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Test the Nation
May 12, 2002 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Last night, ninety-five thousand British Internet users took part in 'Test The Nation', an IQ quiz, broadcast live on BBC television, which attempted to survey the intelligence on the national. As a simulcast it was only partially successful -- the questions appearing on television sometimes five minutes before appearing on computer, but the results from those who coped with the technology were quite interesting. Any other UK Mefites take part? The test is still available for the curious.
posted by feelinglistless (46 comments total)

 
My IQ turned out to 119, by the way. Is that good?
posted by feelinglistless at 8:45 AM on May 12, 2002


For those in the mood for some more .
posted by Voyageman at 8:48 AM on May 12, 2002


Hmm ... my score was over 30 points lower than I've received on the Stanford Binet a couple of years ago.

I conclude that reading MetaFilter makes you stoopid.
posted by maudlin at 9:49 AM on May 12, 2002


i scored a bit lower than expected too... i think your metafilter theory is plausible, except you meant "st00p1d"... ;-)
posted by muppetboy at 10:04 AM on May 12, 2002


I think the test is flawed, I scored about 40 points less than all those other online tests. Of course, if I scored higher than those other online tests, I would have hailed this as genius.
posted by geoff. at 10:06 AM on May 12, 2002


actually one of the many things that bothers me about IQ tests is the time limit. mere quickness of thought isn't necessarily a good mark of intelligence. there may be lots of people out there who are actually more intelligent than the quick thinkers, but who are just more thoughtful and take their time.

and of course i have a whole laundry list of other problems and objections to the very idea of an IQ test... very silly stuff, when you think about it.
posted by muppetboy at 10:09 AM on May 12, 2002


If I remember correctly (with those parts of my brain that haven't been turned to tofu by this site), standardized IQ tests have maximum times set for each *section*, not each *question*. I found that the logic section, which I've usually done pretty well in, was almost completely lost because I didn't have enough time to click the right answer in several questions, while I was twiddling my thumbs wating for the countdown to finish on other questions.

Did this happen with anyone else?
posted by maudlin at 10:10 AM on May 12, 2002


totally, maudlin.
posted by muppetboy at 10:10 AM on May 12, 2002


They've recalibrated it so you'll get different scores from any tests you've done before. Note also that the older you get, the cleverer you get. Or stupider. Or something.

I got a score of 136, but whether this is raw data (which would make me impossibly clever) or their computer calculated the IQ (more likely) they didn't say in the email.

They also mention in some of the articles the idea of "Emotional Intelligence". Does anyone have anything good to say about this dubious concept (even more dubious that testable intellectual intelligence)?
posted by Grangousier at 10:16 AM on May 12, 2002


Hmmm, 124 for me... Is this test the official "the real thing" then? Can I now officially quote my newfound braininess to all and sundry?
posted by wibbler at 10:40 AM on May 12, 2002


The test seems biased towards UK citizens. I think this should skew the results of other countries by about 5-15%.
posted by DragonBoy at 10:52 AM on May 12, 2002


mere quickness of thought isn't necessarily a good mark of intelligence.

Huh? I'd think it's an integral component. If you take too long to come up with the right answer, you get eaten.

They also mention in some of the articles the idea of "Emotional Intelligence". Does anyone have anything good to say about this dubious concept (even more dubious that testable intellectual intelligence)?

It's a contradiction in terms. Emotion is contrary or complementary to reasoning ability; talking about the one from the terms of the other makes no sense. The EI tests, from what I could tell when I read a couple books on it a few years back, mostly seem measure how much of a socialist you are. I'll be charitable and call it unintended, but the clear implication to me about EI is that if you're not a socialist, you're "emotionally dumb."
posted by kindall at 10:58 AM on May 12, 2002


The EI "quiz" on the BBC site tends to ask questions like "Do you think it's a good idea to express your feelings" without giving an opportunity to say "It very much depends what your feelings are" or "Do you feel that you are an empathetic person?" which has so much wrong with it that...

Well it's like an IQ test that goes "Are you clever?" and when you click "Yes" it replies "Congratulations! You're a Genius!"

I don't know about EI and Socialism. It seems to support the notion put about by therapists that people need to maunder on about their "feelings" all the time (and in particular pay large amounts of money to therapists who will listen to them so maundering). Which is more about building markets than socialism, I suspect.
posted by Grangousier at 11:12 AM on May 12, 2002


I'm in the 40 points less category myself, although a number of the questions wouldn't let me click my answer and the time limit threw me on quite a few others. I call shenanigans.
posted by digital_insomnia at 11:16 AM on May 12, 2002


About 35 points less myself...I think the time limit per question factor really skews the results. At least it's consistent, I guess.
posted by rushmc at 11:21 AM on May 12, 2002


a number of the questions wouldn't let me click my answer

Those were "examples" (run-throughs, not real questions) - it frustrated me too until I saw that they were so marked (not too clearly). Thing is, if you're so dull-witted you need a 30-second blow-by-blow demonstration of an Odd-one-out question, you probably needn't bother with the question itself.
posted by Grangousier at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2002


The BBC example of an emotional intelligence test is a joke.

Here's Peter Salovey's definition of the domains of emotional intelligence:

* knowing one's emotions
* managing one's emotions
* self-motivation
* recognizing emotions in others (i.e. empathy)
* handling relationships (i.e. social competence)

To extend your analogy a bit, kindall, if you aren't quick to notice when Brutus is pissed off with you, you're dead.

And I really don't get this "how much of a socialist you are" idea. People who are perceptive about other's feelings, behaviour and social relationships can choose to tailor their own behaviour as they see fit in response to these perceptions. They could do this to be nice and to encourage other people to be nice, or to manipulate social situations for their own benefit. I don't see anything purely socialist (whatever you mean by that) about this constellation of abilities. People with superior social and emotional intelligence could be great salespeople, politicians, CEOs, teachers, diplomats, therapists, etc.

For those of you who want to find out more, try Howard Gartner's "Frames of Mind" for a pretty good layman's explanation of the multiple intelligences hypothesis. (EI would fall under the personal intelligences in chapter 10). Daniel Goleman wrote another popular book called "Emotional Intelligence" that cites some scholarly research. Go back to the sources, though rather than relying on just these mass market books before you dismiss the concept out of hand.
posted by maudlin at 11:31 AM on May 12, 2002


Personally, I think if you have time to take an IQ test, you need more projects :)

But for those of commiserating about lower than expected scores, I just thought I'd point out this guy's web site. Man, I hope it's a parody....
posted by electro at 11:57 AM on May 12, 2002


*sigh* Howard Gardner, not Gartner
posted by maudlin at 11:57 AM on May 12, 2002


"It's a contradiction in terms. Emotion is contrary or complementary to reasoning ability; talking about the one from the terms of the other makes no sense. The EI tests, from what I could tell when I read a couple books on it a few years back, mostly seem measure how much of a socialist you are. I'll be charitable and call it unintended, but the clear implication to me about EI is that if you're not a socialist, you're 'emotionally dumb.'"

i think a better name for this kind of intelligence is "Social Intelligence"... and i fail to see any connection whatsoever to economic systems.

in our modern and highly inter-dependent world, the ability to do anything at all has a LOT more to do with SI than IQ. and in most situations, the ability to practice patience, understand others and think things through carefully wins out over mere quick thinking. in fact, high IQ can get you in trouble real quick if you don't have a correspondingly high SI to balance things out.

in my experience, the smartest people i've ever met have also been the most deeply unhappy and/or unsuccessful. i don't see how one could call their high intelligence (without high SI) anything other than a maladaption... even in the Darwinian sense. the very smartest kid i ever met suicided in the 9th grade. he'd already completed all the advanced math and computer courses that our local college system had to offer. his sister, who was a year older i think, spoke 6 languages fluently and suffered similarly.
posted by muppetboy at 12:05 PM on May 12, 2002


Oh, is THAT what was going on, Grangousier? I gave up in frustration after the fourth or fifth one of those. I figured that it was some flash weirdness that prevented it from registering the mouse click, and so I just gave up figuring my results were going to be meaningless.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:17 PM on May 12, 2002


I was an IQ test junkie in high school*, so I must have taken 12-15 different tests, and this is by far the lowest score I've ever gotten. Meh. And it only goes up to 156 anyway, which is a bit rinky-dink, considering how many people are supposed to be taking this test.

Also, Picasso is to CONSTABLE as x is to y? Of all the painters they could have chosen, why Constable? Just because he was British? Is he 10-20 times more well-known over there, because he's a bit obscure on this side of the pond. I refuse to accept cultural differences! Why not just use something everybody knows, like "Ross is to Rachel as Chandler is to..."

*I didn't get laid in high school.
posted by Hildago at 12:32 PM on May 12, 2002


Within the context of the tv show, the example questions were usually thrown at the members of the audience or celebrities so that we could see them in various states of embarassment as they got them wrong ... also this think wasn't just directed at people like us, but the general viewing public (or people not watching Blind Date or Ant and Dec).
posted by feelinglistless at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2002


Constable is an artist? Jesus, I thought I had gone suddently insane.
posted by hob at 1:56 PM on May 12, 2002


Constable *is* well known in Britain.
posted by vbfg at 2:02 PM on May 12, 2002


My scores were low due to several reasons. The time limits were tight in a couple places and I missed out answering 3 or 4 questions, while every other place had me sitting on my hands for 20 seconds. It's all in Flash, and wouldn't be too hard to let people move at their own pace within a section, allowing for more time on the hard ones.

I know a lot of people complain about the American SAT college test being "too white" or "too Middle-America" and I'm starting to understand that point of view, considering how badly I did on the UK-centric questions and answers. I'm used to seeing non-metric units and addresses that occupy three lines with 7 digit zip codes. Quizzing me on whether Brandon Figglesworth lived on 34 Habidashery Villiage Road in Sussex, or 3FG-4QL Middlesbuy Junction in Willow Manor threw me a bit, as I don't typically memorize data in that format.

And I had no idea who Constable was, which probably tells you something about my intelligence. I sat there actually thinking "Picasso is to a policeman as what is to what?! None of these answers work goddammit!"

I'm never going to England, the place apparently makes me stupid.
posted by mathowie at 2:11 PM on May 12, 2002


I understand the problems with the Constable thing (it was even questioned on the show), but I really don't see the address stuff as an excuse. It must've been clear from the questions that there's no standard format for addresses over here (i.e. no standard number of lines), so it's not like UK citizens had an advantage. We all thought it was pretty tough. :(
posted by malross at 2:57 PM on May 12, 2002


Did no-one do it on interactive TV? It worked very well - exactly in time with the broadcast. Me and my boyfriend got a score of 128. He could do the maths, I could do perception. I doubt I'd be able to get above 100 or so on my own. I'm number blind and slow.
posted by Summer at 2:57 PM on May 12, 2002


Also-- I didn't see any instructions about whether it's ok to use paper and pencil or a calculator. I didn't, but I'd imagine some people do, and it *would* give an advantage on the math problems, as well as making the memorization ones (some of which were pretty tough) a piece of cake.
Also, I'm pretty sure that most of the online IQ tests are bogus, rigged to be really easy and give out artificially high scores. One of the ones I took scored me in the "Dear God You Are the Smartest Person Alive" category, then tried to sell me a leather bound version of my results so I could show all my friends. Tempting, maybe, but so obviously rigged.
posted by bonheur at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2002


I'm never going to England, the place apparently makes me stupid.

I think that works both ways though ... for once this is a quiz aimed directly at a UK audience ... how many IQ test on the web are from a US perspective? I still can't work out Zip codes or why you people can't give names to roads ... I can anyone follow directions which include such lines as 'Take 4th for 3 blocks then take a right ...' How many 4th's are there in th world? At least UK addresses are creative -- and easier to remember -- I noticed that last night -- with words instead of numbers, it was easier to picture the shapes in my mind.

I think the time limits were there to engender quick thinking, as well as benefit the televisual experience. The tv show was already three hours long (imagine a show like this on US prime time nestled between re-runs of Matlock and Diagnosis:Murder) and the limits sped things along at brisk pace and added a bit of excitement. I agree that in the version that is up now, there could be a way to skip ahead if you've answered a question to your satisfaction.

On the tv show, the presenter Anne Robinson (yes 'The Weakest Link's Anne Robinson) took issue with the expert who set the quiz over the Constable/Picasso question, pointing out that yes, knowledge of art was required to answer that question. He wasn't actually able to give a valid arguement otherwise -- he seemed to think that everybody should know about art and stuff. Perhaps the excuse he could have given is creating degrees of difficulty with the quiz as a whole. Some of the questions are Monkey-intelligence easy, so why not have something at the other end of the scale to create balance. Someone with a higher IQ would have a wider general knowledge, painters and periods being a matter of course.

And no calculators allowed ...
posted by feelinglistless at 3:55 PM on May 12, 2002


I got only a 31, and I am president of the United States. What gives??
posted by luriete at 4:01 PM on May 12, 2002


I also found the time limits tight in places. 15 seconds for the maths questions, and 30 for the perception ones?

Of course, it was impossible to let the entire UK audience to go at their own pace simultaneously. They couldn't allow people on the web to take their time yet restrict TV viewers to 15 seconds.

Considering that their results table is supposed to account accurately for age, does no one find it odd that it was grey-haired people who scored highest on the test?

feelinglistless: agreed on the regional differences. I've often found myself frustrated when taking a test or completing a form aimed at an American audience.
posted by apathetic at 4:07 PM on May 12, 2002


I don't think the address format really mattered. The point was to look at and remember a list of arbitrary data. Addresses are a good choice because the information is essentially random - you can't derive the street name from the postal code, for example.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:33 PM on May 12, 2002


feelinglistless:

"I still can't work out Zip codes or why you people can't give names to roads"

Around here, everything is laid out in a grid system, with each block numbered consecutively higher the further you get from the LDS Temple, which was literally the center of the city when it was built, though it's no longer right in the middle. So an address of 350 South 100 East would mean you're one block east of the temple and three and one half blocks south of it.

The grid system makes such perfect sense to me that I don't understand why it's not done everywhere. Give me any address in this valley and I can drive directly to it, first try, no circling back. Even in cities I've never visited, I can at least know I'm going in the right direction. Unfortunately, some of the newer subdivisions are reverting to named rather than numbered streets, so within a few years it's going to be chaos.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:45 PM on May 12, 2002


"Hmm ... my score was over 30 points lower than I've received on the Stanford Binet a couple of years ago."

"i scored a bit lower than expected too..."

"I think the test is flawed, I scored about 40 points less than all those other online tests."

My result was significantly lower than I usually score, too.
posted by robcorr at 9:37 PM on May 12, 2002


And substantially lower than about every test I've ever taken. For crikey's sake, I've had Intertel approach me.

And one could argue a bit on the addresses if we're to believe language and other surroundings are programmed into "deep structures" as some behaviorists think. I've never even written a British zip code in my life...
posted by Samizdata at 11:31 PM on May 12, 2002


The results were interesting though, whatever you think of the test itself. There's a national map online at the moment which is going to reinforce some traditional stereotypes about Brummies, Geordies and Glaswegians.

Internet users seemed to be 10 points over the average, most curiously, men did significantly better than women.

I'm not sure about the wisdom of using this questionable tool as entertainment, my guess is a lot of peoples self-esteem took a knock on Saturday night.
posted by grahamwell at 4:26 AM on May 13, 2002


138 - why's this the maximum a 19 year old can get? This test is skewed against us young 'uns.. I've got 158, 159 and 160 in the other three tests I've done (proper timed paper thingies), so I've only dropped 20 points in the last year - any studies to show if IQ drops once you drop out of school and start working for a living? Suppose it depends on whether you have a job which makes you think fast or fill out forms.. Anyone want to give me an exciting job? I may not be that clever, but I'm dead good at doing IQ tests :-)

I agree the Constable question was a bit odd, I must agree - I kept thinking of a policeman..
posted by Mossy at 4:37 AM on May 13, 2002


Funny, French people did the very same thing on March 28th (online test not available anymore). I got 125 at the time.
I was in England last week, so I was able to do it there too. I got 110, my g/f 108. I guess I'm not that fluent in Englsih then.

I can't believe the French M6 channel invented that concept, then sold it to the BBC. The sections where EXACTLY the same, and apart from the ones involving language, many of the questions where the very same (same graphics and everything). Does anyone know if it's indeed an original French concept, or if it was bought from some other company, or anything ?
posted by XiBe at 5:21 AM on May 13, 2002


Funny, French people did the very same thing on March 28th (online test not available anymore). I got 125 at the time.
I was in England last week, so I was able to do it there too. I got 110, my g/f 108. I guess I'm not that fluent in Englsih then.

I can't believe the French M6 channel invented that concept, then sold it to the BBC. The sections where EXACTLY the same, and apart from the ones involving language, many of the questions where the very same (same graphics and everything). Does anyone know if it's indeed an original French concept, or if it was bought from some other company, or anything ?
posted by XiBe at 5:28 AM on May 13, 2002


argh, sorry, please delete.
so much for my IQ of 125, i guess...
posted by XiBe at 5:29 AM on May 13, 2002


I wouldn't be surprised if it was an original French idea, xiBe. Lots of quiz shows seem to be French in origin - Countdown, Crystal Maze, Fort Boyard. What's going on with the French and quizes?
posted by Summer at 6:15 AM on May 13, 2002


You quiz me, I'm puzzled.
(haha)
I'm not too sure it's a French-only habit to create new games and the sell them to other countries... I mean, we've seen countless games and such of French TV derived or copied from US/UK/?? shows: Jeopardy, Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire, Big Brother, Wheel Of Fortune... When something sells advertising-time better, it's bound to be bought elsewhere.
posted by XiBe at 7:23 AM on May 13, 2002


Is anyone else bothered that their "results by group" is based on Zodiac signs? They say, "Are Pisces' brainier than Gemini's?" Have the people who put this up taken the test themselves?
posted by quirked at 7:29 AM on May 13, 2002


According to this, it's originally a Dutch TV format.
posted by kerplunk at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2002


Never mind testing the nation, feelinglistless - here's what you should be studying. :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:05 PM on May 13, 2002


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