would have realized that TAG is a much better acronym.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:12 PM on November 4, 2012


MensaFilter: not in the so-called genius range
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:18 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've thought about joining Mensa for years and years but I never have. It's got nothing to do with the organization itself or the tests, but it's because I couldn't answer the question "Why do you want to join Mensa?" adequately. To me, an answer like "So I can say I'm a member of Mensa" just doesn't seem like a good reason.

But I'd never begrudge anyone else for wanting to join.
posted by tommasz at 2:19 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who needs mensa when you can just make smart words on the internet and everyonbe gives u a +1 whoever have the most +1 smartest.

Click this plus to google Ronpaul v
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:19 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Achewood has this covered.
posted by codacorolla at 2:23 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Woody Allen's The Whore of Mensa
posted by chavenet at 2:27 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, though, curiosity: Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

Um, I have a recent related example, except mines is the Johnson O'Connor, which measures aptitudes. I took it this March, and I scored high in divergent thinking, spatial stuff, word learning, and English vocabulary.

So far, it's just made me question why I haven't had much success in my working life and be a bit depressed trying to figure out what I SHOULD be doing instead of working at a help desk. I've only told the results to close family and my gf, so I didn't take it to stroke my ego. I guess I had one of two hopes for the test:

1) That I sucked in all aptitudes, so I could just sit around and play video games all day or just choose whatever I wanted to do, being content in my knowledge that I lacked knowledge.

2) It pointed to a single field, calling or occupation that I could pursue relentlessly, knowing full well that this is the Path.

It's apparent now that neither hope is going to occur at this point, and things are not going to get any simpler.

Oh yeah, and I also tested in 5th Grade for the GATE program in California. Didn't get in, always felt I was 2nd Tier in middle school. But later on, realized it doesn't matter.
posted by FJT at 2:28 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I took an IQ test in grade 2 which launched me into a part-time enrichment trajectory early on, and a full-time trajectory around Gr 8. I suppose it was a decent predictor because once I managed to get past social distractions and actually pay attention, I was a FUCKING MACHINE when it came to math and science. I graduated at the very top of my class in both high school and computer engineering. By then real-life had started to pour in through the cracks and at the end of a riskless and somewhat unremarkable PhD I was wallowing in depression and struggling in my relationships.

It took me a long time to learn all the important lessons life has to give about dealing with other people. All the smarts in the world are utterly useless if you can't listen to others and effectively communicate your own emotional state. I'm eternally grateful that with a lot of help I pulled myself together and managed to salvage my career, my marriage and my relationship with my kids. I grasp 100% that these things are infinitely more valuable than membership in any club...
posted by simra at 2:37 PM on November 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Who would want to join Mensa anyways? After the whole Incident and Combine debacles, you'd think they'd be off everyone's To Join lists.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:41 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


A (the?) classic essay on IQ and maladjustment: Grady Towers, The Outsiders.
posted by vers at 2:42 PM on November 4, 2012


Apparently I took an IQ test when I was getting ready for kindergarten, and my parents were informed that it was pretty up there. They never told me what the score was; but my parents had already figured out that I was pretty smart (I'd taught myself how to read when I was two and a half), and my parents had been kind of mediocre students so they were already a little uneasy about "holy shit the kid is gonna outsmart us at one point".

Through sheer dumb luck, though, there were a TON of gifted and talented-level kids in my school, all the way from kindergarten up through high school, and I ended up running with them all. And through even more sheer dumb luck, about half of them also were into the drama club like I was. So I spent my whole time in school knowing on one hand that I was smarter than a good chunk of the kids in my school, but the people immediately around me were all also as smart as I was, so I thought the level of smart I was wasn't....all that special after all. I heard about MENSA for the first time my last year of high school, but figured that that was for the REALLY smart people. Not "smart" the way the G&T program was at my school, MENSA was for really freaky uber-smart people.

Then when I was 30, I was bored at work one day and found myself poking around on the MENSA web site. Saw how much the regular test cost, and snorted and was about to click away....until I saw that there was also an alternate list of tests that they accepted as proof in lieu of their own test. I got curious and went to read it. Along with each test, they listed the score you had to have gotten on that test in order to qualify for MENSA.

And one of those tests....was the SAT. (They don't accept the SAT any more - only if you took it before 1994.) I read what the score was. ...And saw that I qualified.

And the thought that I actually qualified for MENSA felt so absolutely ridiculous that it sent me into a 90-second giggle fit.

But I joined anyway - because I figured that I'd meet people I wouldn't have met otherwise, and I realized that if that was my reaction, I probably had a proper perspective. ....Aside from a couple of trivia contests, a couple of group outings and an argument with a libertarian, I didn't really get much out of it and let my membership lapse after a couple years. A lot more people around me probably qualify, but....don't have any interest in finding out. They're probably just as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:42 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am the parent of a special needs child - actually, he's an adult now. Anyway, he is not only special needs, he is some kind of freaky rare special needs, which is to say, he has been diagnosed in his 21 years of life with a visual perception disorder, dyslexia, ODD, ADHD and a few other combinations of initials that neither you nor I have ever heard of.

When he was in 4th grade, his IQ tested out at 117 and his achievement level was at 85, which meant that he got a whole lot more tests and, more to the point, an IEP and a lot of extra help and special services, which helped him tremendously. When he got to middle school two years later, they retested and told me that, welp, his IQ was 85 and so his achievement level of 75 was exactly what they expected, so no more services. I said, "How the hell could his IQ have dropped 32 points in two years? What do you think I've been feeding him, Kellogg's Lead Flakes?"

I took him off for private testing (and eventually I yanked him from that school and got him into private school but that's another story.) The psychologist I took him to for testing couldn't believe her results and so she tested him again. And again. And again. She tested him, I believe, 9 times in two months before she finally met me in her office, crying.

"It's just not possible," she said, "Some days his IQ is over 130 and sometimes it's under 70! And I really don't think he's even trying to throw the tests!"
"No," I said, "no. He's just like that."
"It's not POSSIBLE." she said again, "And he doesn't present like someone with an IQ of 85! He has a better vocabulary than I do! I don't know what to report!"

I thought, report that the tests are full of shit.

My son has had a rough road thus far but he seems, cross your fingers, to be doing borderline okay now. I had a theoretically genius IQ as a kid, one that my parents bragged about and which has never done me a tiny bit of good once I got past the point in life where always being able to ace standardized tests was useful. I'm doing borderline OK now. Fuck IQ.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:45 PM on November 4, 2012 [30 favorites]


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances

They tested many of us in 1st grade, because in California back then if you tested high enough you'd get to go to an accelerated class for one period each day, and I think the school got extra money for it.

I test well, and so I guess I tested well then too, as I got into the program.

and how did you find out what you scored?
The official policy was to not tell the kids what they scored, which I think was a good idea. But I found out through my brother, who had also tested well. He was being chewed out by his 9th grade English teacher for never turning in the assigned essays, during which she said something like "You should be doing better. You and your brother are the smartest kids in the school, with an IQ of X and Y." I also did not turn in essays.

How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?
I was in the 8th grade, and it put a number on how weird I was, although I had already been made aware of it.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:48 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother, a retired grade school teacher, never had much use for IQ tests, because there are so many aspects of intelligence and ability that the tests don't measure. She could always pick out the kid who would get the highest score in the class, and it was never the kid who got the highest grades — it was the little weirdo whose grades were usually quite uneven and averaged out to average. (In fourth grade at least, I was that weirdo.) She won't tell me what my IQ was, even now that I'm 39, which pisses me off. What harm can it do now? I am curious to know so I've taken some online tests, which told me it was 148, and if true it's high but nothing spectacular.

I would never keep telling a kid that they have a high IQ and should be doing better in school. It doesn't help at all. There are so many factors that can get a way of a kid's performance in academics, and it is the parents and the teachers job to figure out what they are and to help the kid deal with them, not to find fault with the child.
posted by orange swan at 2:50 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, now I get to tell my own testing stories.

My earliest memory of this kind of thing was sitting in a darkened room, maybe I was about five, with a friendly old guy getting me to fill out answer sheets. I don't actually remember that as well as playing in a game room they had, with drawers filled with all kinds of toy. Me and my younger brother played a lot with those, but we left that room an utter, complete mess. Now I feel sorry for that.

Then there was sitting in our elementary school library with three or four other kids. One of them was Heather Torkelson, one of the few complete kid names I can remember from school. I wasn't told how well I did. I guess I did well enough that I started going to "gifted class" about once a week from there through to the end of elementary school. I seem to remember it randomly slipping in a conversation between adults that my IQ was somewhere north of 140. I didn't even know what that meant until some time later.

I didn't get along really well in gifted class. I gather I was fairly obnoxious, although I wasn't trying to be. I remember our teacher, Mrs. Flanders, getting upset with me for repeatedly over weeks calling her "Miss Flounders." Part of it that amused me was that the flounder is flat, but she was kind of overweight. I didn't know if she was self-conscious about it, but in retrospect she might have been, or maybe it was another negative connotation to the word. There wasn't anything malicious in it, at least not intentionally, but eventually she seemed to be annoyed by it. Sorry, Mrs. F.

That's included as an indication of where my mind was at the time. While I was growing up, I was less attentive to the feelings of others. That's something I've had to learn over time, and even now I'm not always sure I'm all that good at it. IQ tests don't check for that kind of thing.

Repeatedly, in the days since then, I've wondered if I'm still as smart, or as "smart," as I was when I took that test. There are times when I've felt like the most foolish person in the world -- once in a while, they happen on Metafilter. It's not always infrequent either. It's certainly not helped me find a job (although it might have contributed to my disgust with some employers). But every time I end up taking a standardized test since I end up doing really well at it: the CAT, the SAT and then the GRE. Makes me feel like a right washout, it does.

There are times, though, when I feel smarter than I've ever been. But that's mostly out of a realization over how stupid I was previously (esp. from my Depressing Christian High School and right-leaning days), and from there I can project what that means, and tell myself: hey, where you are now probably isn't anything special either, so get over yourself.
posted by JHarris at 2:56 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems somewhat irresponsible to me to give a child an IQ test and then tell them their score, but I may be projecting.

Our parents told my brother and I that we both had the same score. I knew even then that this was a noble lie meant to keep the peace (or, more accurately, to keep from exacerbating an already vicious rivalry). It was absolutely the right thing to do. Even now I wonder what the real scores were. Naturally, I suspect mine was slightly higher.

They did tell us the number. I don't think knowing it necessarily did me a disservice. Intelligence has a way of isolating you from your peers in a stark and often ugly way. Growing up like that, you don't need a number to know that you're hopelessly different.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:06 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


hey, where you are now probably isn't anything special either, so get over yourself.

I hate to break this to ya, but odds are you *ARE* 'special' (or even better) when compared to the masses* of humanity.

But vs the group of co-workers and people you hang out with, no you ain't all that and a bag of chips. Because Humans (and even jobs) act as a filter where you are going to end up hanging out with the sharper knives in the drawer.

*to be fair the bulk of the masses are at a disadvantage. There are a whole lotta Humans in slums. As others have pointed out - the bums of America have things/"wealth" beyond what the Kings of Europe lacked in 1200. Things like proper nutrition during the 1st few years. "Proper" social interaction during the development period. An example of an outlier in the 'slums' William Kamkwamba.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:15 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back, oh, 12-13 years ago I worked with a guy who proudly wore a Mensa tie clip. Now, I know it is important to keep an open mind, but given the choice of working with someone wearing a Mensa tie clip and someone who writes his resume in crayon (and who then eats the crayon).. Well, at least for me it would be a hard choice.

I have actually taken a few IQ tests myself, back when I did a masters in work and organizational psychology. The professor in charge of the course had helped design IQ and personality tests for some big shipping companies. What they do is to recruit people in the 3rd world, give them a free education, and then hire them as crew on their ships - this makes testing the candidates quite important. What is interesting is that the tests were of course used to broadly identify who had officer and who had "deck boy" potential, but they were also used to identify those with the highest IQs. If you had a (really) high IQ you were simply not hired. Why? Working on a big ship is mainly routine, and you're supposed to always follow a check-list. The perfect worker was someone maybe a bit dull (IQ), but really conscientious (personality). According to the professor this had been an expensive lesson.

IMHO the Flynn effect, the variance between countries, and the ease of writing software to solve IQ tests (PDF) should make it clear that whatever you score on an IQ test is about as important as how good you're at sudoku.
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 3:15 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "When I was pretty young, maybe 12 or so, I broke an IQ test -- getting a perfect score quicker than the shortest completion in time."

I'm sorry, but, no, you didn't. I have no doubt you are an intelligent and thoughtful contributor to Metafilter, but perfect scores do not, and are not intended to, happen on IQ tests. Test scores are rated against other takers of the test, and generally a score above 140 is considered in the genius range (Mensa accepts members from those taking an IQ test and achieving a score within the top 2% of all test takers during a given period).

The highest IQ on record, verified, is a 210. The man who received the score did so at age 4, on a test usually taken by 7 year olds. He's a civil engineer named Kim Ung-Yong (he was tested because, at 4, he had already mastered calculus and spoke several different languages). if you had achieved a score anywhere near 200 yourself, you would be famous for the rest of your life. Einstein's IQ for example, is posthumously estimated at around 160.

Of course, IQ tests are no barometer of future success, and the "genius" label is just a handy shorthand for "Someone who has had a traditional education and scores well on pattern-matching tests." It's pretty much bullshit (although there is a correlation between high IQ and job performance, but the correlation exists at scores around the average college level IQ score, and college graduates tend to have greater success in the job market as a matter of course).

So, having said all that, I was a member of Mensa. It is, as everyone here pretty much said, an exercise in ego-boosting. When I was a kid, we were all tested in our elementary schools for a program called the "Learning Center". This was an "enriched and gifted curriculum" at an old building downtown, where we "skipped school" one day a week. At the Learning Center, we took the courses we chose to take, which were usually Science, Photography, Art, Dance and the like. We were also allowed to have snacks and sodas from vending machines *during our courses* because we were considered responsible enough not to abuse the privilege, which was the biggest selling point to the kids chosen for the program.

So, in my elementary school, kids were tested in the 4th grade for the program. When I was in the third grade, for the first year, they tested some of us third graders too (not sure why they decided to do this), and I was deemed "gifted". I was the only third grader that made the cut, and so it was kind of a Big Deal and they made a fuss over me, had the bigger kids watch out for me, that kind of thing.

Years later, after I met my husband, it turned out that he was the first in his elementary school to be chosen for the Learning Center in the third grade there, too, and he had a similar experience.

Other than making a nice, "Look how much we have in common!" story, that didn't account for much in our lives. I was told, somewhere along the line, that my IQ was 152, but had no idea what that meant (of course, there are all different IQ tests, and some, like the Wechsler, are considered less credible than others).

I grew up, I went to college, I got married, I had kids. I was a stay-at-home Mom, and like many SAHMs, I felt isolated from other people with similar interests. As my kids got older and spent more of the day at school, I noticed the lack even more. I'm not religious, and didn't feel comfortable joining a church for opportunities. I took a few classes at the local community college to keep up my computer skills and met a few people there, and I volunteered at my kids' school frequently. Still, I was looking for more, and with no internet to turn to, I looked through the local newspapers for volunteer opportunities and clubs, etc.

So, Mensa was testing people locally, and I signed up and took the test, thinking it might be a good way to meet other people. I really enjoyed the Learning Center and made lots of friends there, why not Mensa, which should have been the Learning Center for adults?

I took the test, I was told I got an 148-149, qualified for Mensa, paid the dues, got the listings of the local Chapters and their meet-ups, and pored over them eagerly.

My local chapter met once monthly, at a Chinese restaurant, and then went to a firing range afterward to shoot off guns. I could not believe that crap. Seriously?! I don't particularly care for Chinese food, and I absolutely don't care for guns (my father's brother was shot to death at a neighbor's house when the brother was 17).

So I remained a member for the year, because my dues were paid through that time, and never re-upped again.

It's a nice thing to put on a resume', I guess. But that's about it.
posted by misha at 3:23 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The elementary school I attended (Brooklyn, 1949-1953) had six or so classes in my grade; the kids in them had been sorted by smartness in the first grade. I entered in the second grade and was put into the second-smartest class.

In the fourth grade, I was given a one-on-one-with-a-psychologist IQ test to see if I should be moved to the smartest class. It seems I IQ'd ok, but didn't get moved because I had some friends.

Even the second-smartest class got extras: French and typing. The French has largely disappeared, but I still do lots of typing.
posted by hexatron at 3:24 PM on November 4, 2012


My parents encouraged me to try out for Mensa when I was around 15; I did a test by post and then went up to London (I think the British Museum) where I did a supervised test.

I'm good at IQ tests. it turns out.

So, I joined. While I was still living with my parents in a country town, there were very occasional events - the chap who ran the local group was a young naval officer who lived on Dartmoor, and I often drove my moped up there for an evening's chatter and cake. He had an Apple ][ - the first computer I got my hands on - and that rather hooked me.

It was all very genteel. And quite fun.

Then I went to London at 18, and found that the London Mensans of the early-mid 80s had a meeting every night, more or less. And London had a public transport system. And I was old enough to drink and kiss girls. And quite a lot of London Mensa actively encouraged such activities. (The joke about the annual UK conference was that it was where the egg-heads went to get laid.)

It was really quite a wild social scene, and full of eccentrics who'd talk about anything, with a strong libertine flavour. For a country lad with an experimental bent and no particular sense of limitations, it was literally a life-changing experience; I dropped out of the normal course my life was due to take and went off in several different directions, to the dismay of my elders and betters, but just about everything the 20 year old Devonian had in his life came via Mensa. It lost me my cherry, got me a job where I fitted right in, got me a wife ditto, and arranged for various delightful escapades (some of which are still on YouTube, but I shall say no more.)

Some time recently, I thought it would be fun to dip back in. I tried to make contact with a couple of local Mensans, and was roundly rebuffed. Hey ho.
posted by Devonian at 3:29 PM on November 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Seriously, though, curiosity: Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?
Apparently I was tested as a matter of routine in grade school. My brother, after we were both adults, told me that I had a notably high IQ score, higher than either of my brothers, and that my parents had deliberately concealed it from me. They were concerned I'd be insufferable about it. Why my brother knows about this, I'm not entirely sure.

I do know that my SATs (taken before 1994) qualify me for Mensa, but I never bothered to join. I've been told that Mensa varies a lot from chapter to chapter, and the quality of the membership experience depends a lot on that. I also qualify to join the Daughter of the American Revolution or the Colonial Dames, and never felt the need to seek those organizations out either.
posted by Karmakaze at 3:30 PM on November 4, 2012


I did some kind of IQ test in late primary school and the results were apparently stunning enough for it to become an albatross hanging around my neck for the rest of my school life, a spectral monument that I (lazy, dilettantish, daydreamy) could never live up to, and a constant source of irritation for my teachers and parents alike.
posted by thylacinthine at 3:35 PM on November 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


I took the Mensa test in my mid twenties to see how much damage all the booze and other stuff I did in university had done, though I never actually signed up, and they only told me my percentile rather than my score. Whatever my result, it is not enough to stop my partner from calling me a dumbass for taking some shortcut with something around the house that I can't be bothered doing and that ends up costing me rather more time in the long run. "You're smart, but you really don't know shit," she frequently reminds me, and I suspect there may be some truth to that.
posted by Sparx at 3:48 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate to break this to ya, but odds are you *ARE* 'special' (or even better) when compared to the masses* of humanity.

Yeah, funny thing about that. Everyone thinks they're someone special. There aren't actually a lot of people who will willingly declare out loud, unironically, that they're dummies. I've seen people who absolutely should not talking making that claim deride the great majority of people who were not them. Its always everyone else who is the sheeple. No one wants to admit they're a sheeperson, but to some degree, we all are. It's inescapable. INESCHEEPABLE.

But anyway, discarding the problematic notion of IQ, I believe that intelligence is less a case of biology and more a case of metaknowledge, or thinking about thinking. I think you can, with work, do some objective things to make yourself smarter, like building critical thinking skills. I think the biggest thing there, the thing that holds most people back, is building their worldview off of false knowledge. A lot of otherwise smart folk are sabotaged right from the start, whether it's from insufficent education or from willful miseducation. If you're a young earth Creationist, you are going to get a lot of other things wrong too. If you come to realize that, however, you might have a chance, and a better one than people who got a good start out of life but have grown complacent.
posted by JHarris at 3:51 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not an IQ test, but my school had some kind of aptitude test that they gave every year starting some point in grade school through high school. This was Wisconsin in the 80's and 90's. I always scored in the top 99%. This was terrible. It meant that I felt too "smart" to bother with school work and my family and teachers were always criticizing for under performing and how I should be doing so much better.

Meanwhile, no one bothered to teach things that would matter, like good study habits. I was really into self study, and spent all my time at the public library reading EVERYTHING rather than bothering with school stuff. Meanwhile, I had a father who, not very intelligent, felt threatened by a "smart" daughter and made a hobby of putting me down.

When I finally got to college, it was an unmitigated disaster because I had no discipline and had not developed good study habits and dropped out before too long. Fortunately, I found my way into a career that required a lot of self teaching, so it worked out in the end, but man, the tests were just a curse and it took me a long time to realize that being "smart" isn't the only thing that matter (I am sure I have a horrible EQ, and don't do well conforming to standard work environments).

I'm sure in the right hands, tests like those would be beneficial, but just giving them to the parents, students and teachers without some explanation of how to use them is just a bad idea. I can see from others responses that I wasn't the only one that got the "but you're so smart, you SHOULD be doing better" without really understanding how to use that information.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:10 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tested repeatedly from the age of 7 to 14. Put into the Gifted & Talented core program in Fairfax County, VA, for which you needed to have a scored IQ of 135 or higher, if I recall correctly.

After a few years early on when my reading comprehension was poor, every test for me settled around 148, same as my grandfather.

I am an idiot who is quite broken in numerous ways. I have never gotten less than an A on any test I've studied more than an hour for. It is a worthless measurement.
posted by Mizu at 4:15 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


After watching her stumble through the Digit Span ('repeating number sequences backwards') section, (she was convinced, convinced I tell you, that I was somehow cheating,) I got it into my head to just try my hardest to rattle her.

Ha, I totally destroyed Digit Span too! But I was trying really hard. To this day, when I read a story about a psychic using their powers so hard they get a nosebleed, I remember Digit Span. I certainly don't recall concentrating that intensely at any other point in my academic career.
posted by No-sword at 4:19 PM on November 4, 2012



I took some sort of IQ test and some sort of pre-SAT test in grade 11. I'm not really sure why my school did it. All I remember is that our scores were sent off somewhere including to the US. (I'm in Canada).

We got our scores back but I don't remember them. Apparently I was above where you had to be for Mensa because I received some information about it when we got our scores back. I do recall some kids going around bragging about their scores. I didn't care and had no interest in joining any group then and still don't.

I will admit that I did get a boost when I started receiving letters in the mail from top tier schools in the US asking me to consider applying to them because my scores were so good. I still have the letter from Harvard in a box somewhere. Thing was my grades didn't necessarily warrant getting into those schools. I was a kid that always got 'You're smart. I know you know this stuff, why is this assignment late/not done or so obviously rushed' from teachers or the 'if you just applied yourself you could get scholarships you know'
The one from Stanford had some sort of reply back, envelope and cocky me sent it back with the question, "So since you sent me this saying you wanted me does this mean it's paid for?" The answer was no of course. Screw that then, no way I could afford it or wanted to afford it even if I could have gotten in.

Usually it was because I was doing other things that interested me. I liked to learn, still do but could care less about proving on paper that I know something once I learned it. I was the same way at University when I went back at 30 years old. lol I also figured out as I grew older that just getting a high score on some test doesn't mean much in terms of success. Also what is or isn't successful is subjective. They might indicate some sort of potential for something but that's about it.
posted by Jalliah at 4:23 PM on November 4, 2012


>"When I was pretty young, maybe 12 or so, I broke an IQ test -- getting a perfect score quicker than the shortest completion in time."

I'm sorry, but, no, you didn't. I have no doubt you are an intelligent and thoughtful contributor to Metafilter, but perfect scores do not, and are not intended to, happen on IQ tests.

Only reporting what I overheard the tester tell my parents. I dunno; maybe he was simplifying things or, hell, making shit up, but he made a big deal about how I had gotten them all right and much more quickly than they were prepared for. It was a long time ago, but the evaluation still pretty clear in my mind -- I remember being surprised that there was a time component beyond "you have x minutes to finish."
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:30 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The absolute worst thing you can do to a bright kid is to give them an IQ test, because it gives people who know the result a convenient and difficult-to-refute way to tell them how much of a disappointment they are. Sadly, I know this from harsh experience.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:49 PM on November 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


I was IQ tested by a moron who wrote in the report that I lied to her to conceal my poor knowledge of months. She asked me what month Thanksgiving was. I was like, um, October? We don't celebrate that shit in my FIRST GEN RUSSIAN IMMIGRANT FAMILY. She wrote a special little note about how eeeeeeveryone knows this holiday and I am a lying liar with fire pants. Not sure why this still bothers me so much.
posted by prefpara at 4:49 PM on November 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


It fucking enrages me and I don't even KNOW YOU.
posted by elizardbits at 4:55 PM on November 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


That's it, elizardbits, you're officially my mefi ally.
posted by prefpara at 4:56 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


thanksgiving inspires me to great and terrible acts of fury and vengeance though so i am slightly biased
posted by elizardbits at 4:57 PM on November 4, 2012


fraula: I started sobbing. I'd answer the same thing again in a heartbeat, some 25 years later: "I just want people to stop telling me I'm smart and let me be with my friends."

When I was in kindergarten, school administrators wanted to put me in 1st grade. They gave me a choice, and I declined because "my friends are in kindergarten."

On the one hand, I kind of wish my parents had just put me in 1st. It might have given me an extra leg up in life.

But on the other hand, being labeled a "gifted" kid was kind of a curse. I fell back on that plenty of times, rather than make more if an effort to do and achieve things. After all, I'd already proven myself. And more than that, I think a part of me has felt like I'm failing to live up to the potential of a "gifted" person; it's like there's a pressure to do great things that holds me back from just doing what I feel like.

I'm pushing 40 and this still haunts me.
posted by univac at 4:59 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's it, elizardbits, you're officially my mefi ally.

Are you sure that elizardbits is not enraged that you didn't know what month Thanksgiving is in? That is an ambiguously worded statement, after all. It's best not to mix up your MeFi allies and nemeses....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:59 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


hissssssss
posted by elizardbits at 4:59 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


no because remember when i asked a guy out and she was like HEY BALLER
posted by prefpara at 5:03 PM on November 4, 2012


But Thanksgiving is in October for some people.
posted by TedW at 5:04 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Canada is just a fairy tale that American socialists tell their kids at bedtime.
posted by elizardbits at 5:06 PM on November 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


these people aren't so smart; in fact, the real smart one is i, because i am nonchalantly and contemptuously dismissing them
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:07 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


hissssssss

Is that a hiss of nemesis or a hiss of wronged alliance? This is really hard to tell....

no because remember when i asked a guy out and she was like HEY BALLER

That does sound more like an ally. Despite all the hissing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:09 PM on November 4, 2012


On the one hand, I kind of wish my parents had just put me in 1st. It might have given me an extra leg up in life.


Due to a combination of a December birthday and moving between states with different cutoff dates for school, I did skip kindergarten. I still feel cheated, 40+ years later, especially after seeing what my daughter did in kindergarten. I think I missed out on building a foundation of good work habits in terms of school work that has persisted to this day in my work habits. (In the overall scheme of things it is really only a minor quibble with my parents, who were/are great.)

I was a mediocre student in early elementary school, but after I took the state-mandated IQ test at some point I did well enough that they suggested I skip the third grade (despite already being the youngest person in my class). My parents wisely declined. The results also qualified me for inclusion in the inaugural class of the district's gifted program (then called EIP, the expansion of interest program). That was pretty cool; we got taken out of class a few hours each week for things like extra field trips, visiting experts talking about things like computers (very unusual in a 1970s elementary school), and so on. Needless to say that engendered some resentment among the other students. But the real take-home message for me was that all students would benefit from that sort of individual attention and more entertaining instruction. That is partly why some 40 years later we decided to pony up and send our daughter to a private school where that sort of education is the norm for all of the students.

Even though Gould's Mismeasure of Man has had some valid criticisms leveled at it, I still agree with his overall point that IQ tests are of limited usefulness at best.
posted by TedW at 5:22 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is this the posturing thread? Am I too late to posture?
posted by shakespeherian at 5:26 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing this documentary about standardized testing in Japan, where parents put their kids in private lessons and make them do insane hours of studying so that they get better scores on the tests. And because so many kids are doing this, they have to make the tests harder and harder so that the kids maintain a varying range of scores.

Then they interviewed a Japanese scientist who had won a Nobel prize. He said the tests are insane--that some of the questions are so tricky that even he couldn't answer a lot of them. He questioned whether the system is appropriate for creating more Nobel prize winners in the future.

I put these tests in the same category as IQ tests--if they aren't measuring what leads to success in life or even in academics, then I question their usefulness or relevance.

In Japan, in a way, they are predicting success in life (if not academcs), because the tests are used to determine which schools the kids get in, which determines what company will hire them. They aren't so much predicting success as defining success.
posted by eye of newt at 5:29 PM on November 4, 2012


Is this the posturing thread? Am I too late to posture?
Apparently not.
posted by genghis at 5:30 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's never too late, shakespherian
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:32 PM on November 4, 2012


Quite early on in our relationship, Ms. flabdablet and I went to Scientology HQ in Melbourne and filled in one of their IQ tests just to see what would happen (never let it be said that I don't know how to show a girl a good time in the big city).

It was a pretty bog-standard test - find the odd, fill in the missing, match all the things, you know the drill.

Ms. flabdablet scored a few points higher than me. The woman running the test told her that her score was "quite good" or something equally anodyne; she told me mine was "stellar".

I'm still not sure what to make of that.
posted by flabdablet at 5:34 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I occasionally have to order neuropsychologic testing for people who have obviously declined cognitively, possibly as a result of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, or occasionally because of something like HIV or MS or alcohol. Neuropsych testing is more multifactorial than standard IQ testing, and then it's normed against different populations and with different educational and SES backgrounds for specific purposes (some legal, some medical). What's disturbing is how some people have previous scores in some domains that places them 2-3 standard deviations above the norm in multiple domains. You get a kind of functional domain topography of their cognition. And then you retest and the landscape has flattened so that many of their domains are decreased and they're scoring median, or even 1-2 SDs below in some... but not all. Some people retain isolated islands of above-median functionality in specific domains, and it's these islands of preserved function, of over-learned "knowledge" such as verbal list processing or subject matter expertise that throws people off and delays the diagnosis of cognitive impairment.

So yeah, a single "IQ" measure is, as pointed out above, a collapsed mismeasure.
posted by meehawl at 5:45 PM on November 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm still not sure what to make of that.

Perhaps she wanted to get jiggy wit you.
posted by elizardbits at 5:46 PM on November 4, 2012


I think I took IQ tests a few times in school, but I don’t really remember. (I don’t know how you people remember things from childhood). Apparently I did well though. I do know that I was good at taking tests. By High School I was missing a lot of classes and slept through the ones I went to nearly every single day because I was, let’s say busy with extracurricular activities. I would be woken up to take a test that I knew absolutely nothing about and never heard any of the lessons for. I managed a solid B average based those tests since I rarely did any of the class work.

Consequently I learned very little in school. I regretted it later, but I’ve tried to make up for it. Relying on testing is not a great idea.
posted by bongo_x at 5:48 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it effect how you think about yourself?

They tested the entire school (K-8) when I was in second grade. I scored highest in the school. They didn't tell me that, or my score. They told my parents and apparently all my teachers, because I never got to be a normal student after that. If I did well, I was "showing off." If I did poorly, I was "playing dumb." It sucked.

I found all this out much later. I also found out my mother refused to allow me to go to an "enriched" school I qualified for because she was afraid if I was too obviously intelligent and accomplished, no one would marry me. Thanks Mom! I also found out that the son of my parents' friends, who was allowed to go to that school, didn't score as high as I did, despite his lording it over me for years. FU, Kevin.

When I was in my early 30s I took the Mensa test (158) and joined. I went to exactly one meeting, where I discovered that Mensa is basically a meat market for those with nothing else going for them but high IQ scores. I still have the seekrit Mensa pin (little yellow map pin, or LYMP), around here somewhere.

I have always been ambivalent about the whole high IQ thing. I was born with brown eyes too, but no one seems to judge me for that. If we could bargain for genetic gifts, I would gladly trade 20 IQ points for perfect teeth.
posted by caryatid at 5:52 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, I kind of wish my parents had just put me in 1st. It might have given me an extra leg up in life.

I skipped first grade and it overall didn't really impact me too much. I was tall for my age, so I never was noticeably physically different. (Although I loved sports in middle school but was cut from baseball and basketball in 9th grade, which I justify to myself by pretending it was because of a difference in development since I was one year younger than everyone else trying out). The only other time it really impacted me is when my friends became of drinking age in college and I still had a year to go, so it was always a problem trying to sneak into bars at age 20. I was definitely tested a lot before they skipped me, but I don't remember much about it. I was in first grade for a couple weeks and then I was moved to second grade. I was sat next to a kid who I became good friends with and we have remained close friends now for 25 years, so that was an unexpected benefit. My parents later told me they only allowed me to skip a grade because they felt I was mature enough to handle it and that I gave them my consent (although I don't remember ever being asked about it).
posted by Falconetti at 5:57 PM on November 4, 2012


I had a genius IQ, but judicious use of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll has reduced it to a tolerable level.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:29 PM on November 4, 2012 [16 favorites]


I have always been ambivalent about the whole high IQ thing. I was born with brown eyes too, but no one seems to judge me for that. If we could bargain for genetic gifts, I would gladly trade 20 IQ points for perfect teeth.

It wasn’t until I hit my 20’s until I figured out that IQ, or intelligence even, wasn’t superior to any other trait someone might have, looks, sense of humor, good teeth, whatever.
posted by bongo_x at 6:34 PM on November 4, 2012


the worst thing that ever happened to me was an IQ test. some frickin asshole told my parents i was brilliant, and should be excelling in school. for years i took shit from them about being lazy, about not being the best student in the school, about every little disappointment they ever felt about my behavior, it was a damned nightmare. i deliberately fucked every one of those achievement tests they gave us from then on.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:45 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


IQ tests predict academic aptitude. So if you have gone to school an IQ test just inaccurately predicts the past. Look at your grades instead. That is exactly how well you did in school. 100% accurate.
posted by srboisvert at 7:03 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


the worst thing that ever happened to me was an IQ test. some frickin asshole told my parents i was brilliant, and should be excelling in school. for years i took shit from them about being lazy, about not being the best student in the school, about every little disappointment they ever felt about my behavior, it was a damned nightmare.

Yeah, me too. I started reading when I was 4. I was in the GATE program in elementary school.

I sailed through High School doing half-assed work, shooting for a B average. Only a very few teachers along the way really challenged me, and I still carry the lessons learned from them.

The only area I didn't excel in was math. For some reason, numbers are difficult for me.

I got yelled at a lot by my puritan work-ethic parents for being "lazy".

I ended up in graphic design because of some aptitude testing my parents sent me to when I was a junior in High School. It's ok, I guess. I'm decent enough at it, but I still don't feel like I'm doing what I was Meant To Be Doing In Life.

My son is almost 11 months old now, and we can already tell he's a smart little guy. I am going to try very hard to get him an education that will challenge and help him find an outlet for his aptitudes, whatever they might be. I don't want him to have to wallow through the mediocrity of public school like I did.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:04 PM on November 4, 2012


I wasn't really going to jump in here, but after reading this:

On the one hand, I kind of wish my parents had just put me in 1st. It might have given me an extra leg up in life.

I just want to say that I skipped all but a month of 1st grade, and besides not getting much of a leg up, I regretted being the smallest kid in my class for the next 7 years or so. It definitely was more of a drawback socially than it was a benefit academically. (There was an IQ test involved, and I found out the results at some point between then and junior high school.)

And I want to echo someone up thread who mentioned teaching study habits - that would have been very worthwhile, because while I was 99th percentile on my SATs, I procrastinated applying to colleges until way past the deadlines. When I went to a 3rd tier commuter school near my house, I did extremely poorly the first year because I thought my smarts could get me through the semester while I played pool instead of going to class, like school had been up until that point.

tl;dr: don't tell your kids their IQ scores at an early age, don't skip grades, and emphasize self-discipline and study habits more than the quadratic formula, or the structure of a cell.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:53 PM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


On the plus side, I'm still pretty good at pool. Poker, too. Never did really master Gauntlet, though.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:55 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Due to a combination of a December birthday and moving between states with different cutoff dates for school, I did skip kindergarten. I still feel cheated, 40+ years later, especially after seeing what my daughter did in kindergarten. I think I missed out on building a foundation of good work habits in terms of school work that has persisted to this day in my work habits. (In the overall scheme of things it is really only a minor quibble with my parents, who were/are great.)

September, and 30 years, but otherwise this is my life exactly.

I was tested in 3rd or 4th grade, and was never told the score. I can tell you it was high enough to qualify for GATE in the Midwest, but too low to be considered gifted in the New England state where we moved next. Write your own American-regionalism joke here.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:57 PM on November 4, 2012


This reminds me of the IQ test cum occupational inventory my high school forced all of us to take our senior year. Based on my score, it was recommended that I become a university professor, an engineer, or a bus driver. Which was apparently derived by careful statistical analysis of my responses to multiple choice pattern recognition questions. So, yeah. I wouldn't be surprised if these models predict that Albert Eistein should have been either a scientist or a pastry chef.

Anyway, I suppose there's enough vitriol out there for the Mensa people, and response to Mensa is usually along the lines of "I dismiss Mensa although I am an intelligent fellow who would be running the place were I not so humble." Are there any pros to Mensa membership? I enjoyed some Mensa flashcard game that I got for Christmas from a well-meaning aunt. If being a member means playing dopey card games, sign me up!

Oh wait, you mean I have to pay? Nevermind.
posted by deathpanels at 8:58 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmmm. I picked hen because it was the only choice with 2 feet/legs, while the others have 4.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:02 PM on November 4, 2012


Not so much IQ, but I remember having to take one of those which career do you have the aptitude for tests in middle school. Somehow, it picked out two personality-type traits that you supposedly had, and then there was a listings of possible careers. I must have ended up with an odd combination, because in the whole long list, the only possible career for me was oil rig worker. I've always wondered what kind of jerks drew up that list, knowing that a certain number of kids were going to be told that the only career for them was dirty, dangerous manual labour.
posted by ssg at 9:08 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe this was mentioned, but children do not need to take an IQ test to be in Mensa. If I was so inclined I could probably make quite a long of other misconceptions about Mensa (and it's members) being thrown around in this thread.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:10 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brocktoon, I think the mention of children taking IQ tests is more of a general "have you ever taken an IQ test for any reason" question, separate from MENSA.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 PM on November 4, 2012


MENSA. Mensa. The organization that picked a name that means "stupid female" in one of the most popular languages in the world.

I got tested since I learned to read two years ahead of schedule. I got tested every time I hit a teacher, every time I had a breakdown and seriously hurt myself or other kids. I skipped a year in elementary school, then got a scholarship based on SAT scores.

The end result? I feel broken. All the times I was told I was not living up to my potential, until I internalized it. Fuck potential. That feeling deep inside that comes out once in a while, telling me that I am better than you, that I deserve more. Makes it hard to be open and sincere and to connect with people. That fear of attempting anything that I may not be automatically good at. I hiked 2 days into the desert to be brave enough to sing and dance, and have never done it again.

I wish I had been told that working hard and being kind are a thousand times better than being 'intelligent'. If intelligence were that good, I would have figured it out before I was thirty.

On the other hand, I have a pretty good job, an awesome wife, and two or three friends who can stand me.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 10:15 PM on November 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Richard Feynman had an IQ of 120. If that isn't a reductio of everything MENSA stands for, I don't know what is.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:09 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I put these tests in the same category as IQ tests--if they aren't measuring what leads to success in life or even in academics, then I question their usefulness or relevance.

The Stanford Marshmallow Test is supposedly a better predictor of success in later life than IQ. Personally I like the idea of a Mensa-like organisation for adults who aced the test as kids.
posted by rongorongo at 12:36 AM on November 5, 2012


I was in Mensa as a child; my parents had me tested as part of a long effort to try to get my primary school to provide a more stimulating curriculum (it worked for the most part). As a member, I received a monthly magazine, which was always full of sob stories about people too ill-adjusted to live up to their 'potential'. The only other content I still remember was: 1. A long controversy about whether it was incredibly dumb that the society is named 'Mensa', a word which has nothing to do with the latin word for mind ('mens') but translates as 'table'. (Many letters were exchanged on this topic, I believe) 2. A member had a poem published in the magazine. Said poem outlined his rage at the low-IQ world he was forced to inhabit, and suggested that many of his problems could be solved with Zyklon-B. Faced with the ensuing shitstorm, the editors of the magazine said they had not known what Zyklon-B was and hence the implications of the poem had passed them by. It occurs to me now that it must be especially exhausting editing a high-IQ magazine, as any massively stupid things you do will look that much worse for it.

When I got to an age when I could make my own decisions - I'm being purposefully vague here, but I was somewhere between 11 and 13, I think - I asked to leave.
posted by Acheman at 12:53 AM on November 5, 2012


Bah. Test scores lie. Even so, who is this creature called 'teacher' that is so ignorant as to say my "playing with things on desk" is somehow a negative?

IQ is so unimportant. I'm smart. I'm even better a test taker. Woopty doo. I also have ADD, and damn I listen VASTLY better while...playing with things on my desk. Of course it took decades of feeling bad about myself before coming to understand how that worked.

The fun part: I discovered an amazing ability to pay attention and absorb, while driving, because I had a newspaper motor-route for awhile. And then I paid attention to stories about ADD. Amazing, really. I had realized that somehow my "playing" with things on desk (or doodling) was part of listening. Just those teachers were so successful at conformism, they couldn't comprehend my difference.
posted by Goofyy at 3:59 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gosh I just don't have a clever quip for this thread, does that mean I loose at MiFi?
posted by sammyo at 4:26 AM on November 5, 2012


Those of you who took an IQ test, what were the circumstances and how did you find out what you scored? How young were you, and did it affect how you think about yourself?

I took several when I was a kid and my mother told me rather later what my score had been. By that time I was old enough to know a) I probably had a fairly high IQ and b) through occasionally regrettable experience, IQ didn't correlate highly to one's success as a human being.

I have no idea what my IQ would be rated now; I'm comfortable that I am intelligent enough and aside from that get annoyed at "rate your intelligence" tests.

I suspect my daughter may be more intelligent than I am, but we have never had her IQ tested. There are lots of way she'll be quantified. I don't want her confidence in her intelligence to be undermined by what I think is a non-representative indicator of it.
posted by jscalzi at 4:31 AM on November 5, 2012


Gosh I just don't have a clever quip for this thread, does that mean I loose at MiFi?

No, but it does mean that your MFQQ (MetaFilter Quip Quotient) is rated at 47. The result of this rating is that you may continue to post on MetaFilter. If you can raise your score, the reward will be continuing to post on MetaFilter. If your score does not increase or even declines, you may continue to post on MetaFilter. That is the predictive power of the MFQQ.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:17 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gosh I just don't have a clever quip for this thread, does that mean I loose at MiFi?

In fact, that comment itself was just quippy enough that you qualify for our proctored snark test. Bring $59.95 & a #2 pencil to the next meetup and see if you qualify for MeSna.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:06 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


All the smarts in the world are utterly useless if you can't listen to others and effectively communicate your own emotional state.

I just wanted to see that again, because, YES! So true.
posted by jeanmari at 7:14 AM on November 5, 2012


Mrs.Eld needed to practice giving an IQ test to finish getting certified on it and asked if she could administer it to me so that she could do a final run through.

I, not knowing what I was getting into, said something along the lines of "Sure, no problem, glad to help." This was a mistake. I mean I've taken tests before, I'm really decent at any form of standardized testing, and was labeled as gifted all through school, how bad can this be?

Anyway, it turns out that, on this test at least, the better you do on a given part of a test, the longer that part is going to take. So an hour into the test, that I thought would take 30 minutes TOPS, I decide that my sanity dictates that I crack open a beer and start drinking.

Long story short, we finish the test a few hours later, I'm 4 to 8 beers into a 12 pack and have been uncooperative (because I was playing the role of the gifted and obstinate child, as I was directed to in the beginning, oh how she regretted telling me to roleplay to make things "more realistic", plus... alcohol...) and Mrs.Eld says "This can't be right. Your IQ is almost off the chart." She double checks numbers and says "You could join MENSA you know...." My reply is "WTF is MENSA?" She give me a deadpan, evil stare and walks away from the table.

Damn you beer. Damn you.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:32 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gosh I just don't have a clever quip for this thread, does that mean I loose at MiFi?

I love you.
posted by disconnect at 8:06 AM on November 5, 2012


lose

/pedant


wait, that's intelligent pedant (erm, that's a typo innit?)
posted by infini at 8:13 AM on November 5, 2012


How did you all miss the misspelling of MeFi?
posted by grubi at 10:59 AM on November 5, 2012


Testmanship is part of the test. For each question, A. which are the arguably correct answers? (Stretch a point 'till it screams, at this stage) and B. of those answers, which is the one these idiots probably want?

My IQ jumped twenty points once I figured this out.
posted by steambadger at 11:17 AM on November 5, 2012


Kutsuwamushi: It seems somewhat irresponsible to me to give a child an IQ test and then tell them their score, but I may be projecting.

You might find this article interesting: How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The inverse power of praise. Basically, many kids who are often told "how smart they are" lose confidence because they're afraid of "disproving" that praise by being bad at something, so they avoid things they're not already good at.

Telling some kid their IQ (if it's high), is the ultimate look-how-smart-you-are comment.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:52 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


My sister and I took IQ tests when we were very young. I don't remember taking them and my parents would not tell us what we scored, but throughout my childhood, I always knew my sister scored higher than me. Intelligence is my dad's highest value and he was so proud of my sister, gloating to my aunt / his sister. My sister skipped a grade and went to college at 16. I did okay for myself, but I will never earn my father's favor like my sister did with that stupid IQ test.

It wasn't until this thread that I realized I have a problem with that! Now that I'm thinking about it as an adult, I realize this is my dad's issue and insecurity with his own sister played out through his children. What a load off!
posted by valeries at 2:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


People have a lot of angst about Mensa. It's ok, it get's better.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:08 PM on November 5, 2012


I mean, the MENSA and NAMBLA membership applications are surprisingly similar. I ask: who wouldn't get them mixed up?
posted by item at 4:14 PM on November 5, 2012


I joined Mensa just so I could get a bumper sticker, but I never put it on because I didn't want to be one of those people with a Mensa bumper sticker.
posted by ambulocetus at 7:27 PM on November 5, 2012


I was bored in school, aced every test but did no homework, spent most of my time doodling because I already knew what the teachers were teaching. I have always blamed the Chicago Public School system for this. Recently, my mother revealed that most teachers complained to her repeatedly that I was not living up to my tremendous potential, but she reserves fond memories for the one teacher who simply told her not to worry, that I'd turn out fine (thanks for that, Mr. Dunlop!) and of course I did.

Now I have two kids going to a charter school on the west coast, and they're bored; one of them is acting out quite a bit over it. Funny how quickly kids can go from loving school to hating it, through no fault of their own. Luckily GATE testing may open some doors to more challenging schools (ie less boredom); I don't really care about the Gifted and Talented thing, I just want them to be less bored than I was...and they're bored in second grade, I didn't get bored until 5th. In the meantime, for the kid acting out, his teacher has strategized with me, and one of the things we are trying seems to be helping: he gets to have a clipboard and doodle on it all he wants, and he can still offer back everything she throws at him with ease.

So I am glad for this thread, to remind me that I'm making a good choice in focusing on reducing boredom for my kids, rather than worrying/caring about how intelligent they may or may not be. I'll just focus on Mr. Dunlop's good advice.
posted by davejay at 10:46 PM on November 5, 2012


I was tested a few times when I was in first grade or earlier, but I don't remember my scores.
At some point I was apparently told that my intelligence meant I should be great at just about any subject I applied myself to...except I hated math, didn't want to do advanced math, and now I'm too used to sucking at it to do that great at it. I understand the concepts better than most, but everytime I used metaphors and similes to relate the concepts to my favorite subjects in ways I could understand (English and reading) I was corrected and beaten over the head with the "proper" way.

When I was in third grade I got put into a special program wherein I took a different bus on Thursdays to a different school. We had little doses of language class, a music or art period, a time to work on reports of our choosing (they didn't like it that I chose hummingbirds and had color pictures I traced and markered in), and a math portion (which I sucked at by then, whether or not I actually was bad at it, because I pointedly didn't care). We listened to Greensleeves and danced around in a circle, threw ourselves at logic puzzles (I loved these and often begged to be given more), and played with clay.
I eventually got out of that class by choice because it was on the day where the rest of the class got to teach the second graders how to read and that sounded way more interesting. The "gifted" day felt like a little kid's class...always being encouraged to make better clay pots when those were the adults' preferences and not mine, to just try "a leetle bit harder" at the math sections.
Also, the so called normal kids who went to that school behaved horribly on the bus and I certainly wasn't teased, or had my hair tugged, or had to put up with screaming on my own bus.

When I was in 5th grade I was pretty damn proud of myself for being the only one to pass one of those "Read all of the instructions first and do the activities" papers that involved ignoring #s 1-15, doing #16 (drawing a smiley on the paper), and then sitting quietly while the popular class snots kept looking over and making fun that my paper wasn't covered in doodles.

6th - most of highschool I was homeschooled...which means, while this doesn't apply to all homeschooling children, that my personal studying skills are shit but that my thinking-outside-the-box skills are mostly shapeless (I beyond-thought, rather than over-thought, my reading comprehension questions in college, thereby providing them with different answers to questions they had set results for - so sorry I didn't give you the EXACT FUCKING ANSWERS YOU WANTED REGARDING THOSE POEMS, MRS. DAVIS).
It also "taught" me out of my Christianity. I finally got all the logic puzzles I ever wanted which didn't, for me, coincide with the daily morning bible study (and the normal church sermons every Sunday, Sunday school, Wednesday Nights, and occasional Friday programs).

Now I'm interested in learning math on my own, but it's slow...
And maybe taking an intelligence test or two again someday just out of curiosity.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:01 AM on November 6, 2012


DisreputableDog, if it's the figuring out logic puzzles part of math that you enjoy, you might want to take look at learning computer programming, instead of math. It's full of logic puzzles, and at the end, instead of an answer like "x = 5", you get programs that look like the one in this post.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:17 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was given a bunch of IQ tests on the sly during a rough period in my life; my father used my high scores to "prove" that my poor academic performance was my mother's fault and took custody of me.
He didn't actually want me once he got me, and made sure I knew how much it had all cost and therefore how much I owed him. It was just one of a long series of fuck-you-I-have-all-the-power plays against my mother.
And a few years later he told me to put all my shit in a garbage bag, drove me to my mother's house and dumped me in the driveway. He kept the kid checks from the government though.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:47 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was tested (according to my mom) but I have no memory of it. I think it was pre-kindergarten. I found out our relative scores as a teenager, but I'd already roughly figured it out (me: 120, mom: 140, brother: 160) - I knew I was the stupid one in our family. This has led to a weird sort of psychology about intelligence even before I learned about the flaws with the tests, the flaws with IQ in general, etc... where I assumed I was the slow one (I'm also verbally and emotionally gifted, but not mathematically; numbers still don't make sense to me in a fundamental way I'm unable to adequately express) in general, so I'm always surprised when people think I'm smart (people also think it's false modesty when I say I'm the dumb one in my family, but it was pretty obvious).

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what is usually coded as "smart" or "intelligent" colloqually, which is in some ways different from the clinical definitions (which tend to be very rigid), and I think a chunk of it is speed of cognition; I've noticed I'm often simply faster than other people when I get outside of my family, so I think through a situation more quickly and then respond. Another big chunk seems to be breadth of knowledge (not depth), which is another area where I often look smarter than I actually am, because I learn and remember things systemically, so I can make inferences based on existing information that often end up being true. Thirdly, accuracy (or percieved accuracy) is another componant. I've been told I am materially less intelligent because I'm religious by an athiest ex-friend, and that clearly was intelligence as a function of agreeing with him, rather than a belief-system-neutral evaluation.

As a lot of people have said above, being faster at thinking isn't a guaruntee of being superior at thinking; you can get to the wrong place, just faster! There also is something to be said for getting accustumed to being right introducing heuristical flaws in thinking where one begins to assume one has always been right in the past, so one must currently be right because tautology. One of the things I'm grateful for with working with my clients and peers is that I have endless opportunities to be wrong and screw up, so I'm reminded that I need to assume there's always room to learn more and expand. I also get to practice saying, "I don't know," "I was wrong," and "Sorry" a lot - all critical skills for building accurate cognitive structures, I personally think.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:13 PM on November 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Deoridhe, that reminds of hanging out with my smart friends as a youth. One thing I noticed was that tended to think much more slowly than several of them. I am not, at least by comparison with them, a quick thinker. But once the answer to the question at hand did eventually wend its way up from the depths, it was usually right, and that wasn't always true of my quick friends.

I can see uses for both strategies; coming up with an answer quickly, even if it's not quite right or outright wrong, can be a strong advantage. Sometimes, decision and movement are what's necessary, more important than precision. Other times, you want to be right, and my slower cognition seemed better at that.

Limited sample set, so the usual cautions about sodium chloride apply.
posted by Malor at 7:35 PM on November 6, 2012


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