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Busting the IQ Test Myth

October 3, 2006

Have you ever wondered whether people with low scores in IQ tests are really less intelligent that people who score brilliantly?

If you have, you are not alone. Doubts such as these have plagued researchers and laymen for years. Howard Gardner, a Harvard educationist, was one of the first voices of authority who raised questions about the efficacy of intelligence testing. It was only after the publication of his book Frames of Mind some twenty years ago, that new fuel was added to the fire.

IQ tests test just one ‘type’ of intelligence
In the light of what we know today about ‘emotional’ and ‘social’ intelligence, it is significant that as far back as that, Gardner put forward his various theories of ‘intelligence.’

The ‘intelligence’ tested by IQ tests he said was just one ‘type’ of intelligence, what is called ‘academic intelligence.’ Gardner was hailed as a genius by several educators who said that he had ‘liberated them from the ‘one-size-fits-all pedagogy and given them a framework to help children develop individual strengths – as artists, scientists, or just good citizens.’

Different cultures, different standards
Long before Gardner, fallacies about intelligence testing had done the rounds. It was more or less accepted that cultural differences between test subjects distorted test results. For example an intelligent Sudanese from the jungles of Africa, with superior survival skills and finely developed leadership qualities was likely to perform worse in an IQ test than an average school-boy from a developed country. To counter this, tests to suit different cultures were devised, but unfortunately they never became as popular as the standard ones.

It’s just practice
However, even those from similar cultural backgrounds can produce distorted results in IQ tests. That is because those familiar with the tests perform better than those doing them for the first time!

What are the barometers of Intelligence?
But the most disturbing fact about IQ tests are the limited number of skills that are taken to be the barometers of intelligence. Qualities like verbal ability and fluency, agility with numbers, memory, perceptual speed, spatial visualisation and reasoning are the usual barometers that are tested. These are not a comprehensive list however. Of these, memory, speed, and skills like verbal ability are considered by educators to be simply tools which are used by people for certain tasks, and not indicative of intelligence.

We just have to think of Einstein to know how true this is. Einstein, a creative genius once said: ‘My intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time.’ He was ofcourse referring to his poor reading and writing skills.

Many legendary geniuses have lacked the so-called logical and calculative abilities tested in IQ tests. Yet these people achieved fantastic results in the fields in which they worked, often producing inventions which the world had never seen before. Often it was their acceptance and analysis of seemingly illogical modes of thinking which have played a part in their creative genius.

When Galileo said that the earth was round he was ridiculed. And when physicist Murray Gell Mann from the Santa Fe Institute said that protons and neuron of atoms are formed of subatomic ‘quarks’ with fractional electrical charges, he too was laughed at in the beginning. But these men had the courage to explore seemingly ridiculous ideas, and proved them correct.

Highly intelligent people can fail IQ tests
Einstein and Galileo would have probably failed the standard IQ tests. What the IQ tests would not have been able to measure was their ability to form novel combinations of ideas, amazing combinations which average minds would not have the ability to create. Their brains are able to make brilliant neural connections, the likes of which can never be measured in IQ tests. IQ tests deal in possibilities, and work with tried and tested problems, that is their very nature.

Intelligence is taking an idea through to its logical conclusion
Laymen might consider these novel conclusions by geniuses as some forms of ‘intuition’ but this is not so. The conclusions that these men reached were a result of logical and brilliant thinking. They were able to reach them not only because they thought of them, but because they were the kind of people who did not discount any possibilities, however ridiculous they sounded. A standard IQ test simply cannot measure the tenacity and persistence that these minds possess. Persistence which stands like a rock against society’s ridicule. Also, IQ tests are unable to measure the high mental concentration that these minds possess.

Intelligence is imagination
There is also the imaginative faculty. Writers, musicians, and even scientists, possess this to a high degree and it is quite impossible to quantify it in IQ tests. Picasso for instance saw numbers as patterns ever since he was a child, and in 1965 A Kekuli discovered the shape of a benzene molecule by dreaming of it as a snake biting its tail – round!

Intelligence is related to life
Besides the creative and imaginative genius, there are other qualities which are not measured in standard IQ tests. These set of qualities fall under the category of ‘practical intelligence’ and consist not only of ‘social intelligence’ and ‘emotional’ intelligence, but also an ability to solve day to day problems. Many highly intelligent people possess this type of intelligence and they are usually very successful in life.

Social intelligence includes leadership qualities, good interpersonal relations, the ability to judge other people’s moods and behavior and an ability to sell one’s ideas to others. A detailed analysis of socially intelligent people revealed characteristics like punctuality and an ability to compromise and see another’s point of view.

A problem solving ability can mean an ability to read maps to simply finding solutions to daily irritations. Good problem solvers are clear, positive thinkers who do not dismiss solutions because they sound unworkable or because they come from an unacceptable source. Good problem solvers think solutions through before abandoning them and geniuses as well as highly intelligent people possess this ability.

Academically brilliant people are often mentally lazy
On the other hand, many academically brilliant people, people who score extremely well in IQ tests, do not think problems and solutions through. They are used to pat solutions. Worse, their academic intelligence often makes them arrogant and impatient and they are eager to reach ‘correct’ answers. This can make them quick impulsive thinkers.

Academic intelligence is useful
This is not to undermine academic intelligence. This type of intelligence is a prerequisite in certain fields and in most other fields it is critical to have at least an average academic intelligence. A truly intelligent person uses academic intelligence like a tool.

Academic intelligence can be measured accurately
Unfortunately as only academic intelligence can be measured accurately, it is given the most weightage.

Is there a way to measure true intelligence?
True intelligence cannot be measured except in a general way, but is there an explanation in the physical structure of the brain? Are the brains of highly intelligent people different from the brains of less intelligent people?

While it has been proved that ‘quantity’ of grey matter is not indicative of intelligence, there is evidence that the way neurons in our brains are wired can give a clue.

Smart, intelligent people have more complex and more efficient neural pathways for transmitting information. In 1985, Dr. Marion Diamond of UC Berkley and Sceibel found that Einstein’s brain had four times more of oilgodendroglia helper cells that speed neural communications than the brains of eleven of the gifted people also studied. Other studies have also borne out that people with higher educational levels have a more complex neural web than the uneducated. However, one is not sure whether this is the cause or the effect of education.

Intelligence starts to develop early
Yet, there is also evidence that these ‘efficient neural connections’ start developing early in life, as a result of stimulation which a child receives and absorbs from the environment. Probably an explanation as to why children from deprived backgrounds find it so difficult to catch up with the level of intellectual attainment of those who have had the opportunity to absorb from a rich, interesting and challenging environment. An environment which is not necessarily full of ‘academic’ challenges, but an environment which is rich in the lessons of life.

(This article of mine was published in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore in the nineties. Today in 2006, I find this article even more relevant as I see the internet bombarding us with IQ tests, inspite of so much more information now available about the fallacies of such tests. Standard IQ tests only succeed in instilling underconfidence in young people and should be avoided.)

Related Reading: The connection between early schooling and professional success
What affects childrens’ academic success
Choosing the right school
The problems of the Indian education system
Unequal education
The connection between Emotional Intelligence and Academic Performance

41 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2006 10:58 pm

    When this article was published there was a letter from a gentleman called S Ramani. This is what he wrote to Deccan Herald:

    The article on IQ tests was a thought-provoking and apt article for all those die-heard psychologists who vouch for IQ tests. They have to now look for other means of measuring intelligence rather than bank on these tests.
    The article very correctly brings out the inaccuracies in thest tests and how there is a strong cultural, racial and familiarity bias included in these tests. Her reference to the Sudanese from Africa also brings out that there is a strong bias against such people even otherwise.
    The mystery of intelligence has baffled scientists through the ages. Cranioscopy of skull analysis where intelligence was measured by the shape and lumps on a person’s head, died a natural death with the advent of neurology, the scientific study of the brain and its functions. The interconnections between the billions of neurons in teh brain goes on changing as learning progresses, and it is believed that the greater that number of interconnections, the higher the person’s intelligence.
    Another novel way to determine the factor which sets apart an intelligent brain from others is backed up by the theory than an intelligent brain is more efficient and consumes less energy. It has been found that brains with higher intelligence consume less glucose in the cortical areas and they are better organised and energy-efficient.’
    S Ramani

  2. Taylor permalink
    April 3, 2007 12:55 pm

    Edgar Allen Poe was a genius… however like Einstien and the other geniuses mentioned above; they probably would not have been able to pass a standardized IQ test. Einstien was able to master calculous without a sweat, Poe could not conquer calculous if his life depended upon it. It is vice-verse in regards to poetry with Einstien. Geniuses tend to speak in generalities because much of their brain is “lop-sided.” Meaning… they are unusually intelligent in some aspects, and unusually unintelligent in others. We have failed as a society to understand that there are actually many individuals with the same scope of intelligence, yet most of them are undiscovered because they were not educated properly in order to exploit their strengths. The subject of this article is hopefully one of the foundations of our educational revolutions to modernize all human novelty, not just mainstream.

  3. avinash chaudhari permalink
    August 13, 2007 1:30 pm

    dear sir/mam,
    i am avinash from pune
    want your advice regarding i q test for a baby girl named prutha
    she is my niece (sister’s daughter) about 2.8 years.
    she operates computer very fluently whith internet access and email also.
    we surprising while she do the work on computer.
    NDTV INDIA presents a report of 15 minutes on 8 aug 2007 on their channel.
    ZEE 24 hr (Marathi News Channel) also presents a reoprt on her.
    now she in jr kg.
    all asked for her I Q TEST.
    can she face the MENSA test.
    what should we do further for her.

  4. August 13, 2007 2:25 pm

    Avinash there is only one person I know who is part of the Mensa program in India and you will find information about him here. After readin that article you might also get a better idea as to whether your niece would qualify. As I am not an expert, you need to talk to one.

  5. guqin permalink
    September 18, 2007 10:40 am

    I have lived in US for many years. Supposely, eastern asians had higher IQ according to studies. At the beginning, I was quite happy to hear that since it fed my vainity. But later I found out that many white people first used this to prove that they were not racist (since they admitted eastern asian IQ superiority), then they totally forgot about the poor eastern asians and tunred to full fire attacking the black people in US for their supposed low IQs in order to justify the conditions that they suffered… I don’t know what IQ has done in other parts of the world, but at least in US it serves the filthiest purpose: to further humiliate and hurt a unfortunate, victimized people.

    The mere idea of discribing the mind (in whole or divided dimensions) with a number is already edvidently a concequence of lacking true intelligence. More than others it shows the linearity, rigidity and limitations of the western mind. Only an un-enlightened mind could have thought of such foolish idea.

    • Alfred Binet permalink
      January 26, 2014 2:55 am

      Yes, the same limited Western mind that invented most of the modern’s world technology and allows you to post on Internet with a computer from anywhere in the world…oh the irony !

      IQ tests were simply conceived as an administrative tool to identify mental retardation in schools and the military which had to deal with millions of children and young men at the end of the 19th century. They are accurate at it as one cannot hide his/her inability to follow simple patterns. The fact that they are now being misuse and/or misunderstood by the general public doesn’t change their significance and accuracy in Western societies.

      Don’t be an hypocrite. Thank you.

  6. September 18, 2007 10:50 am

    Agree with you there Gugin! I simply abhor IQ tests as they are only meant for those from an educated elite. Moreover, even here there are biases, as it is possible to ‘prepare’ for an IQ test! That itself negates its authenticity!

  7. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 18, 2007 11:44 am

    Avinash Chaudhari,

    While I appreciate your pride in your niece’s exceptional abilities, please do not do anything that will make her emotional growth abnormal. Please let her have a normal childhood.

    While I do not know anything about the Mensa process, I do know one Mensan (also a girl and also in Pune — she must now be in her late-20s or early 30s) who is a perfectly normal and socially well-adjusted person, apart from being exceptionally brilliant. In her case, her parents are also very gifted individuals who I assume took all the necessary precautions to ensure a normal upbringing for their daughter.

    On the other hand, I have known (or known of) quite a few “specially talented” children who were driven hard by their parents to become Ramanujams or Kumar Gandharvas, and ended up becoming not only less-than-average human beings but also emotional wrecks.

    I am sure if your niece has it in her, she will find her niche in good time, at her own pace. LEAVE HER BE.

  8. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 18, 2007 12:13 pm

    Avinash Chaudhari,

    After my previous post I surfed a little bit for Mensa. Their India Chapter HQ, as well as Pune Chapter office, are at Jnana Prabodhini, Sadashiv Peth (How apt! How could anyone even dream of the possibility of an address other than this?).

    I think that is close to the Lakdi Pool end of Laxmi Road, on your right as you come from the bridge).

  9. guqin permalink
    September 18, 2007 2:07 pm

    Avinash Chaudhari,
    Please do consider your countrymen’s advice and not to mess up your niece. One of my friends (also from China) was one of those gifted children (went to college for physics at 14 or 15), and with an ambitious father who gave him a lot of pressure. When I met him, he was already 30, a kind and innocent person, but had a lot of emotional problems because of his experience as a driven gifted youth. And he knew people of his type who ended up in worse situations. Such stories have been repeated again and again. The closest one I know was from my school (in USA ) only a few years before I went there. Someone graduated in mathematics or astrophysics at age 9 or 11 as had planed by his father, but suffered enormously mentally and later went back to high school to learn about social life. Even in some rather rare “successful” cases, such as the American mathematician Norbert Wiener still suffered a lot mentally. I think he later wrote a book as some kind of confession.

    When you see it through, it is quite pitiful, the whole IQ or Mensa thing have a lot to do with the western mindset, its vainity and the false sense of value, a vulgar desire for superiority, also the immaturity as well as the selfishness of the parents, and most of all, a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the mind (Buddhism offers much better insights) Hence ironically, the Mensa thing is actually a consequence of MEDIOCRITY. Only mediocrity is so found of making something unusual. True talent is always natural. When the brilliant American physicist Feymann was invited to join Mensa, he rejected it and said he didn’t qualify, since his IQ was only 125! ( a true number, he did take a test).

  10. September 18, 2007 3:45 pm

    Vivek, the link I have given has the details. 🙂 Including telephone nos etc.

    Gugin, thanks for sharing your thoughts, but I do think that you dislike the west a little too much, considering that you are living there. What is the point hating a place where one is living?

  11. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 18, 2007 3:56 pm

    Sorry, Nita. I didn’t notice the link you had given.

  12. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 18, 2007 4:15 pm


    I followed the lead provided by your link and read the piece. After reading it I have some serious questions which I hesitatingly put down even at the risk of giving offence.

    Did you get an opportunity to check out Sita? Is a ten-year old (even a Mensan) capable of such articulation? Are those really her words (whether original or translated) or is she just a “Ganesha” to Shri Narayan Desai’s “Vyasa”?

  13. September 18, 2007 5:37 pm

    Vivek, one has to depend on authority figures and heads of programs to give information. True, they can lie, but then anyone in authority can lie. That these are Sita’s words is as authentic as the head there.
    If you notice, the link to his site is also given. Narayan Desai is certainly not a fraud.
    In fact a huge article on Narayan Desai (not about the girl, but another one, which I have also written about) appeared in the newspapers and that was how I came to know about him.

  14. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 18, 2007 5:53 pm

    Thanks Nita,

    It seems I did give offence. My apologies for that.

    Narayan Desai has an illustrious namesake in Gujarat. He is the son of Mahadev Desai, who was Gandhiji’s personal secretary, and is an eminent Gandhian in his own right, who was also associated with Vinoba and Jaiprakash Narayan. He was also editor of Bhumiputra


  15. September 18, 2007 6:08 pm

    Not at all Vivek. You have a right to question!

  16. September 30, 2007 6:54 pm

    @ Nita:

    “On the other hand, many academically brilliant people, people who score extremely well in IQ tests, do not think problems and solutions through. They are used to pat solutions. Worse, their academic intelligence often makes them arrogant and impatient and they are eager to reach ‘correct’ answers. This can make them quick impulsive thinkers.”

    Probably true only in the Indian rote-based education system…

    And in the rather odd social hierarchy that if you study science, you must be a genius, and if you study commerce, you must be a b-rated student. Which is very weird. I have studied both Science (Maths and Engineering) and Social Sciences (Economics, Political Science and policy tools and theories such as real options and network economics) and I can say with confidence both can be difficult or easy depending on one’s grasp and willingness to learn.

    Each step of my education made me a better problem-solver and better able to understand the complexities of the world, and capable to examining and giving up my own prejudices.

    If some academically minded people fail in the real world – not on tests – it is because they prefer conceptualisation to practice. It is like taking a self-made, but uneducated entrepreneur and throw him into business school where say, a telecoms industry decision is to be analysed using real options modelling. I doubt he will stay awake to comprehend the theory, learn macros in Excel and complete the ‘assignment’. (When that conceptualisation goes to extremes, it may manifest itself on the autism spectrum…)

    Tests are just that – narrowly defined tools to examine one or more aspects of a whole person. They prove or disprove nothing. Much depends on the interpretation of results.

  17. September 30, 2007 7:31 pm

    I guess you are right Shefaly, the Indian rote based system is pretty bad and can kill intelligence!
    I agree with the rest of what you said, just wanted to add one more point…getting along with people is also important and par to emotional intelligence. If a brilliant person cannot work in a team, he could fail in real life.

  18. September 30, 2007 8:55 pm

    “.. getting along with people is also important and par to emotional intelligence. If a brilliant person cannot work in a team, he could fail in real life.”

    And no tests administered to potential employees actually test for this very basic skill. 🙂

  19. October 1, 2007 12:28 am

    I’m still waiting for the western world to come up with a compassion test, a kindness test, and a self-awareness test. 🙂

    From a philosophical pov, an obsession with “intelligence” is probably indicative of hubris and an inferiority complex at the same time, as if we humans have to prove something to someone that we’re a special species on this planet. Intelligence is but one piece among many contributing to what makes us humans.

  20. October 1, 2007 12:35 am

    Nita, I agree that the Indian rote system has many faults, and props up science at the cost of other fields, I’m not a huge fan of western system either. While it doesn’t focus on rote and has much more flexibility, it still has many other faults and ill-prepares students at the end of their 4 years on how to properly analyze and evaluate issues, specially when it comes to science, politics and math, which affect everyone. I’ve been through both, so from my pov, I see pros and cons of both systems.

  21. guqin permalink
    October 1, 2007 10:55 am

    I heartedly agree with Amit (the post before the last). If even old peoples like Indians and Chinese buy this western rubbish, someday, we humans will become the oddest, the most unnatural creatures with the most cruel heart on this planet. Perhaps we already are!… Oh, western “culture”, give me a break, please!!!

  22. October 1, 2007 11:27 am

    Amit, thanks for that overview. As I have not experienced the system abroad I really cannot compare the two, the pros and cons. I am sure that the present western education system has its disadvantages too.
    Also your thoughts on humanity are very relevant and well, noble and philosophical at the same time! You’ve given me a lot to think about!

    Gugin, I guess I am one of those fed the idea that the western education system is all good and that we are all bad! the problem is that in India (I can only talk about India) we are using the western education system! Ofcourse its one which the British discarded ages ago! But anyway, I am going to think a little more on this…

  23. guqin permalink
    October 1, 2007 12:21 pm

    Nita, didn’t Rabindranath Tagore already found a school sucessfully as an example some hundred years ago? What has happened to that school?

  24. October 1, 2007 12:43 pm

    @ Amit and Nita:

    “I’m not a huge fan of western system either. While it doesn’t focus on rote and has much more flexibility, it still has many other faults and ill-prepares students at the end of their 4 years on how to properly analyze and evaluate issues, specially when it comes to science, politics and math, which affect everyone”

    I think it really depends on the ‘business model’ of the schools which drives the pedagogy eventually.

    There is a reason why people queue up (in the UK) to get into Oxbridge. Undergrads are assigned to colleges. Lectures in the faculty/ department are followed by one-on-one (what luxury!) sessions led by the Director of Studies in the student’s college. There are essays written and evaluated, and academic and conceptual doubts addressed. Students learn not just reflection (through essays, discussion) but also values such as hard work which prepare them for life. Come exam-time, these students are better prepared and you can often see them drinking or rowing or running as usual instead of panicking.

    Because of this preparation and grounding, employers do not hesitate to employ philosophy or history students into consulting, law or banking jobs although one could argue that their lack of “utilitarian” degrees should have hampered that. They are willing to bet on malleable minds and self-directed growth pursuit in these graduates.

    In graduate degrees, there is a great emphasis on self-directed learning. The assumption is that you come to grad studies of your own bat, volition and interest. Long must-read and consider-reading type of lists are provided; we do not have tutorial support in college (we have pastoral support) but we have academic guides who are helpful. The absence of office hours – a typical American concept – means that if one makes prior appointment, one can see one’s professor any time. Not an RA, but the professor. Students also interact a lot and have formal and informal seminars in their departments.

    Besides a list of lectures in all departments is published annually and one can attend any number of lectures and talks anywhere in the University. This provides a chance for ideas to be discussed in the frameworks of other disciplines.

    Now, Oxbridge make a financial loss on every undergrad student and grad students such as I am, help subsidise them but considering we get more than value for money, I do not see much grounds to complain.

    One has to question the ‘model’ that drives the organisation called ‘school’.

    In India, I notice that hasty privatisation – without adequate systems in place to ensure standards and adherence to minimum norms – has caused ‘schools’ to spring up like corner shops. Considering even IITs now pay a ‘sign on bonus’ one can only imagine the quality of teachers in such shops, sorry, schools.

    Of course one could argue this is a modern problem. But one has to wonder what primary motive drives education in political and social terms…

  25. October 1, 2007 6:24 pm

    Gugin, I am not aware of such a school. Even if there are such schools, they will be isolated examples anyway.

    Shefaly, thanks for all that info! In fact its given me a germ of an idea for a post!

  26. October 1, 2007 6:29 pm

    Nita – idea germs are my favourite germs 🙂 Glad you find it interesting. When Amit wakes up in Boston he may have more to say.

  27. October 1, 2007 6:29 pm

    Oops sorry, forgot to say in the last comment, I think Gugin means Shantiniketan?

  28. guqin permalink
    October 6, 2007 8:42 am

    I think it is. Thanks. Anyone knows what has happened to that school? Is it still influential?

  29. October 6, 2007 9:09 am

    Gugin, Shanitniketan is very much there. You can read about it here.
    As far as I know the final exams they have to follow are the same as the rest of the country. The methods of teaching are different. In fact most metros today have schools which take a holistic approach to education, but they are part of the same system, in the sense that they have to follow the govt exams to get a degree. These students usually do not score in the top ranks so only very enlightened parents use these schools.
    Of late IB has become the rage here. Thats a Swiss system adopted in many parts of the world.

  30. Sahil permalink
    December 28, 2007 2:18 am

    IQ tests are unrealistic assessors of a host of other attributes such as creativity and hard work -which also go in the making of an intelligent person. My nephew gave his 12th standard examinations and one of his subjects was Advanced Calculus and Trigonometry (Math-I); in his previous term he had failed his Math test and the tutor apparently told him, “Math is not for low IQ person like you”. That really unsettled him. With a dogged determination and just standard intelligence, he topped his Class results in the final examinations -with 98 marks out of 100; that was far ahead of other “high IQ” kids from his school who made it to the IIT’s and other such institutions. I admire my nephew for having made a statement -he now wants to study Math and Advanced Statistics in his Science course (not jumping on the Engineering bandwagon like the rest).

  31. jon permalink
    March 11, 2008 10:22 pm

    There are several people who keep fighting against or for the validity of IQ tests.

    Another group of people keep fighting against the very existence of intelligence, of one kind or another.

    A third group of people deny the existence of genius minds and claim their children who fail in everything they do are simply a case of hidden genius.

    All three groups must be roundly dismissed as idiots.

    Firstly, there is absolute scientific proof that some human individuals are far superior in certain intellectual activities than anybody else. This concept of standard deviations from the norm is the basis of all theories about human intelligence (or the lack of it !!). This means that everybody’s failed retarded child is not a hidden genius.

    Secondly, the testing methods used to discover the superior brain, have been created by scientists and not biased parents of children. Which means that the tests have some valid reason for acceptance. The imperfections in different tests have always been identified, accepted and rectified whenever possible. This does not make the tests invalid, but only makes them imprecise in the scores till the perfect test is found.

    Lastly, all general debate about IQ testing and claims of alternate intelligences like emotional IQ and creative IQ should be debunked after considering certain basic principles of high IQ and its relation to achievement.

    1. High IQ is one important factor for worldly success but it is not the only one factor. Which means a ferrari is the best car in the world. But if there is no petrol in the tank all the bullock carts of the world will win a round the world race while the ferrari will not move an inch. This means High IQ may seem dumb under certain circumstances but that is a problem of perception and not physical reality.

    2. High IQ is the most important factor in the most important tasks. Which means you don’t need a high iq to climb mount everest, nor do you need High IQ to sell soap or bake bread or play the guitar. But the best test of intelligence accurately reflects ability in fields of cutting edge science, mathematics, social articulation and leadership. This justifies the emphasis on numerical, verbal and logical abilities of a person instead of so called emotional, creative and other abilities that people crave for in the fields of fashion and business.

  32. Guqin permalink
    March 12, 2008 2:14 pm


    Regarding the role of IQ in research, I recommend an article by Terence Tao under the title “Does one have to be a genius to succeed in math” in his blog. I don’t know how to post a link. One could go to his blog by googling, then go to “Career Advice” (middle right in the front page), then go to “Undergraduate level” to select the article.

    Tao just won the Fields Medal, and is called “The Mozart of Math”.

    Gugin, if you want to post a link, all you have to do is copy the url and paste it in the comment box. – Nita.

  33. March 12, 2008 8:19 pm

    Secondly, the testing methods used to discover the superior brain, have been created by scientists and not biased parents of children.

    I’d love to see those scientists left kilometers away from human settlement somewhere in the Australian outback or the Kalahari/Sahara desert without water, food etc. and see if they can survive and make their way back without killing themselves by using their intelligence (like Aboriginal people do). 😉

  34. March 12, 2008 11:44 pm


    Great article ! Intelligence simply cannot be counted in terms of units !

    Not all those who succeed in life are geniuses,
    not all those who are geniuses succeed in life !

    Thanks Raj. This is one of the most favorite articles that I have ever written! Personally too I believe in this strongly although I scored pretty high on IQ tests myself (I won’t show off and tell you my IQ 🙂 ) The reason I believe this is that according to my observations a lot of so-called intelligent people have average intelligence and an inability to think. One would never even notice their lack of IQ if they didn’t make such an ado about having a high IQ! – Nita.

  35. Usha Pandit permalink
    August 29, 2008 9:45 am


    I am an educator working with bright and gifted children in Mumbai. I am often asked whether I identify gifted children by using IQ tests and the answer is NO.

    IQ tests are certainly west-centric and cater to a particular type of education. Besides, they do not measure creativity which is one of the key ingredients of giftedness.

    Gifted children come under the area of special needs and many have emotional and social issues despite high intellectual output. There are degrees of giftedness and their atypical characteristics make identification challenging. They are not a homogenous group and their needs vary.

    This is a wonderful article Nita. Congratulations. I would love to hear more from you. I can be emailed at

    • Munira Hussain permalink
      March 12, 2011 11:23 am

      Hi Ms. Pandit,

      I am a parent of an 8 year old boy…his traits show that he might be gifted…but I really dont know can you help me? Can I meet you to know better about my child? Please do reply

  36. June 6, 2009 4:38 am


  37. Munira Hussain permalink
    March 12, 2011 11:20 am

    Hi Nita,

    Its really very good to read such articles. My son is 8 years old. He is presently in class 3 ever since he was very young I have seen him learn things very easily and once he finishes learning he goes out making mischief-disturbing others and himself. He just cannot sit in one place and he questions enlessly (even now) . My worries were profounded when I spoke to his class 1 teacher who recommended that I keep him busy in numerous activites so that his energy is vented. He is already learning skating, he swims, he reads, he is learning Mental Maths (abacus) but till date I recieve the same complaints from teachers..”he is very very intelligent but we cant control him once he finishes his work and he finishes it too fast” I am now really concerned… is there any way you can help me recognise what is the matter? Does he fall amongst the gifted children category? If yes then how do I utilise his intelligence effectively.

  38. Paul permalink
    April 15, 2011 3:01 pm

    There is also another aspect of IQ that was not mentioned in the article, and that is that a person’s IQ is not a constant throughout one’s life, but can be altered even by simply reading a book. The brain is not plastic in it’s intelligence, but rather acts like a muscle, that when trained gets better at what it’s doing. Among all the aspects and nuances of intelligence, there shouldn’t be this much emphasis on the score of IQ but rather a social urge to educate more people in all aspects of life, creating a smarter world, and engaging the whole of society to become smarter, in the broad sense of the word. This hypothetical change would reflect in other aspects and problems that society faces such as peace, nurture and well-being of children, hunger and water crisis, basically making the world a better place to live in.


  1. SemutRaksasa as a humble wayfarer in this world :)

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