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On IQ

Apr. 21st, 2017 11:02 am
annwfyn: (mood - dragonish warning)
[personal profile] annwfyn

So, today I’m exploring my low IQ.

I do have a very low IQ. I’ve been tested twice. I’m officially, according to those numbers, dumb*. Thankfully, whilst being stupid, I have a low animal cunning which enables me to use words to fool exam boards, and enabled me to get three Masters (thankfully, no one in any of my courses ever asked me to name the next number in a sequence, in which case I would have been exposed as the intellectual fake I am), and then let me work in museums, universities and the third sector.

What this meant was that I mostly disregarded IQ tests as nonsense. I mean, I can’t be dumb! I went to Oxford University! But a couple of people keep telling me that IQ tests are really accurate and we should use them more and they are a good thing, so I decided to take them on their word for once, and try and understand what my innate stupidity really says about me, and what the IQ tests means to me.

First of all, I discovered that people who like IQ tests, don’t really like to talk to people with a low IQ. I mean, not on an individual basis. I didn’t hunt anyone down and get hideously shunned, but googling largely produced articles and Medium posts targeted at high IQ individuals, and the posts explaining the point of IQ tests generally tended to either want to explain why it would be helpful for employers, the high IQ individual/your high IQ child, or occasionally, why low IQ people shouldn’t be encouraged to breed.** I really struggled finding anything which explained why it would be useful to me. Oh, and racism. A LOT of racism.

This vaguely reminded me of the grammar school debate where no one has ever said “man, just think of the benefits for your kid at that secondary modern”.

I did find a couple of lines about how diagnosing low IQ early means that children with low IQ can receive remedial education, but I always did pretty well in school. Um. So I’m not sure that would have helped.

So, I moved on from that, and decided instead to look at what my low IQ meant for me. After some googling, I did find a couple of lists of ‘traits of low IQ people’ which was helpful.

Apparently I:

  • Am likely to have poor hygiene. To be fair, Jez tells me that this is a regular sign that I’m sinking into a depressive episode, so clearly this is occasionally true. I’ll accept this, but only at a 0.5.
  • Am likely to have bad eating habits. Actually, that’s totally true, and I’m also pretty podgy. 1.
  • Am likely to have problems communicating and don’t know how to explain myself. I don’t think this is true. Maybe it is. I certainly do sometimes feel as if I can’t communicate quickly and I struggle when talking to people – it’s why I like to write things down as much as I do. I am not quick at all, and I take a while to process absolutely everything, which is a definite character flaw. But then, when I have had some time and if I’m writing, I’m apparently quite good at comms. I mean, it’s what they pay me for at work and I get very good results – I’ve explained why people should give me money to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds. So I’ll give this a 0.5 too.
  • Am likely to have a hard time understanding things – jokes, plots of TV shows, documentaries, books. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this to be true. I just don’t find some jokes funny. You may give me examples if you think I’m being inaccurate here, but I don’t think this is right. 0.
  • Am likely to be less informed and interested in culture, history and fine arts. My low animal cunning that fooled the Byzantine Studies department at Oxford University strikes again. Sort of. To be fair, my supervisor wasn’t that sold on my knowledge of Fine Art, but she did let me pass my MPhil which means I can’t be THAT far below average. Nope. 0.
  • Am likely to make suboptimal life choices. Does the boyfriend with rainbow hair count? I’m not convinced. I like my life. 0.
  • Am likely to be interested in the unproven, conspiracy theory, and other things considered ‘far-fetched’. I don’t know if I’m a believer, but I do like mysteries and have spent far too long reading about ‘unsolved mysteries’ on Wikipedia. I’ll give that a generous 1.
  • Am more likely to follow blind belief. Which might be religion? Does that mean religion? I guess I’m a Quaker? If it means ‘doesn’t analyze’ I’d say that’s not so accurate. I overthink everything. I’ll give it a 0.5. Although I’m starting to feel like I’m trying to read my horoscope here.
  • A general lack of curiosity. Dude! I’m googling for articles on the use of IQ, despite the fact that believing in IQ means I’m tangibly worth less as a person because I want to know. No! I refuse to believe that. 0.

This all seems very vague, and, furthermore, exceedingly value added. We’re definitely back to ‘some people are just worth more than others’. And, in fact, in the last conversation I was involved in someone said ‘many people may find this uncomfortable but if the results are robust (which they seem to be)…some people are just more able than others’.

I think that was when I decided I probably shouldn’t be in that conversation, as I’m clearly hideously biased and didn’t really want to end up being all defensive and irrational, so came over here. I had also started thinking, at that point, about the various professionals who also told me that my bipolar disorder also meant I shouldn’t work, that I’d find it too hard, that it would be too stressful and triggering, and I ought to be looking at getting a little part job doing basic admin at best, and probably planning some kind of quiet and restful life on benefits.

(Why they thought benefits would be restful, I’ve no idea)

Of course, I actually went totally batshit doing a quiet little admin job and discovered that lack of mental stimulation is worse for my mental health than almost anything else. I quit that, got a job which is creative, involves a level of pressure and focus, and is all about thinking and got much saner. Also, I got paid a load more and could afford a nice flat and garden.

I was also told as a child that my difficulties with numbers (I have number processing issues which may or may not be dyscalculia. It’s been suggested but never properly diagnosed) meant I should give up maths and chemistry at school. It turns out I should actually just accept I’m very slow at mental arithmetic and need to process numbers in an idiosyncratic method. I got a chemistry A level later in life and did a load of lab work at postgrad level when working in conservation science.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, except that all my life I’ve been told that for various reasons I was flawed and accepting this would be a good thing. In my experience, it never has been. I’ve also read a number of articles lately about how it’s actually not a good thing to tell young people they can do anything and it leads to disappointment and pressure and there may be something about privilege in there too. And I think I’ve decided I don’t like those articles either.

I think people are different. I think maybe some may find it harder to get somewhere, or may need to go a different way. But I don’t think that any single benchmark which says “you must be this high to be useful at life” is remotely helpful, or even true. People are varied and have different gifts and talents.

I also think it’s hugely societally unhelpful to create this kind of hierarchy. Undervaluing different talents, and failing to provide a structure within which those talents are appreciated, given recognition and nurtured generally creates a more socially dysfunctional world. I have this feel there is even some kind of work looking into this – mostly related to crime in the old mining communities, where people who had a job which came with a measure of identity, status and dignity (for want of a better word) tend to be less inclined to crime than people who are constantly being told they are shit, and money tends not to be the decider there. I’m not saying everyone has to work, and that a shitty call centre job is better for depression than proper benefits, but I am saying that generally there is some evidence that society is nicer if more people think they are worth something. A single scale which says ‘this runs from useful to useless’ strikes me as hugely socially disruptive.

But, as I said elsewhere, I’m pretty hugely biased.




* With apologies, I can’t remember the exact score, but I know it was considerably below average.
** As I have a mental health condition with a hereditary component, and a sister with a genetic condition, I think those people maybe thought I shouldn’t be breeding anyway, so this is really just adding to the overwhelming mountain of evidence that I should be kept away from semen.

Date: 2017-04-21 05:40 pm (UTC)
sqbr: me in a graduation outfit. Trust me, I'm a doctor (of maths) (doctor!)
From: [personal profile] sqbr
Meanwhile I always test incredibly well on those sorts of tests even at things I am, objectively, not very good at. I watched my bright, capable friends get chided for "not trying as hard" as me when they tried much harder and showed more signs of genuine competence. I got encouraged towards careers I would have been terrible at in practice, and once I got past the point of schooling where Tests Are Everything flailed about not knowing how to go on. I had to be dragged through a Phd by my supervisor (why was I doing so badly when I was obviously so clever?) and barely lasted 2 years in the workforce before burning out.

And when I got too sick to work, I was refused my salary continuance insurance because my intelligence test said I was as sharp as ever. The fact that I did the test while collapsed on the desk barely able to gather the energy to speak was irelevant.

Which is to say: I agree with you entirely :) Doing a Phd in maths meant being surrounded by a large number of people smug about being Provably The Smartest, and they were, on the whole, much less pleasant and insightful company than my friends with less prestigious achievements.

Date: 2017-04-21 09:41 pm (UTC)
lslaw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lslaw
I test badly on IQ tests, or would do if I didn't give up in a huff after the first spatial awareness question*. This is probably why I only went to the other place and only have the one degree.

* The joke's on me with this one, since as the God of Friday I have to construct Fridays using a sliding block puzzle, so there actually is a practical application to the whole 'which shape completes this pattern' malarkey, albeit one I can only perceive when I'm off my face with food poisoning.

Date: 2017-04-22 06:45 am (UTC)
nickys: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nickys
As I understand it, IQ test results correlate generally with how well people do at university because they correlate with how white and middle-class people are, and therefore how little trouble they will have adapting to the environment.

Some of the questions are ambiguous: What comes after T W T F in the sequence being a classic example. And some are cultural biased : the Chinese girl in my class flunked a couple of questions because she didn't know the word "annual" for example.

They are a useful tool, but not an infallible one. And the setting of questions by people who have previously done well in the tests builds in a bias.

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