Why a high IQ doesn’t mean you’re smart (With sample questions)

By | November 3, 2009

Why a high IQ doesnt mean youre smart  With sample questions

IS GEORGE W. BUSH stupid? It’s a question that occupied a good many minds of all political persuasions during his turbulent eight-year presidency. The strict answer is no. Bush’s IQ score is estimated to be above 120, which suggests an intelligence in the top 10 per cent of the population. But this, surely, does not tell the whole story. Even those sympathetic to the former president have acknowledged that as a thinker and decision-maker he is not all there. Even his loyal speechwriter David Frum called him glib, incurious and “as a result ill-informed”. The political pundit and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough accused him of lacking intellectual depth, claiming that compared with other US presidents whose intellect had been questioned, Bush junior was “in a league by himself”. Bush himself has described his thinking style as “not very analytical”.

How can someone with a high IQ have these kinds of intellectual deficiencies? Put another way, how can a “smart” person act foolishly? Keith Stanovich, professor of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto, Canada, has grappled with this apparent incongruity for 15 years. He says it applies to more people than you might think. To Stanovich, however, there is nothing incongruous about it. IQ tests are very good at measuring certain mental faculties, he says, including logic, abstract reasoning, learning ability and working-memory capacity – how much information you can hold in mind.

But the tests fall down when it comes to measuring those abilities crucial to making good judgements in real-life situations. That’s because they are unable to assess things such as a person’s ability to critically weigh up information, or whether an individual can override the intuitive cognitive biases that can lead us astray.

This is the kind of rational thinking we are compelled to do every day, whether deciding which foods to eat, where to invest money, or how to deal with a difficult client at work. We need to be good at rational thinking to navigate our way around an increasingly complex world. And yet, says Stanovich, IQ tests – still the predominant measure of people’s cognitive abilities – do not effectively tap into it. …

As an illustration of how rational-thinking ability differs from intelligence, consider this puzzle: if it takes five machines 5 minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? Most people instinctively jump to the wrong answer that “feels” right – 100 – even if they later amend it. When Shane Frederick at the Yale School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, put this and two similarly counter-intuitive questions to about 3400 students at various colleges and universities in the US – Harvard and Princeton among them – only 17 per cent got all three right (see “Test your thinking”). A third of the students failed to give any correct answers (Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol 19, p 25). …

For example, consider the following problem. Jack is looking at Anne, and Anne is looking at George; Jack is married, George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person? If asked to choose between yes, no, or cannot be determined, the vast majority of people go for the third option – incorrectly. If told to reason through all the options, though, those of high IQ are more likely to arrive at the right answer (which is “yes”: we don’t know Anne’s marital status, but either way a married person would be looking at an unmarried one). What this means, says Stanovich, is that “intelligent people perform better only when you tell them what to do”.

Test your thinking

When researchers put the following three problems to 3400 students in the US, only 17 per cent got all three right. Can you do any better?

1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

2) If it takes five machines 5 minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

3) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of it?

For answers, highlight the area below:

Answers: 1) 5 cents, 2) 5 minutes, 3) 47 days

Highlight the area above for the answers.

via Clever fools: Why a high IQ doesn’t mean you’re smart – life – 02 November 2009 – New Scientist.

I found many scam sites which seem to be IQ tests, but ask for personal information which will probably be used for identity theft.  Don’t get phished.

4 thoughts on “Why a high IQ doesn’t mean you’re smart (With sample questions)

  1. dogsounds

    Cool, I got all three questions correct, all thanks to my GRATE BRANE. I am therefore awesome.

    I seem to remember my IQ test coming out around 120, but I can attest that although I can “figure stuff out”, my skills lie in arty-farty imagination stuff, not necessarily practical stuff. For example, I suck at logical and precise abstracts like mathematics, but I can solve puzzles by using visualization skills and empathetic skills rather than logic (damn you and your matchsticks, Professor Layton). Or, I can recreate a cover version of a piece of electronic music using visualisation to separate out the individual sounds by creating them in a “virtual synthesizer” in my mind (I’ve covered quite a few Jarre and Vangelis tracks like this). But put me in a critical decision-making scenario, and I pretty much become useless. Why? Intelligence doesn’t necessarily make you a bold leader or dscision-maker. It’s downside is that it may give you a better ability to see, wigh up and evaluate all the consequences of all the possible courses of action – but with all that infomation your ability to make quick, informed decisions may be impaired – you have too much information to work with. The more variables in an equation, the longer it takes to solve. A less-informed outlook sometimes makes tough choices easier to make.

    Ultimately, intelligence can display a bias towards a particular part of your mind, and it does not follow that you will excel at eveything. A perfect example would be the wonderful Autistic artist you featured the other day – whilst his hand-eye co-ordination, observation skills, memory and interpretion skills demonstrate a ludicrously high intelligence level, sadly his Autism (one assumes) provides a natural impediment to other facets of his personality, and many would incorrectly assume him to be of a lower intelligence.

    There is truth to the saying: jack of all trades, master of none. Some people are blessed in certain things, and their natural intelligence – if their talents are nurtured – manifests itself there.

    1. Xeno Post author

      Nice. I think most people visiting here on average would be well above average. I got them all too, but took way too long before the last one clicked and became super obvious. Same thing happened on the IQ test I took when I was 11 or so. Missed some easy questions. I said “British Columbia” instead of “Canada” for the country above the US state of Washington. Delayed intelligence can be useful because I get the great human joy of doing some stupid things impulsively. 😉

  2. Danny

    sweet, i actually got all these right away. i think because i knew they were supposed to be tricky. stumped some co-workers and had a good laugh though.

  3. Pingback: Self-Scoring IQ Tests (Self-Scoring Tests) | Test Prep Books

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