A value which represents the relative (relative to other people the same age as the subject) intelligence of a person. A person's mental age is determined by an intelligence test, then is divided by his chronological age (read: actual age) and multiplied by 100. The resulting value is his IQ. By taking both mental and chronological ages into account, a person of average intelligence, even a child of any age, will be 100. The first widely used intelligence test was based on the Binet-Simon intelligence scale. See IQ.

More accurately a value which represents the relative (relative to other people the same age as the subject) ability to do IQ tests.

The values of what someone's mental age should be were never, at least on the Stanford-Binet scale, tested against a real average - thus after World War I there were reports that the mean mental age of US 21 year olds was 13. This was reported in the news as if it showed something wrong with the 21 year olds, when it showed something very wrong with the tests - by their own definition the mean mental age of 21 year olds was 21.

IQ tests were developed by eugenicists with their own racial theories, and skewed, albeit probably unconsciously, towards people of their own class, gender and race, so white, middle-class, Protestant American males still get the highest scores, because much of the test is culturally specific. This would not be a problem were it not that the Stanford-Binet test is the standard against which the others are measured.

The whole notion of an IQ test is fundamentally flawed - 'Intelligence' is defined as 'what this test measures' and then in classic circular reasoning this is used as a proof that the test measures intelligence.

Is Sharon Stone (a member of Mensa) really more intelligent than Richard P. Feynman (IQ measured at 125)?

(some information taken from Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure Of Man

This was updated on 6 March 04 in response to a reply that was nuked even before I'd finished the update. The following is an expansion of my original points, in response to a w/u by a newbie who shall remain nameless

The body mass index is different because it measures something that can be objectively pointed to in the physical world - the relation of body mass to height and build. It is not measuring an undefined, indefinable abstract, but distinct, objectively existing physical properties of an object (in this case, the human body).

Almost any test taken by human beings will provide a normally distributed set of results - that's why it's called a 'normal distribution' , because it is what we would expect any distribution of a random variable to look like. If I were to create a test which tested people's knowledge of the Beach Boys, and test a large enough sample of the population, the result would be a normal curve. Does that mean I'm more intelligent than you because I know Brian Wilson's middle name and the name of Al Jardine's first wife (after all, it must measure intelligence - it's normally distributed!) ? Or does it mean that on any test some people will do well, and some will fail?

If a high IQ is a measure of intelligence, as you claim, then why do you not back up your claim to be in the top 0.000001% of the population with some of the amazingly intelligent things you've done? After all, given that that would mean that you are one of the 60 most intelligent people in the world, you should surely have at least revolutionised physics, cured cancer, discovered some revolutionary new mathematical proof, or at the very least read Everything University and learned how to format text and add links before posting.

Or could it be that you have never done any of these things, and like the majority of people I know who brag about their IQs are a social failure who desperately wants to feel superior to those around him (they're always a 'him') and latches on to the ability to complete a meaningless test as a proof of superiority (see 99% of Mensa members for details of this).

For the record, my own IQ tests at between 170 and 200, depending on factors such as tiredness, which particular version of the test I'm taking and so on, with a median of around 185. It's not through jealousy that I don't accept IQ test results - I would be very happy if despite the massive evidence to the contrary I was vastly more intelligent than the general populace - but because they are simply bad pseudo-science, (and not even the fun kind James Randi gets angry about), and because this pseudo-science actually leads to people's lives getting damaged.

Oh, and if I say I've read a book, I've read the book.


'What is intelligence?' Asked Marmaduke, at one of the permitted intervals.

'Intelligence,' said the Magister, 'is an activity that men put their minds to in the manner that a frog kicks its legs to swim.

But; see how you have glanced off the exact stroke of the essence. The way along the parapet is not for the forward footed. We have heard the fourth gong toll - be content for the nonce.

(Jack Vance, "Starking")

What Is Intelligence?

If intelligence was to be measured, thought some, it must first be defined.

Perhaps taking their lead from the operational definitions of the theory of relativity - for example, time is what it says on the face of a clock - one definition was:

A person's intelligence is the score they get on an intelligence test.

Scientific Status

Defining mental penetration like this seems the only way a scientific status may be lent to a measurement of IQ. And it is profoundly important to claim scientific-ness: Only then is the agreement of everyone coerced:

"You have to agree with us - this is science. You may no more disagree with this than disagree with gravity and jump, thereby, unharmed over a cliff." (Social Control - David Hume and the Source of All Power (idea))

Reversing the Marking Scheme

Couldn't the following maneuver destroy the scientific legitimacy of IQ tests?

  1. Test a group of people and note their scores. The ones with the higher scores are the more intelligent - by definition.
  2. Reverse the marking scheme - "correct" answers score little, "wrong" answers score maximum.
  3. Conduct the test again. Now, by definition, the retards are the geniuses and vice versa.

Derive a Contradiction

It therefore seems possible to prove the same person to be a prodigy or a cretin without breaking the definition; dooming IQ testing to non-science status.

(See: The Mismeasure of Man.)

Simply stated, your Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is designed to measure your ability to learn. Therefore, an IQ test is not meant to test what you know, but rather your potential for knowing. In other words, smart is not the same as knowledgeable.

Early Tests

The first attempt at the modern IQ test was the Binet test by Alfred Binet and Theodor Simon. This test was created to allow educational institutions to identify children who might need special education because of retarded mental development. It involved such things as asking a child to compare the weights of objects, or observing as they unwrapped a piece of candy. To anyone interested in research methodology, these tests are almost laughable, but these are the humble beginnings of our attempt to understand the workings of the human mind.

Age Accountability

The test slowly evolved to account for age and its relations to mental development. It followed the formula:

IQ = (Mental Age / Chronological Age) * 100)

For example, if a certain child could do basic multiplication at the age of 4 (CA) when the average child cannot grasp the concept until age 8 (MA), that child would have an IQ of 200. Obviously, this is a gross simplification of a complex system, though it explains the basic idea.

Deviation Accountability

These tests were quite useful for measuring the intelligence quotient for children, but failed when it came to measuring adults. This is because, measurable tests of ability started to plateau between the ages of 16 - 20. After this, dividing by the chronological age simply resulted in lower and lower scores for adults. Because of this, the deviation based tests were used. These tests compared the scores for groups of people in the same age group. This system assumes that IQs will follow a normal distribution (i.e., the standard bell curve), and that the mean score is 100 with the standard deviation being approximately 15.

Scores and Their Meanings

Classifications under the Stanford-Binet test

One of the original systems for classifying people by their IQ was created by Lewis M. Terman in his book The Measurement of Intelligence. In it, he defines these generalities:

Classification               IQ Score
Genius/Near Genius            140+
Very Superior                 120-140
Superior                      110-120
Normal or Average              90-100
Dullness                       80- 90
Borderline Deficiency          70- 80
Definite Feeble-Mindedness   below 70

At this time, anything below "Dullness" was further categorized. These classifications were changed because they were abused by the public (Moron! You are such an idiot!), and are now obsolete when referring to IQ.

Classification               IQ Score
Moron                          50- 69
Imbecile                       20- 49
Idiot                        below 20

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)

The more modern system is the WAIS. Partially because of the negative connotations society put on the original classifications (i.e., they became insults rather than measurements), the new system was far more general in its naming scheme. It still, however, closely resembled the original:

Classification               IQ Score
Very Superior                 130+
Superior                      120-129
High Average                  110-119
Average                        90-109
Low Average                    80- 89
Borderline                     70- 79
Extremely Low                below 70

As with the old system, the WAIS further categorizes anything below borderline. Today, all of these are grouped together and are typically referred to as mental retardation, though even that is not considered PC anymore.

Classification               IQ Score
Mild                           50- 69
Moderate                       35- 49
Severe                         20- 34
Profound                     below 20

The guy who gave me the test told me afterwards that I was smart. I've heard that a lot. I've met plenty of people smarter than me, but most people I know view my intellect as my strong point.

The results came in the mail. Eighty-five. By some standards that's called dullness or low average. By other standards it's called borderline intellectual functioning or borderline intellectual deficiency. An E2 node has it five points above a room-temperature IQ. The paper went on to say that an IQ as high as eighty-five might make people think I had better cognitive skills than I do. It cited my deficits in adaptive functioning and my scores in the range of mental retardation in some of the other tests the psychologist gave me as evidence of this.

"I just don't know how to talk to people with average IQs. It's nothing personal. I just can't relate to them."

People think they can say things like this in front of me. After all, I'm smart. Like them. Smart people have high IQs, not average, certainly not low average. Right?

Sometimes through gritted teeth I've told them my IQ to see if they'll change their minds. Their reaction: incredulous laughter followed by, "No it isn't!"

Their responses tell me that they take IQ too seriously. They believe it's meaningful. I am not ashamed of my IQ, but I don't usually tell people. Their insistence that I don't really have a double-digit IQ reveals too many of their hidden beliefs about people who have them. People like me.

Just once I want someone to respond with what I already know: An IQ is nothing more than a number on a piece of paper. It's a fiction, but it's also a meme so popular that people believe it as fact.

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