Why IQ Determines Everything in Your Life (the Sad Truth)

From Medium:

“People who boast about their IQ are losers.” — Stephen Hawking

Hawking has a point — nobody likes a sore winner. That being said, the intelligent quotient (IQ) test is one of the most valid and reliable psychometrics ever created.

According to the mental health website verywell Mind, “An IQ test is an assessment that measures a range of cognitive abilities and provides a score that is intended to serve as a measure of an individual’s intellectual abilities and potential.”

. . . .

High IQ = Better Life

Research has shown that high IQ leads to more money, increased success, and longer, healthier life in general. One historic study detailed the benefits of high IQ:

  • The average income of Terman’s subjects in 1955 was an impressive $33,000 compared to a national average of $5,000.
  • Two-thirds had earned college degrees, while a large number had gone on to attain post-graduate and professional degrees. Many of these had become doctors, lawyers, business executives, and scientists.

In case you were wondering, the average IQ score is 100. And anything above 140 is considered a high or genius-level IQ. Einstein’s IQ was 160. Jacob Barnett’s IQ is 170. Barnett was a child prodigy who graduated college at age 10.

He’s now an astrophysicist at age 22.

. . . .

The Truth About IQ

Studies show that most of our intelligence is genetic. However, IQ can be increased and there seems to be one surefire way to do it —

“Just do it.” — Nike

Yes, no jokes, nothing up my sleeves, this is the foolproof method to hacking your IQ — “just doing it.” Ok, more specifically, doing activities such as playing music, exercising, reading, learning, adventuring, exploring — all of it, JUST DO IT!

Exercise, for instance, boosts neuroplasticity, which is the process of your brain making connections and creating new neurons.

Want to learn a new language? Why not exercise. A 2017 study conducted by the University of Zurich in Switzerland revealed the process of learning a new language is expedited by physical exercise.

The study looked at college-aged Chinese men and women who were trying to learn English. Those who rode exercise bikes at a gentle pace outperformed those in vocabulary tests who did no exercise at all.

Musicians Also Have Higher IQs.

Vanderbilt University psychologists Crystal Gibson, Bradley Folley, and Sohee Park found that professionally trained musicians use both the left and the right sides of their frontal cortex more heavily than the average person.

“We studied musicians because creative thinking is part of their daily experience, said Folley in regards to the study. We found that there were qualitative differences in the types of answers they gave to problems and in their associated brain activity.”

Even your taste in music affects IQ.

Link to the rest at Medium

PG notes that the OP appears to suffer from more than a few correlation = causation issues.

If IQ is a characteristic that you are born with, how can what you do affect your IQ?

If a high IQ is, in fact, a reflection of your ability to score well on IQ and other standardized tests rather than something you were born with, is it an acquired ability.

Assume, as a thought experiment than someone born with an extremely high intelligence never received any sort of education and was not exposed to anyone who came from a background different than his/her own, would that person perform well on an IQ test? Would listening to classical music without doing anything else result in that person performing better on an IQ test?

PG has also known more than a few very bright idiots. One of the most intelligent people he ever worked with, a person who had developed patented technology that was regarded as a brilliant breakthrough in his well-compensated field of expertise, suffered from terrible business judgement and, despite his diligent efforts towards increasing his wealth, his financial circumstances reflected his stupid business decisions.

Related to his prior comment, PG also suggests that there is a difference between intelligence and aptitude for a wide variety of pursuits.

Plus, everybody knows an idiot who graduated with honors from a highly-prestigious university.

Lest anyone mistake PG’s attitude for envy or something similar, PG will reveal that he possesses a high IQ.

He was intrigued by the subject when he was in elementary and high school, but the standard belief of people who may have known his IQ at the time was that it was a bad idea for someone, at least someone of PG’s age and (lack of) maturity to know what their IQ was.

After he graduated from college and was working in Chicago, PG learned that he could pay a nominal sum, take an IQ test and learn what his IQ was. He did that very thing, then accepted the offer of the person who administered the test to join a group of people whose sole common trait was a high IQ.

PG never attended any meetings because he heard they were full of weird and boring people from others who had attended such meetings.

PG has known several people who he and others regarded as geniuses in particular fields – painting, musical performance, acting, film-making, public speaking, litigation and electronics – are examples.

There is no doubt that each of these people were/are intelligent in a conventional sense, but they also have a talent they have worked to develop and which allows them to surpass equally intelligent or more intelligent individuals who either lack that talent or have not put in the work necessary to magnify that talent to a high level.

For PG, the individuals he regards as geniuses in particular fields deserve the title far more than those he has known who simply possess a high IQ score.

15 thoughts on “Why IQ Determines Everything in Your Life (the Sad Truth)”

  1. Discussing Intelligence and/or IQ is a sensitive subject, especially in times and places tbat value equality of outcome over everything else. I.e., today’s west.
    This is not universal, though.

    In times past Intelligence/IQ was used for things other than understanding human nature and mental processes which is also part of what makes it is a risky subject to discuss in modern times and more so to research. On result of this is that there is a big disconnect between our understanding of brain functioning and mind functioning.

    Still, some things are known, if not discussed in polite society.

    Intelligence is an inborn trait and IQ is a reflection of that trait, focused on *problem solving*. High IQ requires high intelligence but high intelligence does not guarantee a high IQ because IQ is the result of intelligence and life experience (education, trainging, etc) combined and, yes, it needs exercise and training to be of value in today’s world.

    IQ is very useful in the STEM world and since we live in a technological civilization, IQ correlates well with success in modernity.

    Intelligence by itself or coupled with self-defeating behavior will be useless. (Malcom Gladwell’s misguided OUTLIERS took the case of a very high Intelligence person who hasn’t been successful in modern terms to argue that intelligence and IQ aren’t differentiators, that all that matters is luck and connections. Yeah. Right.)


    That said, Intelligence does not lead only to developing problem solving skills.
    It can lead to creativity and success in a variety of fields (the arts, crafts, athletics, etc) or, coupled with low empathy, sociopathy, or even psychopathy lead to “success” in less savory fields ranging from politics to crime.

    IQ isn’t destiny but it does say something about the person, just as TMI does. 😀

  2. Oh, hear hear, PG!

    I have lost count of the number of IQ tests I’ve taken*, but one thing I do know: no two scores were the same. If IQ depends entirely on which test you take, why bother? It’s not a reliable measure. Even when testing for a society which is probably the same one you joined–taking two tests on the same day, with the provisio that one could qualify on either one–the scores didn’t agree.

    The tests were all culturally biased; they did not measure any of the other six (? last I read about this there were seven different kinds of “intelligence,” including arts and physical ability) types; and as you point out, having a high IQ score does not mean a person is more knowledgeable, nicer, more competent outside a narrow area, tolerant, broadminded, or someone you’d want to sit down and have a cup of tea with. A person MIGHT be any or all of those things and have a pretty typical, “average” IQ. (Although what that might mean, given no one can agree on those all important scores, heaven only knows.)

    *Having teachers pursuing a Masters in Ed Psych means you’re automatically part of a herd of guinea pigs. Or several herds.

    • Intelligence is real. And problem solving is a real ability.
      There is no reason it can’t be measured as accurately as blood pressure except too many people are afraid of what accurate measurements might tell us.

      Just because something is hard to measure doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
      Nor should we dismiss something because it tells us things we’re not comfortable with.
      Over near Geneva the biggest machine in the world was built to try to measure things we don’t know exist because knowing is better than not knowing.

      If IQ tests aren’t consistent, wouldn’t it be better to know *why* they’re inconsistent than to pretend what they seek to quantify isn’t real?

    • While none of your scores were the same, I imagine they were all within a fairly limited range of each other–if you scored, say, a 110 on one test, I highly doubt that you then got a 95 and a 125. Just because you can’t measure something precisely doesn’t mean it isn’t real or that it doesn’t affect your life.

      That having been said, the emphasis on IQ is somewhat pernicious, for the reasons you and PG cited.

        • Which is why all should be reported as percentiles or equivalent.

          A number is totally meaningless without its scoring system, especially when that number is above 100.

          And the only people who don’t want a score attached to something measurable are those who feel threatened by it.

          PG is obviously intelligent – it shows very strongly in his writing and the breadth of his interests, only some of which I assume end up here.

          I was heavily discouraged from testing my children – it was made incredibly difficult, and I had to prove I needed the information (to help them develop, if anyone cares, as I ended up homeschooling) to a whole range of people even though I was paying for the testing.

          However, if your child is below average (or below the capacity of the tester/school administrator/teacher), they are delighted to test – it leads to more money and I assume a ‘helping’ feeling.

          My main reason is that I was constantly battling “Oh, don’t worry about it – by third grade all the children are about the same,” from sources such as our local public schools, and the perception that all parents think their little angels are remarkable and the school officials and teachers are justifiably tired of that. Bizarre.

          I wanted to provide an appropriate education. I did. And I didn’t want to hold the younger kids to the oldest’s standards if it wasn’t appropriate. It was. We had an awful lot of fun with three bright kids and a disabled mother with almost no energy. I needed to spend that very carefully.

          • In Puerto Rico the education system used to use tracking, sorting student based on achievement into three tracks after grade 8. And yes, the testing was percentile based.

            Advanced students moved on to high school a year early. The rest were sorted into remedials, who received intensive catchup attention among peers until they could be mainstreamed, and three career paths: general for the college bound, vocational for the trade bound (transfered to a vocational high school offering training in several trades), and business.

            It wasn’t the kind of individualized training of well-executed home schooling but it came close, helping laggards catch up and keeping advanced students engaged with more challenging material and college grade optional courses. And it gave the trade-bound a leg up on skills for well paying trades. Everybody got choice. Nobody graduated only good for entry level grunt work.

            Then the egalitarian politicians took over.
            A dozen different approaches as the administrations change and the politically connected Education Secretaries experiment with the latest trendy educational theory, none as effective as tracking.

            Children aren’t a generic commodity and educational systems that refuse to admit it in service of ideology do nobody any good. We know better but it isn’t as easy as putting bags of gold on catapults. Or politically acceptable.

            • The German system does something similar, and makes sure the kids have good current skills for a trade job or academic path, as suggested by their performance in the school system so far.

              I have no idea how flexible it is if the student disagrees with the assessment.

              Also, last I checked, the Germans have banned homeschooling. It may have something to do with not wanting exclusive religious schooling allowing some of its kids to avoid what the State officially wants for its citizens.

              I benefited from New Jersey’s easier stand on supervision (parents had won ALL the court cases when I started); Pennsylvania, just across the river, and where most of our group activities were, had a LOT of annual supervision – the amount of work PROVING you were doing a good job was considerable, and took away from doing that job for someone like me with limited energy. But our kids did well every year on standardized tests (that was my annual ‘are we on track’ test – others don’t like standardized tests).

              Homeschooling is, like all systems, subject to a potential for abuse. I didn’t know any families abusing the system – but they were not likely to participate in our group, which was quite academically oriented. In NJ, they went after families for ‘child abuse’ – and the judges threw the cases out after meeting the well-educated kids.

  3. I have no doubt that TPVers collectively have IQs far above
    100. We are soooo cool. And smart.

  4. I quit caring about specific high IQ once I realized that the difference between the bright and the not-so-bright was obvious and it was genuinely rude to bring it up, and once I’d had enough life experience to value character over brains (within reason). Meet enough failed geniuses and worthwhile regular folks, and that’ll happen.

    That said, yes, I had plenty of tests, some of whose results I know, and plenty of failures to bloom in reality in certain contexts where I might have expected effortless success, giving me a better understanding of the worth of the bare metric. Watch a few high-IQ people fail in ordinary ways like everyone else, and you learn a lot.

    But my favorite test was one I was too young to recall and wasn’t a (deliberate) test. My birthday was just before year-end, and when my mother went to enter me in kindergarten for the coming year, she brought me and met with a teacher while parking me in the corner of the kindergarten room to amuse myself. The teacher explained to my mother why it would be better for me to wait a year rather than suffer the disadvantage of being younger than my classmates. After my mother demurred, they turned to discover I had assembled all the wooden jigsaw puzzles on the shelves in the back of the room and was looking for something more interesting to do.

    The teacher stopped objecting.

    Testing is always an interesting problem. Very bright people who do poorly on intelligence tests usually fail to understand the limitations of the test designers — they aim for the subtle best response, not the obvious one (the subtle one not being perceived by the test designer). For many years ETS (the people who build the SATs) was a software client of mine, and I was dismayed to discover that they are really all about discrimination in the mid-range of abilities. They are effectively worthless at the high end (not their target), and thus a minefield for the very bright who haven’t internalized the viewpoint of others, esp. those in the mid-range. High IQ is not a sufficient defense for that sort of test; meta-test intelligence is needed. And in my opinion, the test designers at the high-end for high-IQ candidates necessarily suffer from the same (though higher) limitations. This may have something to do with the inconsistency of test results.

    • The extremes are taboo.
      As is the acknowledged but deprecated genetic contribution.
      Some things are forbidden knowledge.

      If we ever develop a true science of thought and learning it will likely come later than needed and come via the functional, neurological side. It is hard to learn what you’re afraid to discover.

      • I also suspect there is a little-studied puberty component to changes in IQ. I vividly remember, 50 years ago, being 17 and lamenting how much smarter I was when I was 13. I’ve heard similar anecdotes from others.

        Though lacking data to support it, I would not be surprised to discover that part of the cause of the apparent statistical deficit of female geniuses vs male is due to hormonal changes at puberty in one or both sexes.

        If true, imagine the outrage. 🙂

        • About fems, maybe.

          It is generally accepted that males at puberty acquire a variable 50-70% IQ drop in the presence of females. Which approaches 100% as blood alcohol increases.

  5. If the guys 30,000 years ago devised an IQ test, what would they measure?

    How would we score on that test today?

    • They had one.
      It was called survival.
      Good problem solvers endured, tbe others became dire wolf fodder.

      And today their score would depend on the education and life experiences available to them. The OP correctly points out that intelligence, like athletic ability, needs to be challenged and exercised. And like athletics, intelligence is a gradient distribution. But where 30,000 years ago the athletically gifted could outrun the wolf while the intelligent hid on a tree top, today you can’t just outrun unemployment.

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