Monday, August 27, 2012

Measuring smarts …

… Bryan Appleyard — Flynn’s IQ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The abstract, scientific imagination can simply seem foolish when ­confronted with more concrete ways of thought. Flynn includes one hilarious conversation between a western researcher and some isolated rural ­people in Russia to demonstrate the abyss that lies between the concrete and the abstract. The researcher tells them there are no camels in Germany so how many camels do they think there are in B, a specific German city? “I don’t know,” is the answer. “I have never seen German villages. If B is a large city, there should be camels there.” These people aren’t any less intelligent than the researcher — their minds just work differently. They focus on the practicalities they know rather than hypothetical possibilities.

I don't know what my IQ is and I don't care. Why should I, at my age?  But I did once have an interesting experience with the test. Back in the '60s, a friend of mine who was on track to get his Ph.D. in psychology asked me if he could administer an IQ test to me. It had something to do with his dissertation work. It was the Wechsler-Bellevue test, which I am told is harder than the old Stanford-Binet test (another psychologist friend once quipped that it was designed to prove that no one was as smart as Wechsler).
Anyway, one Saturday night my friend came by and administered the test. Since I didn't care what the results might be, I staved off the boredom by enjoying a bottle of scotch during the proceedings. By the time we got to the end, I was pretty soused and I could sense that my sharpness was slipping. If memory serves, toward the end there were these sequences of numbers that were read off and you had to repeat in reverse.
When it was done, my score, adjusted for the Stanford-Binet, came to 150. Now that's pretty good. But think for a minute: Is that really my IQ, or is that only my IQ when I'm plastered on a bottle of scotch?


  1. So that's what I did wrong back in fifth grade - not raid my parent' liquor cabinet!