By in Random

What is intelligence

I have recently been rewatching a program called Scorpian on Netflix, it is a show about a group of geniuses who end up working as contractors for the US Government solving problems and saving lives. It is a great show and is loosely based on the life of Walter O'Brien (although he has been discredited severely with many people showing that much of what he claims is not in fact true) who allegedly has an IQ of 197.

The show is about how although they have high IQ (intelligence quotient) they all have low EQ (emotional quotient) as a consequence of their intelligence. They don't relate to people well and end up employing a waitress with a genius son to help them relate to people better. It is an interesting show, even if a lot of the science makes no sense and it got me thinking about intelligence.

I have always loved the Albert Einstein quote , “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I truly believe we are all good at different things and you don't need to be 'book smart' to be intelligent. I am pretty book smart but I would have no idea how to build a house or fix plumbing or really do anything outwith my area of expertise. Academically I am fairly decent, but only within my field - you do not want me in charge of your mathematical equations believe me, but give me a science problem and I am your girl. (people always find it odd that I am good at science but not maths, another great example of people incorrectly understanding how being clever actually works)

To me this quote sums up the problems with using IQ as a marker of intelligence. There are some people who do great at IQ tests but might not actually be all that smart (they really only test quick thinking) and I would bet there are many more people who are actually very intelligent but score poorly on IQ tests. I was bored and got to thinking about this so I took several IQ tests to try and prove my point that they are flawed.

I have been told my whole life that I am intelligent but have no common sense by people that know me, but educationally speaking people never thought I was that clever because I was always rubbish with numbers, despite being pretty good at science, languages, history and music in particular. I sort of remember taking an IQ test when I was young but I have no idea why or what the results were.

My expectations of the IQ tests were low, I know there are a lot of number questions and I know that i don't do well with numbers. I took several tests, including the short practice Mensa one. The tests had varying opinions of what my IQ actually was anything from 120-132 which doesn't sound like huge variation but 132 is the minimum score requirement for Mensa on some tests. Even Mensa themselves said it would be worth it for me to pay the money and take their tests because i might qualify.

What I haven't told you yet is that I took the Mensa test twice - with different results! Now some variation is inevitable since the questions were different but one of them put me in the 'High average' bracket and one in the 'gifted to highly gifted' bracket. Now that is quite a variation!

So I started thinking about why I had scored differently in some tests than others, there is of course the obvious - perhaps there were less number questions in the tests I did well in and more of what I was stronger at? The answer I decided was pattern recognition - a lot of the questions ask you what word doesn't belong or what the next number in a sequence is or what the shape would look like if folded, that sort of thing - it is all pattern recognition. Now pattern recognition is basically how nurses save lives. Heard that funny breathing noise before and it didn't end well? call the medics! Seen numbers like that before and it turned out to be sepsis? let the consultant know. Nursing is of course a lot more involved but pattern recognition is a huge part of it. I am not any more intelligent than anyone else, I have simply been trained to recognise patterns and to do it quickly because lives depend on it. The more pattern recognition type questions there are in the test, the higher my IQ will be, although obviously I wont have actually gotten any smarter!

The average IQ is apparently between 85 and 115, with people who have an IQ of under 70 being considered as having a learning disability or other cognitive impairment, but perhaps their tests were just full of the things they were bad at and less of the things they were good at? IQ is not a good measure of intelligence, it is a measure of answering a set amount of questions in a very strict timeframe, not everyone will be good at that and that doesn't necessarily mean that they are any less smart than someone who is. I'm very analytical, I like logic and problem solving and correct answers, i struggle with things that are more ambiguous because of this. I studied psychology for a while and it drove me nuts! There were never any right answers, only opinions and whose opinion was more valid than whose with no real way to measure this. That is why I am good at IQ tests, not because I am particularly clever but because I like logic and patterns.

I then decided to take the Stanford-Binet IQ test which is highly regarded as one of the most accurate, i did the shortened version because by this point I was losing the will but wanted to prove my point so badly that IQ tests would continue to give me very different results depending on the types of questions asked. I again did this twice to prove my point - the first one i scored in the 82nd percentile and the second time i did not even finish the test in the time frame, funnily enough there were way more numbers questions the second time round!

So what did I conclude based on my research? I am either really smart or I am not! There is nothing else to really conclude from this evidence, I either score the higher side of average or I am clever enough to join Mensa, or I don't even get the test finished! Basically what my limited and not particularly scientific research (since I was the only subject) proves is that IQ tests are a load of rubbish, there is no consistency within results when the same person takes even the same test on multiple occasions and variance between different tests was dramatic. Unfortunately though, I have no other ideas of how we should more accurately measure intelligence and neither does anyone else which is why although most experts accept that the test is flawed (particularlly learning disability specialists) there is still no other accepted test.

If you are interested you can take the online Mensa workout here:

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MegL wrote on December 15, 2019, 2:03 PM

That was very interesting. I haven't taken an IQ test for a long time, I can't be bothered sitting down to do them. There are supposed to be 9 different kinds of intelligence, including music. I also like science but didn't go very far in maths because I wouldn't stick at it. Well done for testing them out.

VinceSummers wrote on December 15, 2019, 8:06 PM

Everyone wants to feel they are intelligent. No one wants to think they are slow, even stupid. But intelligence is unimportant for a number of reasons. And, much of what passes for intelligence is really just a strong memory. If you have a strong memory and gather the facts you can probably put them together into solutions. What matters much more than intelligence is what the Bible calls the "fruitage of the [holy] spirit." The Bible says at Galatians 5:22, 23...

"The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law."

melody23 wrote on December 20, 2019, 2:23 PM

I totally agree, I remember seeing something about a young boy who had some sort of learning disability (I can't remember specifically what) but he was the most amazing piano player I have ever heard, now as someone who had been a musician for more than 25 years and could not learn the piano despite trying very hard I can tell you that it requires a level of intelligence way above mine!

I was always good at science, but the more practical stuff, I liked using science to solve problems far more than I liked learning what different parts of a cell were called (ironic that my field is basically biology now huh?) I hated maths because there was so much of it I couldn't see the point in, why did I need to understand trigonometry for example? I have no idea but solving number problems I could do, I loved algebra because I felt like I had solved a problem but did not enjoy arithmetic because there was no real problem to solve. I hated languages, although I did appear to have a natural gift for them, probably because I have a decent memory rather than anything else but I didn't see the point in learning them, I knew I would never travel or work in a field that would require them. I loved music because it made me happy, but I was too good, I was already an accomplished musician before starting high school, in an instrument none of the teachers could play - they hated that and I hated that so I sat in a practice room by myself and did the homework I couldn't be bothered doing the night before. I have good problem solving skills and good memory but not necessarily high intelligence, other people may not have the memory I do but be better with numbers, who knows? I just wish people didn't care so much about these things, lets all just be good at what we are good at and let other people be good at what they are good at!