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What Does a High IQ Mean?

What does it mean to have a high intelligence quotient? Better grades in school? A better life? Is an IQ score even a valid measurement of intelligence? Let's look at these questions one-by-one.

IQ and Intelligence

In general, there is almost certainly a correlation between a high IQ score and being more intelligent. However, if you have even average intelligence, you can find examples of cultural biases on many IQ tests. Furthermore, there are specific test-taking skills that have been proven to raise scores on many tests, including IQ tests.

This last point makes perfect sense, doesn't it? If you know how to most efficiently "work" a test, you are likely to score higher, and even a cup of coffee may boost your score. The very fact that your score can vary from test to test shows that there are factors which can be manipulated to raise your score. While there is a general correlation between IQ score and intelligence, certainly it is an imperfect one.

IQ and Life

Is there evidence that people with higher intelligence have better lives or are happier? None that I am aware of. How do you scientifically measure "better life" in any case?

Is there a negative correlation? Many with a high IQ have committed suicide, such as Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Sylvia Plath, but this is just anecdotal. Various studies have shown that both people with both a high IQ and a low IQ are slightly more likely to commit suicide. Even if these studies prove true, this doesn't prove causation, but only correlation.

IQ and Academic Performance

A recent study, reported in the journal Psychological Science, found that while IQ level did correlate with academic performance, there was a much stronger correlation with self discipline. Students with high self-discipline have much better grades than high-IQ students. They also found that there was no correlation between IQ and discipline. They are traits that vary independently.

Studies in the 1980s found that the ability of young children to delay gratification was positively correlated with academic achievement a decade later. These studies involved offering children a cookie now while giving them the choice to forgo the cookie and instead have two cookies later. The ability to delay gratification is obviously a component of self discipline.

High IQ

Intelligence is a tool, but just one of the tools we have to shape our lives with. Like money or power or abilities, it is a benefit in the abstract. It only becomes beneficial in reality if applied in ways that better our lives. Raw computing capacity doesn't make a computer or a human effective if there aren't the other necessary components. Look at what people of average intelligence, like Henry Ford, have accomplished before you place too much emphasis on an IQ score.


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