Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition 2.26

Last weekend, at a bar, after a few drinks, with both friends and people I had just met, during a conversation about religion, to which I was only half listening, because I was thinking about pie, while wearing my favorite blue shirt, someone I don’t know well asked me if I was religious. I answered with a stock reply I had handy, which was: I have no affiliation with any established religion and I don’t believe in any deities, so no. I am not religious.

A woman in the group then asked me: “How smart are you?”

I didn’t really know how that followed from the original question, or from my response, but as I said, I was barely paying attention, so it might have been the perfect time to ask that particular follow-up question. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a stock reply for that one. So I hesitated.

I mean, what does one say to ‘How smart are you’? Smarter than the average bear? So smart that I have a college degree? I can solve the TV Guide crossword almost every time? Smart enough not to stick my face in a fire? I know what a Dirty Sanchez and a Rusty Trombone are? I’m a 5.352012 on the International Intelligence Scale? I’m able to dress myself with few glaring errors? I know what love is?

I mean, really, what can you say?

So for today’s Inquisition:

How smart are you? Or better yet, what, in your opinion, is the best measure of intelligence?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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102 Comments

  1. My IQ is about 135-140, so I’m either barely a genius, or just a bit below a genius. Though that’s an average figure. I’m better than that when it comes to ecoonmics, mathematics and statistics, not as good when it comes to “soft” subjects.

    IQ is probably the best measure of intelligence. That doesn’t mean its a good measure of intelligence, just that there isn’t a better one.

  2. I think a good measure of intelligence would be how much you are willing to learn and how much you are willing to admit that you don’t know, rather than a quantifier of knowledge such as college degrees.

    I view knowledge and intelligence as separate ideas.

    That being said, I will admit that my scientific knowledge is very general and I need to learn more. I am planning with in the next year to attend night courses and get a bachelor’s in something.

  3. Good question. I often wonder how smart I am. You see, people have always told me that I’m smart, but I’m not always certain that I agree.

    I have a facility with language, learned to read VERY early, and have very good general information retention skills. I’ve also got good-to-very good relational thinking abilities, so I always make lots of connections with whatever I think about.

    BUT: I’m horrible at math, not always strong in critical thinking, and tend to categorize and sort data by internal rules without being terribly good at building more adaptive rulesets or knowing where I can break those rules. This hampers my problem solving to a great degree and more or less kills my creativity. Also, I’m lazy.

    So I don’t think I’m terribly smart. And I’ve noticed that the occasions when people CALL me smart are always related to my ability to recall information, not my ability to understand its importance or apply it to solving some problem. I’m good at remembering things in a vague way, or by tangential connection, and great at making it sound like I know more about things than I actually do. But am I smart? No, I really wouldn’t say so. Pride be damned.

  4. I always think of intelligence as the capacity to learn and smart/educated as how much you had learned.

    I am intelligent enough to learn about computer programming, but I never have so I am not smart about it.

    I am so smart, S-M-R-T, I mean S-M-A-R-T

  5. I have to carry most of my brain around in external brain packs, and those I have to put in a wheelbarrow. It might look like I just stole a bunch of really messed up lava lamps, but they are brain packs.

    I’m smart enough to occasionally do and say stupid things to throw other humans off the trail.

  6. I believe that a person’s intelligence is inversely proportional to how often they use “it’s just common sense” as their primary argument.

    But on a serious note, I think “intelligence” is a term that is just too general to have a good way to measure it. It’s so general, that people have debated for centuries on what “intelligence” really is. Is it pattern-recognition? Memory? Ability to Learn? Perception? Ability to think Abstractly? Ability to adapt you decisions based on unknown and/or changing variables? A combination of any or all of them?

    “How smart are you?” Such a general question about a such a broad term that I’d probably do what I usually do and that is to give a sarcastic reply.

  7. I’m smart enough to have earned engineering degrees from great engineering schools without studying much.

    I knew a girl who was pretty smart, did very well in HS and college, yet did not know her lefts from her rights. I consider her unintelligent because of that.

    I got into a drunken argument with a girl at a bar once over a similar topic. She was a philosophy major, and kept saying that “intelligence is what you make of it.” I kept saying that intelligence should be quantifiable, as difficult as it may be to do so. I was drunk.

  8. @darwinfan:

    I held my hands about 3 feet apart and said, “I’m this smart.”

    A few people laughed, but, as bar conversations are wont to do, the subject changed and no one seemed interest in intelligence or religion anymore.

    So I never figured out why she asked that at that particular time. But I was puzzled by it, too.

    @teambanzai:

    Always love a good Navin Johnson reference.

  9. @TerrySimpson: Exactly. IQ is nothing more than a test of capacity and potential; it says nothing about what you do with your capacity, potential, education, life relationships… .

    I place significant stock in social skills and the capacity to manage friendships and relationships with regard to who I spend time with. I’m glad there are exceedingly brilliant people who study what I have no desire to study and who write books I want to read and invent things I use on a daily basis. And there are certainly many otherwise smart and highly intelligent people who have significant functioning issues which essentially renders their intelligence useless with regard to productive endeavors.

  10. JSug: “I’m smart enough to know that there is no good measurement of intelligence.”

    I agree with this and other sentiments along the same lines. There are too many axes of intelligence to say in a single statement how smart you are. I’ve seen EE’s would can design single-cycle multiply routines who can’t wire a light switch. People who blew the top of the SAT, but can’t tell when they are annoying their spouse. People who can learn C++ from a book over a long weekend, but couldn’t bake a loaf of bread to save their life.

    This being said there is a certain type of person… A person who enjoys solving puzzles. A person who enjoys learning so much that after a few decades they can converse interestingly on a variety of subjects. A lot of people of this type hang out in skeptical groups. This is why I like this blog and drinking skeptically. Are these people smart? I dunno. I suppose I’d have to ask their cats.

  11. It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
    Albert Einstein

    We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
    Albert Einstein

    The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.
    Sigmund Freud

    I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.
    Mark Twain

  12. Imagine an ideal mind space at 0 Kelvin. The atoms of information remain still, with no motion. Now add heat. The “info-atoms”, as we shall call them, start under those conditions a Brownian dance. Sometimes two info-atoms will collide together, an occurrence which we call an “idea”. The greater the density of info-atoms, and/or the more heat we add to the system, the greater the likelihood of an idea to happen.

    The density of info-atoms is the learning. The heat is the intelligence.

    Now, to answer the question: I’m smart enough to know that what I posited above is poppycock.

  13. I don’t think there is a good, objective measure of intelligence.

    Me, I’m insufferable-know-it-all-smart, although I try to keep it in reign most of the time, I’m eternally-inquisitive-and-curious-smart and indulge all the time (damn, there was some word I was going to look up… what was it again?), and I’m I’d-like-it-if-you-could-also-understand-this smart, at least with my students.

    I can also be somewhat stupid, answer people slighty angry just because their statement or reply seemed stupid to me, or assume they’re idiots when they’re just kidding.

  14. That’s a lose-lose question to answer. If you tell them you’re not very smart, they dismiss your opinions because you’re stupid. If you tell them you are very smart, they dismiss your opinions because you’re a dick.

  15. @Sam Ogden: that’s a good response but I would have only held out one hand, let him figure it out.

    I read some where that the best way to deal with a music snob was to make up all your favorite bands. That way it’s not your fault when the fool is too uncultured to have heard of them. I think the, er, question in question, deserves a similar response.

  16. Some twit at work commented that if i worked smarter not harder I’d finish in half the time.

    I replied, “Hey! I’m smart enough to know how to disembowel a man with spoon in under an hour.”

    He said “So your slow at that too”

    I said “I am only that fast cuz i learned mercy..first one took me almost all day”

  17. When I was living in Toronto, I applied for the local chapter of Mensa. Passed the entrance exams without any difficulty. They gave 2 written tests and you had to get a 130ish IQ on at least one. I got a 135 on one and a 170 on the other. This was in one sitting, taking the tests back to back. Obviously, one of the tests (or more likely both) were inaccurate. So, I’m guessing written tests are not the best measure of intelligence.

    I quit Mensa after going to a few meetings. Everyone there just wanted to play chess, listen to Wagner and tell (in their opinion) clever jokes. If that’s what passes for the intellectual elite, you can count me out.

  18. Well, I believe certain things very strongly (i.e. astrology is bullshit), and when I don’t know enough to form an opinion, I don’t have one. I tend to be very measured in my evaluations of things, and am capable of examining many sides to an issue. Example:

    Maybe Oswald acted alone. Maybe he didn’t. Some good questions have been raised, but then again, that’s what people say about 9/11 too, and we all know what a crock that conspiracy theory (and, well, just about every conspiracy theory) is. It’s not really relevant at this point (regardless of what my hero Mr. Hicks would have said), because there are plenty of other reasons to distrust the government, etc. I don’t take much of what I’m told at face value, but I also don’t spend a great deal of time nitpicking and analyzing things unless it seems like a good use of my time. I’d say that, overall, I have a good enough idea of what is going on in the world. My understanding of politics, psychology, history, science, and…well, everything, I guess…all fits together into a pretty cohesive picture. There are holes, yeah, but fuck it. I never said I knew everything.

    I could go on, for like, fifteen pages. I’ll spare you. My mind never stops.

    So, with the above tirade as an example, and brevity being the soul of wit, no, I’m not too bright.

  19. am i smart? by societal definitions, yes.

    i’ve always excelled at assessments, usually scoring in the top couple of percentiles, am good at math and spatial tasks, and have what seem to be ridiculous reading comprehension skills.

    having said all that, i am also undisciplined and tend to change my mind a lot about how best to use the intelligence i’ve been told my whole life that i have (which is why i do not have a bachelor’s degree after 11 years in and out of school).

    also, i’m still plumbing the depths of my social ineptitude. there are many things about relating to and interacting with others that i am only beginning to discover i’ve been oblivious to.

    basically i think being highly intelligent is a bit over-hyped as a measure of value. intellectual curiosity and an ability to focus are much better indicators of a person’s potential for success.

  20. -Are you religious?
    -I am not religious.
    -How smart are you?
    -Same answer.

    -Are you religious?
    -I am not religious.
    -How smart are you?
    -I was trying to put it politely.

    -Are you religious?
    -I am not religious.
    -How smart are you?
    -That depends on how many questions like this you can ask me.

    -Are you religious?
    -I am not religious.
    -How smart are you?
    -Agnostically.

    -Are you religious?
    -I am not religious.
    -How smart are you?
    -Not enough to tell.

  21. I like to refer to myself as the resident expert on EVERYTHING. I am a case study in nerdology. If you mention something, I probably have some random, useless fact about it.

    But, I personally think “smart” is a relative term. Comparted to a group of 5th graders, I’m a friggin genius. Put in a room full of Mensa alumni, and I’m the boy who druels on himself. And ask me a sports question, and become the boy who stares at the wall.

    How do I find out where I rate on that international intelligence scale, anyways?

  22. I think the most important part of being smart is to be able to tell when you are wrong and to abandon wrong ideas and positions. If you can’t do that, then eventually you will get caught up in something terribly terribly wrong.

    If you are never wrong, then you are being too conservative in your thinking and not being open enough to new ideas.

    The idea that there is one type of “intelligence” is a myth, a very dangerous myth. There are many different types of “intelligence”, which are all orthogonal and unrelated. Most people can’t appreciate that, so they go by what they do understand and appreciate how someone looks or how rich they are.

    The tests for intelligence are quite poor. There is some quite good research showing that some individuals score as much as 70 percentile points different on different intelligence tests (WISC and Raven’s progressive matrices). It is likely that the concept of intelligence is flawed, that there is no such single property.

  23. Hi there!

    Sitting at home, snuggled up to my lovely wifey on the couch, watching Jeopardy, with absolutely NO money on the line, no need to ring in, and no penalty for an incorrect response, I can answer at least 85% percent of the questions.

    Whenever I’ve taken the actual Jeopardy test, and any incorrect response could potentially blow my chances of appearing on national TV and being the object of envy for all of my friends and relatives for years to come and quite possibly get me a hefty chunk o’ change while I’m at it? I get like 30% of the questions. I can’t imagine how I’d fare under the watchful eye of the TV camera.

    Someone once asked Chuck Norris* if he could have beaten Bruce Lee. I don’t know the exact quote, but the response went something like: “Let me tell you a secret. Anyone can beat anyone”. He went on to describe how there are so many factors involved in a fight that no one can predict the outcome with any degree of certainty. The best fighters have off days, and the worst fighters get lucky sometimes. Throw in factors like environment, mental state, health, and you really can’t tell who’s going to win.

    I feel that intelligence works exactly the same way. I can probably hold my own matching wits with educators and scientists, but sometimes, an 8 year old will make me look like an idiot.

    — Craig

    *I haven’t just completely doomed the rest of this thread, have I? :( :( :(

  24. A couplafew people have already said this outright: IQ test may not be a great standard, but they’re the best we have. I don’t know if they’re the best, but at very least they’re consistent. If you apply any test to a decent population, you will at least have a decent model to predict how the average joe will do on the same test.

    I’ve taken well over a handful of different tests in the last 20 years or so, and never scored a rating of less than 150. What does that translate to in practical terms? I dunno, but I light my tongue on fire to make a living (really).

    I think the biggest problem here is something everyone’s pretty much touched on, but no-one’s said outright – before you can answer this question you need to define ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’. Everyone’s talked about components (eg, memory recall, ability to learn, etc.), and that’s the point. You can’t answer the question “How smart are you?” with any meaningful answer until you can clearly and objectively define ‘smart’.

  25. I have always seen intellience and being smart as 2 seperate things.

    For me, intelligence is about how much raw information, and skills you have. This can be put into many sub-catagories, which are often argued about. For example, IQ measures the aspect of intelligence which looks at your logical and analytical skills. Some people have emotional intelligence, which is skills with dealing with people and relationships. Some people have high physical intelligence, which would explain a highly skilled sportsman. I know there are a few others too, like organisational intelligence, creative intelligence, language, etc etc. Most people of course will have a mixture of all of these, with differing strengths.

    Smarts however, is a measure of how well you can get what you want, or achieve a specific goal. This has nothing to do with intelligence. Take for example the nerd who studies hard to become intelligent at…I dont know…writing software or something. Then a guy comes along and says “I’ll give you 100 dollars for every computer your program” This guy gives them to the nerd, and charges his customers 500 dollars for the service. Assuming the goal of both of these guys is to make money, who is the “intelligent” one? It’s the nerd. Who is the smart one? It’s the businessman.

    The same applies to people like Paris Hilton, or George Bush, and their likes. Sure they aren’t intelligent, but assuming their goal is money/power, they are very smart.

    In conclusion, smartness is how well you can manipulate the outside world to allow you to reach a specific goal.

  26. “Smart enough to realise that question is a trap, with no answer that doesn’t make me sound like an arrogant arsehole. Including this one.”

    I judge a person’s smartness by the number of seconds it takes me to get their jokes, otherwise known as the TTLOL scale.

  27. It’s the sort of thing you have to glean from the impressions of strangers.

    That said, the one thing I cannot tolerate is the false humility of those who casually mention their IQ score, then play it off as though it doesn’t matter because “IQ tests are bunk anyways”. They’re not bunk, they’re imprecise. If they were bunk, a severely inbred, intoxicated subject could easily pass one day and an MIT educated engineer could fail terribly the next. There’s a high degree of consistency in results, so clearly they’re measuring *something*, and most who claim they don’t correct for culture and socioeconomic level or test emotional intelligence are hopelessly out of date, as tests exist currently which take all into account. The most precise results would be averaged from the results of several tests by different authors, although few care enough to shell out for such a thorough battery of tests just for external validation.

    I’ve consistently tested between 130-140 over the years, averaging at 136. I see many others in this thread fall into the same range and I’d hazard a guess that it’s typical for atheists, comprising 1-3% of the US population as we do (not including agnostics or the simply unaffiliated).

    It’d be nice if, in the 21st century, we could have frank and undramatic discussions of hereditary intelligence without vanity and resentment coming into play. I’m as comfortable admitting what I test at as I am admitting that nearly every one of my friends is smarter than I am, as I habitually seek out those sorts in the hopes that their brilliance will somehow rub off on me. :P Rather than resent them, deny the validity of the tests that place them ahead of me or accuse them of arrogance, I just shrug and accept that we are as we were born, and there’s no sense in throwing a fit any time I run into someone who was dealt a slightly better genetic hand than I was.

  28. I agree with most comments that IQ tests must measure something. I am surprised, though, that so many people have taken those tests, I’ve always feared I was going to screw it and feel unnecessarily depressed, so I’ve never taken any and I don’t think that’s made my life any different. I would regard IQ as a test of processing power. It is always great to have fast hardware, but you also need efficient software. Even the fastest computer can look pretty silly without good software (honesty, ethics, a strong will, being exposed to the right ideas, a good education). It’s not only about computing fast, you also have to input some information, which has also to be well formatted, plus you need also to know what computations to do and in what order. Plus, can’t you train for this kind of tests? Are they “controlled” for subjects’ previous experience? I don’t know if you can control for that. I know people who take a lot of tests just for fun and I’m sure they would score higher than average just because of familiarity, but that would not be realistic as regards real-life situations where creativity and problem-resolution skills are usually more important.

  29. Have you ever had an original idea? Something that no one else has thought of? That is the best measure of intelligence.

    I don’t think I am smart. My friends, family and aquintance tell me that I am really smart. I have avoided IQ tests because I don’t want to be told I am stoopid. I maxed out the ACT and GRE exams. But that isn’t smart that is knowledge.

    The best test of smart. Have you ever had an original idea? Have you ever come up with a totally new idea? Just knowing what other people know isn’t smart. If it were then my laptop would be smart and she is a dumb girl.

  30. Skepthink: The comment on processing power was spot on. What we’ve been testing for is *potential*. There’s no guarantee someone with extraordinary potential will have the necessary values and determination to fully realize it.

    It’s still important to acknowledge the role of heredity in intelligence however, as it’s been under fire from postmodernists for some time now.

  31. True story: Once, when I was teaching in an inner city school in Philly, I had a eighth grader stand up and declare (without a shred of irony, bathos, or humor-recognition) “I am smarter than a rock!”

    I think he might have been protesting some casual remark made in class about someone’s intelligence.

  32. I’ve had similar approaches. Something to the effect that it’s a bad thing. (Thankfully, that sort of witty banter has been very rare, in my life).

    Most of the time, I didn’t bite. I just looked at them. Didn’t say a word.

    They’d either leave or stammer a “follow up” but I definitely let them do the rest of the talking, if there was any.

    Mama always said, if you can’t say something nice…

    rod

  33. Sam goes into a bar and a woman asks
    – “How smart are you?”
    – “Well, they named a clit-lick technique after me”.

    Sam goes into jail as a result, then an inmate asks
    – “How smart are you?”
    – “Aw, I suck at that”.

  34. There are exactly three kinds of smart.

    There is I am Sam Smart. This person does not see relationships between things that are intuitive and obvious to most humans.

    There is Richard Feynman smart. This person sees relationships between things that you almost certainly don’t.

    Then there’s everybody else. We’re all pretty good at some mental tasks, pretty bad at others. Probably, none of us play at the elite Nobel Prize, Fields Medal, NBA championship level.

    I’m the smart in the middle somewhere.

  35. Most people I meet or talk to wind up thinking I’m pretty smart. I used to try to hide it — social ostracism in school — but now I just take it in stride. Mostly, I hope that I don’t intimidate people or make them feel condescended-to. I think that smartness is probably overrated by many people. For example, a clear and methodical thinker may eventually come to better conclusions than a measurably “smarter” person — especially if the smart is unfocused or has been sucked into some bad logic.

    That said, my IQ was recently measured by a psychologist, in the course of being evaluated for ADHD, and found to be in the 98th to 99th percentile. I really had no idea… maybe I’d never wanted to truly put it to the test, for fear that I’d find out I wasn’t really as smart as everyone thought.

    Mostly, I just find that I’m interested in everything — that I want to know as much as possible about most things I come across in this world — and I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t feel the same way. Come on… it’s a fascinating place, right?

    And the more I learn about it, the more amazing and unexpected I find it to be, the more I’m reminded of just how much I really *dont* know — how much I have yet to learn — and the obvious impossibility of keeping up with the rushing progress of human knowledge.

  36. @sethmanapio: And there are three kinds of people. Those who can count and those who can’t.

    I suffer from the smarts paradox. Everybody tells me I’m very smart. But I’m smart enough to know I’m not that smart. Which makes me smart, right?

  37. i’m so smart that there are only two people whom i would call real friends and they’ve both completed more schooling than i have yet we still manage to have interesting conversations and i can hold my own with them. plus if you ask them i’m fairly certain (as certain as one can be of another person’s reaction) that they call me their friend as well.

  38. Depends on the reason the question was asked. If this person is trying to equate intelligence with religious/superstitious belief, I’d give them an epic fail and ignore/gloss the question. Maybe, if I were in the mood, I would ask them why they wanted to know.

    I have the same IQ as James K, for the record, but I am highly skewed towards the language/reading side rather than the math. When my hich school counsellor first saw my SAT results, he thought they were in error. :-D I don’t entirely buy the results of any IQ-type testing, but regard it as an indicator.

    I have a lot in common with Expatria, though I learned adaptability early – all my internal rules are provisional and reviewed as the situation warrants.

    @sethmanpio: I’m like everyone else. Feynman left me in absolute awe, both of his mental abilities and his sense of the absurd.

  39. The question “How smart are you?” is a dumb question..unless you are trying to setup a joke.

    The problem with measuring intelligence is that there are different kinds of intelligence and what passes as “smart” changes depending on the environment.

    Quite frankly, I think empathy and compassion are far more important qualities to have than being “smart”.

  40. I have no idea how smart I am. So I asked other people. The best response I got was from my mom, the smartest person I know. She said “Too smart for your own good”.

    I of course translated that to mean Evil Genius.

    Thanks Mom

  41. @LadyMitris: Quite frankly, I think empathy and compassion are far more important qualities to have than being “smart”.

    ———-

    Maybe a better question than “how smart are you”, might be, “how good are you at the thing you’re best at?”

    Most of us are pretty good at something… and besides, that’s a way better conversation starter.

  42. I’m smart enough. I’ve got great people instincts, and can adapt to almost any situation (my job history shows this).

    I’ve never been math smart. Part of this is “number dislexia” (is there a technical term?) — I tend to get confused with long strings of numbers (which fucked me up numerous times when I worked in printing and had to take 25+ machine counts a day … I was alwasy screwing up; eventually they had to have someone else do that particular job).

    I’m good with words. I can b.s. with the best of ’em (I once, as a stoner, won a D.A.R.E. writing contest, while quoting Dave Matthews; I am just that awesome).

    I have no idea what my I.Q. is. I sometimes wonder. I fear, though, that it won’t be as high as it “should be” — I’ve never been great at taking tests. I get impatient. I’m not great at logical questions — I can see the Big Picture just fine, but I’ve always had issues seeing the details. For isntance, I took the ACT and got something like a 15 in science and a 17 in math — that’s low. I didn’t get one question wrong in the Language sections, however, because words are natural to me and don’t make me panic.

  43. This seems like an appropriate place to plug Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man. It is not the easiest read in the world, and I don’t agree with his every point, but I do agree with the thesis that the very idea that there is a simple quality called “intelligence” that can be measured on a one-dimensional scale is ridiculous.

  44. Hmmm, There is such a spectrum of what smart is, and to be honest I don’t care to be labeled smart. I’d rather be labeled: interested in things.

    Although I would say there is plenty of evidence to point that I am smart. On every standardized test I score at least in the top 3%, some in the top 1%. I have a PhD in physics. I’ve worked in technical fields ranging from software, biology, and physics. I’ve started up 5 companies, 2 successful, and at 31 I’m financially independent. I’m a fan of 30 Rock. I read the Skepchick Blog and listen to SGU.

    But more importantly I realize how little I know, and understand the vast ocean of knowledge I will never grasp. I see bias in science, but realize its the best thing going.

    Im actually more interested in my penis size than my IQ.

  45. @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): So that explains the head gear on your avatar. Brain nappy!

    @sethmanapio: Would that be the middle of the smart or the middle of the mean?

    I have lunch with Robert Thorndike every Friday who’s grandfather was one of the developers of the first standardized IQ tests. Robert and his father both were nationally known experts on IQ and testing and we’ve discussed the validity of IQ tests many times. Robert always insists that IQ is a good general predictor of how successful someone may be in life but is only intended to be a determination of capacity and potential. Standardized IQ tests were initially developed for the Army at the beginning of WW I to make sure those who were able were directed to tasks suitable to their capacities and abilities making training more effective and to save money.

    @RichardFineMan: “Im actually more interested in my penis size than my IQ.”
    Has your physics research shed any light on this issue?

  46. @marilove:

    The word you are searching for is Discalcula. And I think your point more broadly is important. IQ is more of an average intelligence, different people are good at differetn things. I’ve always found writing fairly difficult, but mathematics and economics are extremely intuitive to me.

    I also think that intelligence isn’t the only thing that matters, even in intellectual pursits. I recall readign that Bush has an IQ of about 135, not wonderful for a US presudent, but enough to make him smarter than the majority of people who call him stupid.

    Bush’s problem isn’t that he’s stupid, its that he’s an absolutist that can’t distinguish between honest disagreement and disloyalty. If I may use a D&D metaphor, Wisdom is his dump stat, not Intelligence.

  47. I’m plenty smart enough! My first, basic gauge for intelligences is humor. Not all smart people are funny, but all funny people are smart. Not necessarily book smart or school smart, but they language smart and socially smart.

  48. @James K: That’s it! I swera, no matter how long or how carefully I would look at numbers such as: 003254082, I’d get them mixed up. I never do that with words.

    @JESherman: I agree with this! Funny people are almost always socially and language smart.

    A great stand-up comedian is perhaps smarter than the smartest PhD holder.

  49. @autotroph:

    Just realized the woman who asked me the question could have been the woman in black from the movie The Natural.

    Remember that? The woman in black (Barbara Hershey) asked Redford how good he was and when he said he was going to break every record in baseball, she shot him.

    Good thing I didn’t say I was the smartest person in the world. She might have cut me down in a hail of gunfire.

  50. IQ as a measure of general intelligence is a good indicator of just that. As an indicator of academic/career success it is terrible, because brains will only get you so far to really succeed you need to also have focus, determination, clear goals etc etc.

    And then there’s all the “soft skills”/emotional intelligence that are now considered necessary to get along in the world of work.

    I have an IQ of 150 (in the top 1%) and am a member of Mensa, and the thing that struck me the most at meetings when I first joined was the number of Mensa members who had “failed” by conventional standards. A handful of graduate degrees, a single medic, a couple of school teachers and most of the rest were in lower paid non-professional jobs.

    It’s pure speculation, but I imagine that being the smartest person in the room (and knowing it) is not going to win you any friends at work or support from teachers growing up OR there is a strong correlation between the AS spectrum, mathmatical/pattern spotting/logical reasoning cability and skill at IQ tests

  51. A great stand-up comedian is perhaps smarter than the smartest PhD holder.

    ————-

    Ah, reverse snobbery…

    What you are doing here is simply elevating on kind of smart over another arbitrarily. If I said that Chipper Jones (baseball player, well known, extremely good) is smarter than the smartest PhD holder, you would probably disagree.

    If you heard an interview with him, you would DEFINITELY disagree.

    But Chipper is freakishly good at what he does, just like Eddie Izzard, and just like Stephen Hawking. To say that Eddie is “smarter” is exactly the same sort of snobbery as saying that Hawking is “smarter”, and it’s exactly as misguided as saying that Jones is smarter.

  52. I don’t know my IQ. I’m getting an undergrad degree in neuroscience, with not an awful lot of work involved. I love learning, but I’m not a very good student. I tend to go off on my own random projects. I also have a very low tolerance for being told to do something I’m not interested in to check the appropriate box. I’m hoping to get a degree in bioinformatics.

    Sometimes I talk to professors, and I’ll get this surprised look like “huh, you’re smarter than the average bear”. My research advisor even told me this. I blew through his semester long plan in two weeks, but I was also really interested in it. Despite being good at math, science, and computers, I cannot properly place punctuation in sentences. I also can’t write a good paper to save my life even though I write quite a bit. I’m also slightly dyslexic. I couldn’t read until I was in the 3rd grade. Overall I’d probably be on the lower end of all you guys.

  53. IQ or other standardized test scores are analogous to strength and speed measurements for football players. You can say, if you want, that the person with the higher IQ or other test score is more intelligent than someone with a lower score. Likewise you can say that a football player with a faster 40 dash speed who can bench press more weight is a better athlete than a competitor with lesser measurements.

    But in the real world … nobody cares about such measurements. They care about results.

    Einstein is a good example of this point (see post #32). IQ and other cognitive tests are based, in part, on speed. But person A being cognitively faster than person B is not worth much if you can give A all the time in the world and he/she still cannot solve the problem at hand.

    Einstein was notoriously slow and undoubtedly there were legions who could outscore him on tests, but he could solve problems that they could not solve. And because Einstein was able to solve the problems he did, his mental faculties are revered and those who could best him on some test are not.

    Of course the same holds true for athletes. Nobody cares about an athlete’s strength/speed measurements if they do not translate into success in competition when it counts.

    How intelligent am I by any measure you want to choose? Intelligent enough to know that no one reading this cares – as it should be.

  54. This may be a bit too serious for this thread but….

    I’ve always thought a lot of the confusion around intelligence has been because of the conflation of two seperate phenomena.

    Intelligence……. this is the word I apply to “quickness of thought” or “ability to make connections” or “pattern recognition” the actual cleverness stuff.

    Knowledge……. I.e. what you actually know and can both store in memory and retrieve at will.

    I did economics……so remembering how supply and demand works is knowledge…… and applying realising that applies to a new and unfamiliar situation and then applying it is intelligence.

    I can tell you ……. I have met some un-intelligent people with a whole head full of knowledge……. and some smart as hell people who had no real understanding of what has happenned in the world at all.

    In my view…. to answer the original question…. would require a measurement that combined the two effectively. The kind of quick reasoning seen in a mensa test, and the kind of knoweldge of facts and the world that you could get from real-world type projects/tasks and (essentially) trivia quiz’s.

    That would be a valid measure you could point to (strictly IMO)…… “I got 97 on the triple-tgp scale. I’m a bit up in knowlege, but a bit down in quick thinking.”

    Tests are a good way at getting at this………but they need to be a lot more sophisticated and wide ranging than todays IQ tests (as the anecdotes above about the narrow mentality of Mensa and their members bear out).

    Seriousness over.

    I’m exactly this distance !———-! to the power of 157 intelligent.

  55. My kids think I am a genius, but I always ask myself the well known question: IYSSWAYR?

    Follow on question to all you nerds (especially those who quoted their IQ scores): if you could trade all your IQ points above 100 for social acceptance/popularity (eg via crayolobotomy) would you do it?

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