Nishi Uggalle, the latest crowned champion of Channel 4’s Child Genius show, is believed to possess an IQ “higher than Einstein’s”. Impressive as it sounds for a 12-year-old winning a junior Mastermind programme, but does the comparison with the infamous physicist actually mean anything? And how seriously should we consider IQ (intelligence quotient) as a benchmark of a person’s intellectual capacity?
The most notable issue is that nobody knows what Albert Einstein’s IQ was because he never took the test. It is presumed he would have an IQ score of over 160, which is expected to match with genius level. When Mensa, a membership organization for people with extremely high IQs, tested Nishi almost three years ago, she scored 162 – the highest potential score in the test she took, although other tests can produce higher scores and IQs of more than 200 have been reported.
The numbers are derived on a standard procedure: the exam-taker’s performance is scored against the average for the same age group, based on a group of tests that focus on logic, pattern recognition, and problem-solving ability. The reference point for the whole group is 100, and most test-takers fall into a range of 70 to 130. Only 2.5% is regarded to have an IQ of 130+. Mensa accommodates members who belong in the top 2% of those who took the test. Rather equalitarian as I encouraged to a Mensa spokeswoman, she countered by saying: “It’s easier to get into Mensa than into certain golf clubs.”
An IQ test aims to assess a person’s ability to learn and their speed in taking information and not to measure their knowledge. Having zero spatial cognizance, I detest them because they reveal me as a total thicko – I once finished bottom in an army intelligence test to gauge whether I could be potential officer material. Psychologists disagree on whether IQ tests are trustworthy. While some strongly advocated them, all we can assure is that they test a specific, constrictive meaning of intelligence – the ability to solve problems under pressure.
The Mensa spokeswoman says there is an immense correlation between high IQ and career success, good health, and longevity, yet she also believes a high IQ can result in social isolation. One of Mensa’s goals is to unite “gifted” children because their general age group may find them a tad eccentric. I know a lot of chess players who are amazing problem-solvers but are struggling with “real” life. Now, what really is intelligence? Anyone? This key is yet to be answered.