Why a High IQ May Not Correlate with “Intelligence”

January 18, 2010

I took an I.Q. test 30 years ago and was flattered to learn that I scored 140 points. But in all honesty, if I look back over those three decades I must admit to making some pretty foolish decisions. How could that be, doesn’t that number prove I’m supposed to be “smart”?

New Scientist has a fascinating article by Michael Bond that explains this apparent paradox, Clever Fools: Why a High IQ Doesn’t Mean You’re Smart.

“Think of our minds as searchlights. IQ measures the brightness of the searchlight, but where we point it also matters. Some people don’t point their searchlights at the other side of the case much, for many reasons – entrenched ideas, avoidance of what might be disturbing, simple haste. A higher wattage searchlight in itself is no protection against such follies.” — David Perkins, Professor of Teaching and Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Even the super-intelligent are not immune,” writes Bond. “A survey of members of Mensa (the High IQ Society) in Canada in the mid-1980s found that 44 per cent of them believed in astrology, 51 per cent believed in biorhythms and 56 per cent believed in aliens.”

So how can we avoid making foolish decisions? Bond offers these six maxims:

  1. Clear Your Mind
  2. Don’t Fall Foul of Spin
  3. Don’t Let Emotions Get in the Way
  4. Be Fact Based
  5. Think Carefully About the Long-Term Consequences
  6. Look Beyond the Obvious Solution

These may all seem like plain common sense.  But if we examine the financial decisions that led to the current Great Recession it’s easy to see that a great many people failed to use these very practical principles. Proving again that there is nothing common about common sense.


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