On I.Q., Personality, and Potential Success

Do you remember the $64,000.00 question?  Not the exact question, rather the show?  Inflation caused the show to go over the years from the $64.00 question to the much higher figure.  The show presented a basic anomaly, which may not have been an anomaly at all, that the most amazingly intelligent people on the show were decidedly unsuccessful by usual standards.

One series was won by a cab driver.

NPR has had a weekly program for several years, “Wait, wait…Don’t Tell Me”, which pairs a panel member with some average person around the country in a quiz.  Everyone was amazed in one episode when, “Bubba” from Knoxville, Tennessee who worked in a meat market, knew the answer to everything.  The usual remark went something like, “Why is someone that smart working as a butcher?”

“Edward O. Wilson, in full Edward Osborne Wilson, (born June 10, 1929, Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.),

American biologist recognized as the world's leading authority on ants.

He was also the foremost proponent of sociobiology, the study of the genetic basis of the social behaviour of all animals, including humans.”

A recent essay by Charles Chu dealt with a few ideas from E.O. Wilson’s book, “Letters to a Young Scientist”.

A couple of the ideas reminded me of recent discussions we have had on this website; the meaning and relative value of being introverted, and the value of I.Q.  One commenter remarked, “We’re all a bunch of under achievers here.”

Basically, Wilson who had a respectable although not really exceptional I.Q. questioned the value of a really high I.Q.  Wilson, whose I.Q. was reportedly 123, had observed that those with I.Q.s above, say, 140, suffered from the same problem that pretty girls and gifted athletes did; achievement came too easily, and such individuals suffered from boredom and tended not to achieve as much as less gifted individuals did.

Personality type, Wilson theorized, may have more to do with scientific success than intelligence.  He argued that introverted individuals were less focused, more speculative, and therefore more apt to arrive at creative new ideas than the individuals voted “most likely to succeed”.

This doesn’t fit with my own success story.  As an introverted, not overly smart child I should have done much better.  I feel like such a failure.

I looked my I.Q. up on a chart that gave the relative rarity of each IQ score as well as a 15 standard deviation percentile ranking.  According to those figures there is one person in 200 as smart as, or smarter than I am.  At first that sounds pretty exclusive, but when you think it through, the crowd you “hang with” is not the general population.  You have already placed yourself lower on average in your group by becoming friends with only those you consider to be smart people (unless you are the smartest).  In a world with a population of some 7.49 billion people, there are 367, 450,000 people as smart or smarter than I.  That’s equal to the whole United States and change.

Also, my IQ was measured when I was in college.  An individual’s IQ declines with age, and I’m sure it’s much lower now.

(I have a recurring nightmare in which I have gone back to school, can’t understand what is being taught, have a test coming up for which I have not studied and am unprepared, and don’t know where the exam is being held.  In the last iteration of that dream I was sent from Old Main to a small house off-campus housing, The Office of Lesbian Affairs, where a friend who is an actual college instructor and lesbian told me that the exam wasn’t being held there, that I was hopeless and should drop out.  I’m sure that a psychotherapist would have field day with that.)

The thing is, IQ is important if you desire to be a NASA scientist, but, obviously not if you want to be a politician. There have been some brilliant presidents.  The claim is that John Quincy Adams was probably our smartest. Seventeen of our presidents have been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.  Still, it’s not that important.  Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said of Franklin Delano. Roosevelt that he was a man of “second class intellect, and first class temperament.”

E.O. Wilson was of the opinion that personality traits were much more important than raw intellect for a budding scientist.  The traits that he thought to be important included introversion, anger against something, and lack of focus.  I imagine that E.O. Wilson fulfilled all of those requirements, as did the author of the essay.

I have often wondered about Carl Sagan’s I.Q.  Like most people, his I.Q. is not a matter of public record, nor should it be.  The man who created the show Cosmos, who in death has a fan club, was smart enough, driven enough, and was exceptional enough to have a unit of measure named after him, the Sagan.  A Sagan is four billion because that is the smallest number to which “billions and billions” can be reduced.  That is a fan joke.

Sagan’s interests were very broad and his book, “The Dragons of Eden”, was as thought-provoking as “Cosmos”.  Some scientists have complained that Sagan got too much attention; that he wasn’t really that much of a scientist.  Really…that sounds a lot like sour grapes to me.

As to present day politicians, who is the smarter, Bill or Hillary Clinton?

There is a lot of misinformation on the web.  I wouldn’t trust any of it for the reasons mentioned in the link.  Most people would agree, however, that the Clintons are both very intelligent.  Some have claimed that Hillary is actually smarter.  I don’t know.  I was a casual acquaintance 30 years ago.  He was a bigger personality with magnetic charisma.  She came across as a ruthless, very organized, shrewd and lusterless person.  Sorry, Hillary, that was just my opinion after one meeting and a lot of conversation with mutual acquaintances.  I also know that you have had close, fast, and long-lasting friendships and are noted for your uproarious laugh.  Those bump you way up in my estimation.

Personality and gender made Bill more successful as a politician.

People can’t talk about the Clintons without talking about Bill’s infidelity.  Gene Lyons, a journalist with the Arkansas Times wrote,

“That said, I don’t put much stock in that psychologist who told her that Bill’s infidelity had its roots in his childhood, and that ‘most men with fidelity problems (were) raised by two women and felt conflicted between them.’


I’d suggest it had its roots in his pants.”

For a lot of reasons, like Whitewater, the Monica Lewinsky affair, and numerous other affairs, neither will be remembered as fondly or with as much admiration as Carl Sagan.

"The Cosmos" has been viewed by over 500 million people around the world, and Sagan may have billions and billions of fans.

Views: 202

Comment by Rodney Roe on March 16, 2018 at 6:56pm

Interesting.  I thought Chu's essay was interesting.  Must have just been me.

I wanted to be a medical school academic.  I discovered that I wasn't smart enough for a career in academic medicine.  My best medical school professors had idetic memories, which I don't have, and the patience for research.  So, I did the next best thing; I worked as a surgical pathologist for 30 years.  Pathologists were once called the "Doctors doctor".  In addition to the body of knowledge possessed by every physician we had a separate body of knowledge.  

We all entertain "what if"s.  What if I had pursued one of the fields that I was really good at like English or History?  It was too late very early in life to make that sort of change.  One of my college classmates had an IQ that put him in the 99.9999999 percentile.  He taught ethics at the University level.  He is now a retired Ethicist, doesn't even like to talk about ethics now, likes a good glass of wine, and follows NASCAR.  I get it.

Comment by koshersalaami on March 16, 2018 at 7:23pm

Achievement comes easy I guess if you can concentrate. IQ isn’t the only predictor of academic success, let alone any other kind. As you stated, memory has something to do with it, certainly in terms of testing. 

One thing most people don’t realize about IQ is that one out of every fifty people is eligible for Mensa membership. 

I don’t ever forget that Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. A guy growing up without money who achieves that is a guy with serious brains. I also think he has a lot of curiosity.

In my experience, the difference IQ makes is in seeing connections and relationships. Well, in the ability to see them, but also in my experience, the ability to see them doesn’t always translate into the willingness to look at them or have interest in them. I’ve seen brilliant engineers who miss very obvious things outside their fields and they’re not always even open to those things or to the people who show them those things. High IQ absolutely does not translate into openness. 

And absolutely not into success. 

For one thing, high IQ really doesn’t translate into good social skills, which can be critical to success. 

Comment by Ron Powell on March 16, 2018 at 8:30pm

One of the major problems and realities in our society and system is there is no correlation between intelligence and wealth.

I'm not saying that there is no relationship between education and success, I'm saying that being intelligent won't make you rich

In my view the problem Democrats have had is that  they're too smart for their own good. Most societal and economic  issues and problems have  been approached  and viewed by Democrats as philosophical or ideological matters to be esoterically analyzed and studied and resolved in the realm of intangible concepts and ideas that are difficult and cumbersome to articulate and communicate to the average citizen in digestible, practical terms.

In other words , Democrats deal in abstracts and articulate/communicate abstractions.

Republicans have discovered that it's not necessary to have real solutions to real problems as long as your message and the package it's wrapped in sounds good and has merit on a fundamental , practical, tangible, comprehensible. level

Their attitude and approach seems to be why tell the truth about anything when a lie or half-truth that sounds (feels) good will do just as well or better.

The narrative has been that the Democrats are "elitists", "pointy headed liberals" who are out of touch with common folk.

If Democrats are elitists, it's that they're academic elitists...

They're smarter than the average Joe, and it shows in their speech and manner which comes off as condescension and snobbish.

When Democrats can take their narratives to the streets they do better,  not as counter punchers but as assertive and aggressive representatives of the everyman.

There was a time when the Dems were in a solid relationship with the white working class and poor voter as well as the urban black voters...

The Republicans have been successful in driving a poltical, social, and economic wedge between the Democrats and what was once their numerically superior base.

The sad part of it is that the Democrats helped them do it because they're too damned smart to have done otherwise.

Comment by Ron Powell on March 16, 2018 at 8:33pm

@Kosh;  "For one thing, high IQ really doesn’t translate into good social skills, which can be critical to success."

Two cases on point: 

Edison and Einstein

Comment by koshersalaami on March 16, 2018 at 9:00pm

I wouldn’t characterize this as “too damned smart” on the part of the Democrats, I’d characterize it as “too damned stupid.” Not IQ stupidity, overconfidence in their own intellectual superiority stupidity. I’ve seen this in business a whole lot of times, particularly among senior engineers when dealing with sales guys. They’re not open to other people and so they miss things such that they’re making critical decisions with incomplete information. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on March 17, 2018 at 12:20am

Comment by Ron Powell on March 17, 2018 at 12:31am

@Kosh;  There clearly are a variety of IQs.... However, there hasn't been a variety of ways to measure the various forms and manifestations....

In my view, no one who presents a strong or high IQ in any given area is, nonetheless, 'stupid' in other areas...

Shallow or deficient, perhaps, but not stupid...

Truly stupid people are stupid across the board...

They run the gamut of dumb and rarely if ever can be remedied... .

There is truth in the meme 'you can't fix stupid'...

Which is why Trump has, and will keep, a solid 35% of the total population as his base...

Comment by Rodney Roe on March 17, 2018 at 2:09am

Re: Huey P. Long.  However Democrats state their case they are accused of being socialist.  Democrats ought to just own it, and state it in terms everyone understands.

Who knows how far Long would have gone had he not been assassinated.  His promise wasn't that much different from Hoover's.  Hoover wanted a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.  Long promised a car (to drive to the polls) and a radio (so they could hear his speeches).

The difference was in how it happened.  With Hoover it was going to trickle down and with Long it was going to be redistributed.

Hoover, who was a proponent of "rugged individualism" was president when the market crashed, and Long was a supporter of Roosevelt when he ran in 1932.  

Bernie Sanders' problem may have been that he was that he was a little too abstract in his message.  

Comment by Ron Powell on March 17, 2018 at 3:23am

"Bernie Sanders' problem may have been that he was that he was a little too abstract in his message."

Re communicating a winning  narrative: Democrats must learn to articulate with numbers that people can understand and feel good about.....

Comment by koshersalaami on March 17, 2018 at 5:30am

Numbers or simple mechanics. 

But if we’re going with numbers, the most important numbers are that the poorest 60% of the population owns less than 4 1/2 % of America’s wealth and that the poorest 40% of the population owns less than 1/3 of 1 % of America’s wealth. Everyone focuses on the 1% but they forget the important part: what the leftovers really look like. That’s where the outrage really is. If Democrats are going to get anywhere, the easiest way is to look at how little average Americans have, show that Republican policies skew those numbers even more, then show that those policies will not unskew those numbers in the long run. However, this only works if Democrats actually think this is important, and here we get to the real divide in the Democratic Party: the Bernie wing thinks it’s critical and the Hillary wing clearly doesn’t think it’s critical enough. 


You need to be a member of Our Salon to add comments!


A Single Sentence On Impeachment

Posted by Ron Powell on January 18, 2019 at 6:30pm 0 Comments


Posted by Ron Powell on January 18, 2019 at 8:30am 6 Comments

Knight Stands

Posted by Robert B. James on January 18, 2019 at 8:15am 2 Comments

Tearing Around

Posted by J.P. Hart on January 18, 2019 at 7:24am 5 Comments

From the Hyper-Hypocrisy Files

Posted by Tom Cordle on January 17, 2019 at 6:30pm 7 Comments

A Reduction

Posted by Robert B. James on January 17, 2019 at 9:39am 12 Comments

© 2019   Created by lorianne.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service