Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Mind" -> What's In An IQ?

I was reading about the IQ of Jimmy Carter today, and some have said that he was a very intelligent individual. Thus, it got me wondering what my IQ would be if I tested it. So I decided that I would go to the Mensa Danmark website, where they (because they are very smart individuals) have created an online test to solve for IQ.

If you are interested, you can take the test here.

So, I sat down at the tube, and started the test. I have been interested in intelligence for some time, so I've read quite a bit about intelligence, yet I've never gotten around to taking a standardized test. As you can see from the graph, I have (drum roll) an IQ of 118 points. If you look on the standardized tables, this places me into the top 12% or so of the general population.

The test, as given on the website, is a series of puzzles that don't use words. Commonly, this type of IQ test is referred to as Raven's Progressive Matrices. The cool thing about Raven's Matrices is that they don't use words. So, you can have people of different languages take the exact same test.Here is a picture of one of the matrices in action. You have a series of 8 pictures, and you are to fill in the blank.

In this example, you need to put in a picture with three dots up and down (the second one) because you should be able to see a pattern where the top line is all the same, the middle line is all the same, so the bottom line should be all the same.

I've done a little bit of reading on these types of tests, but I've never really sat down and taken one. Even as I was in the middle of taking the test, I started to "get the hang" of it. In some cases the puzzles force you to look at the entire picture, in some cases the picture forces you to look down the rows, and in others across the rows.

If I had taken this test before, I would have said to myself "okay, let's go down the rows, across the rows, then lets count up the total number of symbols." However, it was halfway into the test before I started to understand this. So, I am almost positive that if I practiced a bit, I could bring up my score by some measure.

The bigger problem with IQ tests is that they don't seem to correlate all that well with success in life. Now, Bill Gates is know to be pretty bright with a combined SAT score of around 1590, which people have translated into an IQ of 160. However, I am more likely to listen to the words of the world's second richest man, Warren Buffet:

"Success in investing doesn't correlate with I.Q. once you're above the level of 25. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing." - BusinessWeek Interview June 25 1999


I have met with more than my fair success in life. I fundamentally believe that super smart people that I know normally have two issues:

1. They don't have self control
2. They don't have the ability to look something up

If you are a moderately smart person like myself, you are forced to work hard to stay up with your peers. As we've found out in my posts on acquisition of expert skills, the key in any area is simply spending 10,000 hours in deliberate practice. To the ultrasmart person, they don't need to work hard to get good results. Therefore, they find out that they have never learned to work hard. When they finally need to study, they can't. Their "discipline center" is half developed.

The second issue with really smart people is that they don't look it up. I have constantly been told "wow, you are really smart." In all seriousness, I often tell people "I'm not smart, but I steal really well."

It took Newton something like 20 years to figure out that the center of mass of an object could serve as a simplification for doing linear superposition on all the component parts of a mass in a equation for physical movement.

However, every structural engineer knows the center of mass is the right short cut about 1 week into their first class. Why? Because they are told that it is. If somebody else has derived it, you don't have to find it out again.

Intelligence is one thing.

It is not the only thing.

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