Sunday, April 12, 2009

'It can simply be part of you'

Is a high IQ a burden as much as a blessing?

Sam Knight, Financial Times: Marilyn vos Savant -- the surname is real, it was her mother's maiden name -- has had a unique claim to fame since the mid 1980s. It was then, almost 30 years after she took a test as a schoolgirl in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, that her IQ came to light. In 1985, Guinness World Records accepted that she had answered every question correctly on an adult Stanford-Binet IQ test at the age of 10, a result that gave her a corresponding mental age of 22 years and 11 months, and an unearthly IQ of 228...

'High cognitive ability is very often a mixed blessing,' [says] Patrick O'Shea, president of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE). Too wide a deviation from the mean IQ of 100 brings with it an inherent isolation. 'If you have an IQ of 160 or higher, you're probably able to connect well with less than 1 per cent of the population.' Among the 600 or so members of the ISPE, whose IQs are all around 150 or higher, O'Shea described a 'common experience of being socially marginalised,' and the challenge of finding suitable outlets for their gifts...

There is only one question that seems the wrong thing to ask Savant, and that is what else she is supposed to have done with her life, with her glimmering brain. To ask it is to miss the point. I told her when we met that I had always imagined intelligence to be nothing more than a tool. On that foggy afternoon, before we said goodbye, she wanted to correct me. 'I suppose it could be and it should be,' she said. 'But it also seems to be an attribute or a quality or an aspect of one's humanity that one need not use to get something that you want... It can simply be part of you. And I think that's fine too.'
Image source here.