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Does IQ Matter? - Facts & Infographic

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What Is IQ?

IQ or Intelligence Quotient is a score or a measure determined by a series of standardized tests which measure the relative intelligence by testing a person’s cognitive abilities. The IQ is always a relative measure and compares the person tested to others in the same age group.


The earliest Intelligence test was developed by French educationists Alfred Binet and Théophile Simon in about 1905. Binet first spoke of ‘Mental Age’ as a measure of the abilities that a child should demonstrate to belong to an IQ standard. Stern took this further and developed ‘Mental Quotient’.


Mental Age/Chronological Age = Mental Quotient

Lewis Terman, the renowned American psychologist from Stanford University, later multiplied the Mental Quotient by 100 to find what we now call the Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

Mental Quotient X 100 = Intelligence Quotient

IQ scores are used by various education institutions, for hiring purposes by organizations, by social researchers to predict growing abilities of societies and by educationists to identify special needs. IQ is highly influenced by social status, exposure to education, education techniques and tools, mortality, and by parental IQ levels as well.


IQ Scores of Historic Figures

Psychologists have attempted to estimate the verified IQ scores of many famous persons from history from their speeches, writings, and ideas. Here is a list of popularly accepted estimated scores, though these are not verified -



Leonardo da Vinci


George Berkeley


Galileo Galilei


Buonarroti Michelangelo


Charles Dickens


Georg Friedrich Händel


Johann Strauss


Charles Darwin


George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel


Johann Sebastian Bach


Ludwig van Beethoven


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Benjamin Franklin


Louis Napoleon Bonaparte


Adolf Hitler


Thomas Jefferson


Abraham Lincoln


George Washington



Testing the IQ

The Stanford-Binet measurement of Mental Quotient was revised by Terman who invented what came to be known as the Stanford-Binet IQ Test. Terman also devised his adult version of the IQ test, established new standards for ability at each age group, and called it the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. The fifth version of the test is currently in use. The same logic is used by modern psychologists to test IQ.


Group IQ tests became famous during the World War I. A group of psychologists led by Robert Yerkes developed tests for English speakers and for non-English speakers. Recruits scoring high scores were considered for officer training during the Great War. Group tests grew more popular following World War I.


In the US, the National Intelligence Test, developed by Terman and Yerkes in the early 1920s was among the earliest tests administered to school children. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) which was introduced in 1926, became a measure of the student’s IQ and helped colleges and universities screen prospective students. IQ testing is a key factor in many academic and professional trainings these days. The Flynn Effect suggests that in a study of IQ scores across generations it is seen that there is an increase of IQ scores by about 10 points every 30 years. Younger generations, thus seem to be better skilled at verbal, logical, and quantitative abilities.


Terman classified IQ as -

140 and above

Genius or near genius


Very superior intelligence


Superior intelligence


Normal or average intelligence




Borderline deficiency





below 20



Famous People With The High IQ

Here are some famous people with high IQ scores recorded. They come from diverse backgrounds and careers -

Kim Ung-Yong The Guinness Book of World Records holder for the highest confirmed IQ in the world bagged a score of 210. By the age of 4, Ung-Yong was auditing college courses and worked with NASA as a teenager.

James Woods – James Woods winner of three Emmy Awards and two Academy nominations scored 800 on the verbal and 779 on math in his SAT with an IQ score of 180. He received a full scholarship to MIT but dropped out to pursue acting.

Paul Allen – With an IQ score of 170, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft is also one of the world’s richest men. He is also a big philanthropist. Allen scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT and is worth over $14.2 billion.

Stephen Hawking – The ground-breaking physicist and author of seven best selling books including A Brief History Of Time is perhaps one of the best known scientists of our times. Hawking’s IQ level is pegged at 160.

Reggie Jackson – The famous American baseball player who played 21 Major League Baseball seasons with different teams had an estimated IQ score of 160. He won 5 American League West divisional pennants and many other awards.

Quentin Tarantino - Quentin Tarantino, of an American film director of Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill fame is school drop-out but has an estimated IQ score of 160. Tarantino won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA.

Dolph Lundgren – The Swedish actor also has an IQ score of 160. Lundgren has a degree in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He also received a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT.

Asia Carerra – The star of hundreds of adult movies, Carrera has an IQ of 156. Carerra started her career by playing piano at Carnegie Hall and attended Rutgers University with a full scholarship.

Steve Martin – The renowned actor and standup comedian is the recipient of an Emmy Award and a Grammy Award. Martin’s IQ score is 143. He majored in Philosophy at California State University.

Shakira – With an IQ score of 140, this Colombian singer-songwriter speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, and Arabic. Shakira was also a guest speaker at the University of Oxford.


Mensa – High IQ Club

Mensa is an international organization founded in England by Ronald Berrill and Dr Lance Ware in the year 1946. The only criterion for membership of Mensa is a high IQ score. Only those individuals having an IQ score in the top two percentile on the standard IQ tests which have been approved and supervised are granted membership. Mensa is spread across 100 countries and currently has over 110,000 members. With its headquarters in Linconshire, England in UK, Mensa says its goals are “to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity, to encourage research in the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence, and to promote stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members”. Mensa also administers the IQ test before offering membership.


Mensa membership is open to anyone between the ages of 2 and 100 but most members are between 20 and 60 years. Over 20% of Mensa members are reportedly left-handed. It is, however, estimated that worldwide about 120 million people qualify to be members. Mensa still remains an elite club with only 50,000 members in the US. Mensa members come from all occupations and almost every walk of life. The organization plays an important role in aiding gifted children and talented adolescents in different countries. Geena Davis, Donald Petersen, Terance Black, Richard Bolles, Norman Schwarzkopf, Quentin Tarantino are some of the most renowned Mensans.


Legality of IQ Testing In The US

While IQ tests are widely used for hiring purposes across the world, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from administering any test which may cause discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This also includes administering any IQ test which is not relevant specifically to the job applied for.


The use of IQ tests before sentencing offenders is also a practice upheld by the courts of the US. In the Atkins V. Virginia case (2002) the Supreme Court of the United States held that punishing sub-normal IQ criminals is cruel and unusual.


Congenital or Acquired?

Is IQ genetically transferred from parents to the child or is IQ a result of learning and environment? This question has been at the center of many debates worldwide. While learning and education, exposure and environment are certainly distinguishing factors, a number of individuals such as gifted children and child prodigies lend the genetic theory some credibility.


In 2009, Oscar Wrigley became the youngest member of the Mensa at the age of two. The toddler was estimated to have an IQ score of 160 – he same as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Wrigley started to speak at nine months and by the time he was two his vocabulary stretched to thousands of words.


In stark contrast Albert Einstein was a slow learner all through his early years. It is believed that Einstein did not learn to talk till he was about four years old and was considered very slow in his ability to read. Some people think Einstein might also have been dyslexic or have had a form of Autism called the Asperger’s Syndrome. By his early twenties Einstein had taught himself and had come up with path-breaking papers in physics. Einstein is believed to have had an IQ of 160.


As yet there has been no conclusive evidence to confirm or deny that IQ is genetically transmitted. Researchers have studied the cognitive patterns of many animals in this context and though a number of animals across the world have been taught linguistic and other abilities, their cognitive abilities are not calculated on the IQ scale. Psychologists agree that IQ can be improved with learning. Here are 5 of the simplest ways to improve IQ –

  • Read extensively. Reading about different subjects increases your knowledge and intelligence levels quickly

  • Try your hand at Puzzles and Crosswords. Solving cryptic clues, crosswords, and sudoku puzzles is bound to raise your IQ levels.

  • Take up a creative hobby. Painting, clay modeling, weaving – all these help to stimulate the intelligence and enhance you abilities.

  • Listen to classical music. It has been proven that classical music helps in raising intelligence levels.

  • Meditate regularly. Meditation helps in improving concentration and makes you more observant.


Downside of High IQ

Researchers committed to studying IQ and its promises also say that very high IQ does have its downsides. It brings an inclination to be attached with certain vices. These are all a matter of conjecture as of now as substantial poof still eludes researchers and psychologists.


Insomnia - Reduced sleep and disturbed sleep patterns seem to be a fallout of high IQ individuals. Studies say that those with very high IQ are more likely to be affected by the attendant evils of disturbed sleep patterns such as a tendency towards emotional instability and depression.


Social Awkwardness – High intelligence brings with it a level of social awkwardness, scientists say. Though there are more than enough examples of famous high-IQ personalities to attest to the fact that this is not the rule, researchers still seem to think that there could be a correlation.

Deception – Higher IQ and superior intelligence seems to be equated with a better ability to deceive as well. Many studies of criminals with high IQ levels have been undertaken. There is no conclusive evidence, though.

Credulousness – High IQ people tend to believe imaginative accounts and look for logical explanations rather than disbelieve at the first instance, say researchers. Far from being naïve, this is often a sign of being receptive to learning, some feel.

Drugs – High IQ levels are correlated with a tendency to do drugs, some psychologists feel. Others debate the issue and it is a matter of research.


High IQ And Crime

Though no real correlation has been found between high IQ and criminal intelligence, some exceptionally intelligent criminals have been estimated to have high IQ. Al Capone, the gangster from Chicago was estimated to have an IQ score of 200. The Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski was a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Michigan and had an IQ of 170 when he was 10 years old.

Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold often referred to as "Leopold and Loeb" were estimated to have exceptionally high IQ as children - Loeb (child IQ 160) and Leopold (child IQ 210). Charles Sobhraj, the international thief and murder is believed to have an IQ higher than 99.9% of the world population.


IQ Map Of The World

In a controversial study of the relationship between nations and the average IQ of people in different countries, Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen built IQ estimates for many countries. They assessed the IQ levels of various nationals using reviews of literature, international student assessment, and such assessment tools. These estimates have been criticized since most of the methods used to ascertain these were non-scientific.


According to the study Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iceland, Mongolia, Switzerland, Austria, China, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, and United Kingdom were rated among the highest in IQ. Equatorial Guinea, Saint Lucia, Mozambique, Gabon, Cameroon, and the Gambia were among the lowest ranked according to the study.


Does IQ Matter?

IQ and cognitive ability has been the subject of hundreds and thousands of researches across the world. While researchers are not in agreement, Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania proposed an alternative to IQ in 2006 – Self Discipline. In their article in the journal, Psychological Science, the duo suggested that “self-discipline is a better predictor of academic success than IQ”.


In Standardized Minds, Peter Sacks says “Compared to other countries, Americans appear to be far more obsessed with IQ, the notion that intelligence—most often defined narrowly as logical-analytical ability—is both inborn and representable as a single numerical score.” He suggests that the IQ is merely an indicator of one’s potential to achieve and society would be far better off assessing actual achievement than the potential to succeed.


Apart from IQ, psychologists also attempt to measure the EI (Emotional Intelligence) and Spiritual Quotient (SQ). While Spiritual Quotient evaluates a person’s spiritual intelligence, Emotional Intelligence is a measure of how well a person is able to assess and control his/her own emotions and that of a larger group. EI and SQ have been widely debated and criticized.

Does IQ Matter?

Does IQ Matter.

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