Curse of the High IQ: Fact of life or just Wishful thinking?

More on the “How big is your brain” debate topics.

I got a copy of a bookthat discusses the problems of those with higher IQ, presumably 2 standard deviations above the mean or higher.

Essentially, the difference between the average person, and the highly gifted person, is as great as the difference between the average person and what used be called a “drooling retard”.

The statistics of this claim seem strong to me; if your IQ is 145, you are as better to a 100 IQ “C Student” as the C student is to around a significantly ‘retarded’ [the word used when I was growing up, which apparently is now ‘special needs’ or some such thing] person at about 55 IQ. I am giving credit that the author doesn’t necessarily claim that IQ is everything, but that is a strong indicator or brainpower.

So is it so simple, more or less? The rest of the book offers supporting argument and anecdote to it. It does at least seem to describe why highly gifted people are not so happy and successful as they ought to be–society is based on the mediocre, not them.

Or is this all wishful thinking on behalf of the author and the ‘I’m too smart to be successful’ crowd?

One problem is that nobody really knows what IQ measures. It does measure something, some stable personal psychological characteristic, in the sense that if you take two different well-designed IQ tests a year apart you probably will get roughly the same score each time. But some think it’s only a test for “secretarial skills.” Psychologists are divided as to whether a general personal intelligence factor g even exists – see Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple (and independent) axes of intelligence.

The only factual thing that I know, in regards to the question, is intelligence is not an indicator of financial success. You need to be above 100, but beyond that, there’s no strong correlation. Strangely, this also appears to be the case for winning at chess.

I think it’s mostly an issue of understanding people. It’s generally going to be easier to understand those who are like you and most people are in the middle.

And there could be secondary effects where, for example, you need the smartest people on the bottom of the heap. If you have an amazingly complicated system, like a computer, a human body, a space ship, or whatever, the smartest people are going to be the ones who are going to be able to create, maintain, and fix problems with those systems. The less intelligent people can have their time better spent dealing with less complex problems like resource management. And part of that resource management will be to keep the smartest people on the front line, dealing with the complex systems.

I spent years in a support group for the parents of gifted students in our school district. I don’t know what they mean by expected success. Intelligence is just one facet of personality - others might play even a bigger role in success.
It is true that schools support people with 145 IQs to the extent that is just a fraction of support for 55 IQs. A couple of bucks a year per student if the state has money. One person in a large district supporting all the students. (And one subdistrict has a ton of gifted students.) At the elementary level they still have to resist the urge to let the gifted students teach the other ones, which does not help.

But all in all it has been pretty positive for them. And for me.

There are many types of intelligence. Chess for instance uses a visual intelligence. I suck at chess, and I’m tone deaf. However I kill at textual intelligence, like trivia and word games.
I know good programmers are supposed to visualize data structures as graphs. I visualize code sequences which I can just write down the way Mozart could write the music he composed entirely in his head.
IQ is one number, but it doesn’t really tell that much about what a person is capable of.

I don’t think it’s so much the problems of having too high an IQ, but just that it doesn’t give you nearly as much of an edge as some people expect it to. And this is in fact because society is geared to people of average intelligence.

And it’s of necessity so - that’s where most of the people are. If a society and its institutions and social structures relied on an IQ of 145, it wouldn’t function. Too many people would fail. So society has to accomodate the average people. It doesn’t have to accomodate the 55 IQ people because there aren’t enough of them to make the “dumbing down” of society worth the accomodation for so few people. So if you’re a 55 IQ guy, you’re going to have a very hard time making it and will need assistance.

But once you’re at 100, you’re OK. Society doesn’t really demand much more than what you have. So if you go up to 145 you’re smarter and have some small advantage, but the marginal benefit is not nearly as great as going from 55 to 100. Because you could already get along at 100, as above.

This is even before getting into other issues, like whether smart people being too different from average people is a hinderance, or whether they have a tendency to rely too much on their IQ as opposed to developing in other necessary areas. Or whether they really are more successful but think they should be more successful yet because they (and everyone else) overrate intelligence as a factor in success and happiness.

But in the context of this OP - the specific comparison of the difference between a 100 IQ versus 55 IQ as compared to the difference between 145 and 100 - the key is society, as above.

I’ve never read the book, but it sounds interesting. I’ve always been interested on what life is like for those who have a truly high IQ. I consider myself smart, but I know based on my experience with academics I am really only slightly smarter than the average person, I can’t compete with the truly smart people (130+ IQ).

One thing I’ve heard both from reading online and from knowing people in person is that some extremely high IQ people become lazy because they never have to work hard, and when they do have to work hard (or they have a goal that can’t be solved solely by a high IQ) they give up or quit easily. That is one major drawback. One guy online said he had become incurably lazy due to his high IQ, he never reached his potential. He found that he could accomplish more with less time/effort than other people, and he got content in that situation of just putting in 1-2 hours a day at work and goofing off the other 6-7.

A guy I knew in college (I was in an academically demanding field which attracted the best students in my state to study it at this university) would skip all his classes, then by his own admission study for 1-2 hours before a test and get an A or B. I attended all the classes, took notes and studied more than that and was lucky to get a B. When I was talking to him he discussed how he got accepted to medical school and how he wished he had tried harder because maybe he could’ve gotten into one of the best medical schools in the country had he exerted a little more effort.

But I have no idea if he survived medical school and residency. He was used to academics involving skipping all your classes, then studying for an hour to get an A. What happens when he gets to medical school and he can’t do that anymore? What happens when he gets to residency and finds no matter how high your IQ, you still have to work 80-90 hours a week? Did he make it, I don’t know. Another guy I used to know breezed through undergrad but dropped out of a grad school program because he said he never had to work in undergrad, and never learned how to do it.

Also IQ is just one of many factors of cognitive skill. Others include working memory and self discipline, there are probably lots of others. I believe the marshmallow study found that self discipline was more important than IQ in determining academic success.

I have known several smart people who became alcoholics and drug users, smart people are more likely to end up as substance abusers.

I think the being OK level is shifting beyond a 100 IQ score because of the increasing value of higher skilled labor and the continual depression of low skilled jobs and income. But sure, once you are beyond a certain threshold of IQ the rest of far more about what you put into something or chance than raw aptitude. Most of the problems we are trying to solve do not require ultra high thresholds of IQ to make a real dent.

That said, there does seem to be a negative correlation between higher iq and reproductive success. Dumber people tend to have more offspring, it would actually benefit society at large if more intelligent people stopped thinking and started… something.

The kids I shared a gifted class with back in the day seemed to do less well on average than the kids in honors/advanced classes. In terms of success I think certain habits are more meaningful once you get to a certain cognitive ability than the ability to do whatever a few more IQ points allow you to do. Having those few extra IQ points may inhibit the development of those behaviors.

Furthermore, when talking about financial success unless one has a very rare talent leadership, sales, and charisma count more than the ability to do differential equations or tensor calculus. With the ability to sell and lead a team you can always hire smarter people than yourself but who lack the people skills.

I think there is definitely something to being smart enough to get things more quickly being a harm rather than a benefit if you are not forced into challenges that keep you on your toes. A higher iq person in a lower iq school will probably more more damped than that same person among more of his peer group.

If you are in a classroom where the pace of the class is often dictated by the questions of a relative snail, the entire class will be slowed down to allow the slower person desperately clinging to comprehension to keep up. What happens if over a decade of a persons k-12 school life is spent quickly solving problems when they get to areas where they have to put in more time? Some stuff is not even hard to understand, just tedious to cover like organic chemistry. You need to memorize a LOT of chemistry and the sort of wham bam thank you mam quick study of some factoids is not going to cover everything.
IS discipline something learned and capable of being built up over time or is it more innate like intelligence? Did we ever get an answer from follow ups to marshmallow style experiments?

I agree with you about where society is centered, but I don’t agree about intelligence being just a small advantage. The really smart people I know professionally tend not to get laid off, for instance, which is not a small advantage financially. Lots of scams in our society - both legal and illegal - can be avoided with the application of intelligence.

Intelligence alone is hardly enough. It does not create a work ethic. In college I noted that those who had been incredibly smarter than their peers in high school slacked off more than those of us who had to compete more.

This I agree with.

My tested IQ in public school was 142, so I don’t quite make the cut, but almost. Personally, I don’t think it measures much more than one’s ability to take standardized tests. I took the SATS as a high school freshman, when I hadn’t taken more than basic Algebra, and freshman English, albeit I was in honors English, and I scored a 540 math. My verbal score was 720. When teachers gave short answer tests in school, I needed to be prepared, but I could score a B on a Scantron test even after missing a week of school with strep, and making no effort to get notes or catch up on homework.

I was once given a test as part of a psychological study, the sole purpose of which was to see how well you did on multiple choice tests. I scored 49 out of 50.

I think on the lower end, the 80-100 range, the IQ tests do what they are supposed to do, and ferret out children who need extra help, but they were never intended to measure the high end, and don’t do so effectively. I was probably bright as a schoolchild, but I don’t really thing I was brighter than someone who scored 125 IQ. I think I had some niche skills that help me do well on fill-in-the-circle tests.

FWIW, I also think they’re fun. I loved test week in school. I thought the tests were fun, and there was no homework all week. Plus, I always finished early, and could sit and read a book.

With some exceptions, individuals who are on the extremes of any spectrum are going to experience difficulties in life. Even beauty has a trade-off.

What’s the difference between “gifted” classes and “advanced” classes?

I take short online quizzes just for the heck of it. My score ranges from 125 to 136. However, on the last two occasions, I scored 141. I discovered a technique. :wink:

I think in some senses we care too much about (apparent) intelligence. In Western film and TV now it’s treated as a super power: the smarter person will know more facts and be able to figure out a solution better than a less intelligent person every time. And they’ll never do anything overtly stupid (apart from maybe have poor social skills, but the implication is always that that stuff is of lower value anyway).

In reality there are lots of ways you can be smart, we’re all ignorant of many things, and motivation and having access to the better learning resources are far more important in most cases.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be resources for the gifted, but that’s not the same thing as the implication that all those with high IQs should be successful, otherwise it’s society’s fault for holding them down.

I also don’t agree with the suggestion that high IQ to normal is the same as normal to “drooling retard”. I might as well say the difference between exercising and resting is the same as between resting and dead, because my heart rate is 120, 60 and 0.

It’s not symmetric in that way. Below 70 say it is likely that a person has specific cognitive impairments caused by a congenital defect, infection or trauma. Their brain is essentially not 100% functional.
Whereas at, say, 85 and above (depending on which IQ test) the parts of the brain all function adequately and a person can pretty much do anything a human can do. Just possibly slower for certain tasks.
Obviously some people will point to an example like theoretical physics at this point, but I’m not convinced that a motivated person with IQ 100 could not be at least a good if not excellent theorist with the right education.

And patience. And focus. And it helps if your first chess teacher didn’t enjoy watching 7yo you lose more than he enjoyed teaching.

IQ is the ability to pass IQ tests. Depending on which type of IQ test we’re talking about, they actually measure different types of intelligence, but several things they do not measure are:

  • the ability to manipulate social situations in your favor,
  • the desire to do so,
  • the need to be alpha dog,
  • the ability to get others to follow your instructions when given in a straighforward manner,
  • and to give those instructions in such a manner that whomever needs to follow them understands them correctly
    all of which are components of “rising in a corporate setting” and/or of “being a successful entrepreneur”, which is what apparently many people mean by success.

I’m afraid I have the same problem with “success” as with “quality”. For many people, “quality” means “high specs, or many specs” - in their world, a Ferrari is always better than a Citroën; to me it means “specs and cost which fulfill the needs of its user” - given how and where most of my driving takes place, a C1 makes much more sense than a Testarossa no matter how much prettier the second one is. For many people, “success” means “making a lot of money”, for me it means “happiness”.

This may have been peculiar to the county I went to school in but advanced/honors courses were courses that presented the material quicker or had extra work load. Gifted classes were not extra work load but the material and the way the material was presented differed. It’s been 30 years so the memories aren’t super sharp.

In general, in my experience at least, the gifted teachers were far more tolerant of creative approaches and self directed learning. Honors and advanced teachers not so flexible. Qualifications also differed. Honors and advanced usually required a particular grade or pre requisite. Whereas the gifted program required an IQ test and a series of psychological tests but grades were irrelevant.

And that leads to an interesting divergence. The honors and advanced kids typically had more discipline and a stronger work ethic even if they weren’t as quick to internalize a new concept or to see a weird connection.

So what happens when the kid has the necessary grades/prerequisite for honors and has the necessary IQ for gifted? Does one course of classes typically trump the other? Does anyone do both?

“Success” here is being defined for the average man’s understanding, mainly financial bounty and recognition. That is an easy was to degrade one’s gift of superior intelligence. Without that, I will rather give my observation about how the various cultures I know regard high IQ: having a high IQ pushes aside whatever disadvantage you may have with regard to physical appearance or financial condition.