Sunday, March 11, 2007

Are Mensa Members Thick?

Mulling over this - Why Intelligent People Tend to be Unhappy - I have decided this sociologist has too narrow a definition of intelligence. I think he's talking about the kind of intelligence that advertises itself. Gordon Brown, for example, keeps flaunting his learning, so everybody thinks he has this mighty intellect. In fact, Blair is obviously much more intelligent, his mind being applied to political agility rather than pretending to be smart. For my generation, one way of flaunting intelligence was to be unhappy. I think it began with the black-clad existentialists in Paris. It is, in part, this tendency that Allin has spotted. In addition, he takes things at face value; he notes, for example, that lots of the members of Mensa have lowly jobs. In fact, if you're a member of Mensa you're likely to be pretty thick, having taken the self-evidently dumb decision to join in the first place. And then Allin blows it completely when he speaks of 'the average person whose primary sources of news and information is comedy shows on television.' Good grief, man, what other source is there?

28 comments:

  1. Allin is a classic case of a man with a theory that he has set out to prove, flying in the face of all other kinds of evidence that he has chosen to ignore. What an idiot.

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  2. I agree that intelligence is no guarantee of happiness. It is often accompanied by heightened sensitivity and awareness, and often a heightened moral awareness, so intelligent people agonise over decisions and actions that other people just get on with.

    There is also the problem of fitting in. The world is designed for the 80 per cent of people who are averagely intelligent so if you fall outside of this range you're in trouble. The reasons why intelligent people often end up in lowly jobs is (a) difficulty in making decisions due to being interested in lots of things and finding it diffcult to stay interested and (b) trying to disguise their intelligence to fit in with the average.

    I spent years thinking I was stupid, I hated school and got average qualifications, I have been fired from jobs, I work in a call centre, but people kept telling me I was intelligent and eventually I took a formal IQ test under exam conditions and my IQ is in the top 5 per cent of the population.

    This politically correct "everyone is gifted" thing is bollocks. Everybody acknowledges on some level that there are people who are more talented than the norm and those who deny it are just envious.

    But why am I wasting my time trying to get your sympathy? I know I won't get any and I'm probably better off without it anyway.

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  3. Of course, there is The Simpsons episode in which the intellectual elite- notably Lisa and Comic Book Guy - take over Springfield. They fail, of course. But does this mean they are not intelligent or that intelligence is no use in politics? The latter may be right. I interviewed Bill Clinton once and came to the conclusion he was just too smart to have been president.

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  4. Why should you doubt my sympathy, Anon? You have it

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  5. As Huxley said, "Intelligence and knowlege without goodwill and charity are apt to be inhuman".
    Intelligence can be of great use in politics- look at Josef Goebbells, who did so much in the development of the propaganda industry, whose fruits we see all around us, or don't see all around us perhaps.
    It's blindingly obvious that we're dwelling in a kind of culture of idiocy as far as the mainstream goes. ANd it's blindingly obvious that there is an interest in dumbed-down populations which the ruling elites can control in relative ease.. "How good for the governments of the world that their people don't think" as Hitler said.
    As far as the various forms of intellectual abilities go, the importance of using them is succinctly and powerfully put in the parable of the talents. Otherwise the hordes of Huxley's inhuman men of intelligence and knowledge unallied to goodwill and charity will drag us down into wholly undesirable depths. Not that mainstream culture hasn't suck to tragic-pitiful levels already.

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  6. ...primary sources of news and information is comedy shows...

    Undoubtedly this is so, Bryan.

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  7. I work with fearsomely intelligent people and have constant dealings with the world's "top scientists", many Nobel laureates among them. One truth I have observed over the years is that there is little if any correlation between intelligence and common sense.

    As you say, whether people who score highly on mensa tests are by definition intelligent is a good question.

    Measuring parameters such as "happiness" and generalising is impossible, in my view, as there are so many confounding factors to any attempt at a controlled study -- biological, social and circumstantial.

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  8. I once encountered a middle-aged woman who wore a lapel badge advertising that she was a member of Mensa. It must have been like a religious thing for her.

    It would be very easy to pour scorn on such behaviour - which in itself is no reason not to do so - but when a psychological prop is that pitifully obvious it would just be evil to kick it away.

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  9. So it would seem. Although there is the possibility - so hideous that one is barely able to contemplate it - that she made it herself.

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  10. and I wonder how many of them have spilt coffee all over their trousers seeing if it is symmetric?

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  11. I'm a miserable sod. I wonder am I intelligent. If so, I can just add it to the list of things that contribute to my unhappiness. Although it won't make the top five:
    (1) Other people (usually).
    (2) Being me (mostly).
    (3) Not being me (really).
    (4) Death (in general).
    (5) Weak tea (what's the point?).

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  12. I don't think ultra- smart people have alot of common sense. I've known university genuises who couldn't, for the life of them, get to grips with loading and unloading a dishwasher.
    Yet some deadbeat just off the dole, with no experience either, would walk in and do it fine.

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  13. So, Bill Allin makes unsupported assertions. He suggest that "Not enough study exists to quote on this subject." Now, what is enough in his view? Because, there are quite a few studies around and there is no such general set of conclusions that flows from them.

    I think he is picking on potentially controversial topic and trying to get attention for his book.

    Anonomous was right when (s)he mentioned dreaded Bell Curve effect. Unfortunatelly, it operates everywhere. Those who challenge it on either side of Atlantic (however scientific their argument) have long been treated badly in public by both press and their professional colleagues. I am talking from family experience - in order to protect his children my father in law changed the surname so that they do not get victimised at school (by teachers!) and at university (by fellow students). It happened in this country, not former communist countries.

    Of course we learn the most from comedies - the best are written by very intelligent people! For a start, all Pythons were Oxbridge grads.

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  14. Brit, I want the mug. And, Neil, weak tea is a delight. I only ever drink Darjeeling myself. Oh and fresh mint

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  15. I only ever drink Darjeeling, too -- but without the mint.

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  16. Darjeeling. I see. Well, it was far from Darjeeling tea I was reared. And Darjeeling-sipping types, if there were any in my neighbourhood, kept to themselves. The sun had long sinced set for them and their ilk.

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  17. "Why Intelligent People Tend to be Unhappy"

    Perhaps this is the wrong question. Perhaps unhappy people tend to be intelligent.

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  18. Is membership of MENSA & FIS mutually exclusive ?

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  19. In fact, if you're a member of Mensa you're likely to be pretty thick, having taken the self-evidently dumb decision to join in the first place.

    What's wrong with joining Mensa? If they do nothing else they remind those capable of understanding genetic diversity that all men are not created equal when it comes to intelligence.

    I didn't take the Mensa test until I was 55, and I when I qualified, it put much of my past, including my experiences in school, in context. Suddenly, I realized why I had such difficulty grasping the very average thinking of the vast majority of individuals in the human population.

    High-IQ individuals don't fit in. They are so small in number that they are doomed to the status of political minority in a political system where majority rules. They will have many of the most important choices of their lives made by those of much lesser intellect.

    If you had a Mensa level IQ, would you want to have a person of average IQ take your IQ test for you? Bad news! Imagine in your world of imaginary ideas what life is like having them make many of the most important choices in life for you.

    Average people believe that since so many people agree with them, they are "obviously" right. Just like it's "self-evidently" dumb to join Mensa, I guess.

    Here's another real, not imaginary, fact for you to consider: A Mensa level IQ is at least two standard deviations above an average IQ of 100. An average IQ is two standard deviations above retarded individuals. Mensa members are as far away from the "norm" as the retarded, and sometimes treated with he same contempt as evidenced by your comments and others on this post.

    When a Mensa level IQ looks down the IQ bell curve two standard deviations to average, he's seeing the same relative difference that the average person sees when he looks down two standard deviations to the retarded. What high-IQ has in common with "thick" (slow or retarded) is that both are at least two standard deviations from the average of 100. They are both political minorities. But they are at least four standard deviations from each other on the IQ scale.

    To the huge mountain of mediocrity in the middle of the bell curve, both the retarded and the genius seem odd or "thick", just because they are both so far away from average.

    My biggest problem with Mensa is that they are not more militant politically in defending their members' right to make their own choices in life. If they appear "thick" it's probably because they have very average people making their choices for them, or imagining what choices they should make.

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  20. I've always wondered if extreme intelligence, like extreme creativity, is just another form of mental derangement...which hasn't been recognized or named as such because it's generally positive for society. Have you ever noticed that many of our great writers and artists were bi-polar? Einstein. Hmnn. Definitely a bit off.

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  21. I have to wonder if a person who says that Mensa members are thick is simply bitter because he couldn't join Mensa himself.

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  22. Speaking from my experience with MENSA, I think it's an organization, not so much for people whose IQs are high, as for people whose *only* asset is a high IQ. In other words, to belong to MENSA, one does not need looks, position, talent, social graces, or any other generally valued quality, beyond intelligence.

    In 1980, a male friend at work encouraged me to take the MENSA test. I did so, and qualified (IQ 135). My friend invited me to a local MENSA Halloween costume party, so I could get a sense of the group he wanted me to join.

    Although the room was crowded, and everyone (myself included) was in costume, my efforts to start and sustain conversation went nowhere. An unsolicited comment from one woman has stayed with me to this day:

    "We figured you couldn't really be MENSA, because you're too pretty. We thought you were just arm candy that [my friend's name] brought along."

    Clearly, she had sized me up at once and decided I didn't "belong."
    Look at all the "Get Out and Stay Outs" she packed into two short sentences:

    We: The group that SHE belonged to, but I did not.
    Too pretty: An attempt to make me feel excluded from this, HER group, for my looks alone.
    Arm Candy: Un-called for denigration of me as a person, thinly disguised as in-group humor.

    This woman, then, was protecting her territory. She was able to "belong" despite being judgmental, unkind, jealous of someone she didn't even know, and lacking in the grace to keep her mouth shut about all three.

    Throughout my adult life, I have seldom had trouble "fitting in." I have a lot of respect for most of the people I meet. They seem to be doing OK with their lives. My IQ hasn't been a guarantee of anything--I have had to ask other people for help many times over in my life. Does my failure to "fit in" with MENSA say more about MENSA--or about me?

    At any rate, I didn't think it would be smart to pay the MENSA membership fee...and I still don't :-)

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  23. I took the Mensa test some years ago. I have an IQ of 176 which is in the top 1%. I had always found my peers to be incomrihensably thick and didn't get on with the majority of my teachers at school because I couldn't understand why they were so dumb, and sometimes told them so. When I was invited to join Mensa I figured the final part of the intellegence test was whether I would pay to be a member. I declined, as I figured to accept would negate my high intelegence. Recently, finding myself working in a school surrounded by idiot teachers, I decided I would join, to try to intereact with people of a similar intelect to my own, but found that I had joined a club of the most boring, socially inept morons imaginable. I have not renewed my subscription.

    Intelegence is a curse, not a blessing. I am destined, to live in a world of "retards" for the rest of my life.

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  24. "Anonymous" quoted:

    "We figured you couldn't really be MENSA, because you're too pretty. We thought you were just arm candy that [my friend's name] brought along."

    'Clearly, she had sized me up at once and decided I didn't "belong."
    Look at all the "Get Out and Stay Outs" she packed into two short sentences:

    We: The group that SHE belonged to, but I did not.
    Too pretty: An attempt to make me feel excluded from this, HER group, for my looks alone.
    Arm Candy: Un-called for denigration of me as a person, thinly disguised as in-group humor. [...]

    'Does my failure to "fit in" with MENSA say more about MENSA--or about me?'

    I cannot comment about the woman's tone of voice, facial expression or gestures, as I was not there. Commenting as to her words only, coming from 24 years of Mensa membership, I believe you may have misinterpreted her meaning.

    Mensa is far, far from the elite group 95% of the world believes it to be. Seventy percent of the group is merely a social group where like-minded people can find others who can discuss theories and current events on similar levels.

    The remaining thirty percent of Mensa is, frankly, social rehab for the extremely intelligent. I'm not talking the 99th percentile (Mensa is 98% percentile and above). But 99.99%+. Very intelligent people often neglect social skills, and intelligence also closely correlates with mild autism, Asperger's syndrome and mental illness. In my 24 years, I've found the higher the score, the lower the manners (and often hygeine). Mensans in the 98 to 99.9 range seem to have a better handle on things socially, although of course there are exceptions on each end.

    Again, coming from my experience and from the quote you give only, it sounds to me like the woman you encountered was putting the GROUP down, not you. You simply made the assumption that it was you. You even twisted her words around. I honestly think she was giving you a compliment (i.e., "you obviously don't need social rehab.")

    Why don't you try one more open house, just as an experiment? You just might find, as many, many thousands of us have, a very satisfying social outlet.

    Best, Helen Geerlings
    Past President, Orange County Mensa

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  25. By all means pay to get your intelligence tested by mensa and if you find it is way above the average, for goodness sake use it to do something productive, positive and truly great with your life, maybe study something which will allow you to produce something which actually benefits humanity, but don't waste it joining a social club for extreme right wing ranters.....

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  26. Reading through this blog I am amazed at the level of stereotyping. Not all MENSA members resemble the cast of Revenge of the Nerds. The fact is that your physical appearance has nothing to do with determining if you are brilliant or average or even below average. If some chose to sit around and talk exclusively about topics like quantum physics, good for them, at least they have found someone to share an interest with. If MENSA provides a forum for those people, then who are we to challenge that? I can tell you that brains do not equal confidence and much of the negative feedback MENSA receives is from those who have encountered a genius level person who has a low self-esteem. Anyone with a higher IQ should recognize that everyone has value regardless of their sex or ethnicity. Bottom line if you are really brilliant you have the ability to keep an open mind on all issues.

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