In the Spirit of Collegial Inquiry...

updated: 2 Aug 99

Anecdotes on Intelligence Tests and Elite Groups

Part One

Adapted from our discussions of April '99

PFK:   Is anyone aware of a method, by which the 4-sigma test that was published in Omni magazine approximately 10 years ago, can be graded? Shortly after the test was published Mr. L-----'s grading address was unresponsive. Several of my friends have finished the test but have yet to find the answers or be graded. Any information will be of assistanc Thank you in advance.

JCC:   You are referring to the L.A.I.T., I believe... the publication in Omni was closer to twenty years ago, and I'm sorry to say that a large number of participants appear to have [lost out] in that unfortunate episode. I was fortunate enough to have submitted results promptly and received a scoring report (not my best results, but plausible). A few years later a second norming came along, and these were downgraded by several points. I guess that the test population got much "smarter" over time as people collaborated and passed around answer sheets {wistful smile}. I believe that there still may be a closet at a certain Berkeley address where many thousand unscored test sheets are "archived", separated from the checks that accompanied them.

FWM:   I recall once seeing, on a message board or, more likely, newsgroup, someone claiming to have Mega Test answers. At the time I thought it was self defeating to cheat on an IQ test, and, moreover, the Mega Test still cost money which wasn't readily available, so I didn't look, congratulating myself on my honesty.

JCC:   Bright individuals have differing strengths, and the effect of two or more dissimilar fine minds collaborating can approximate that of a single person of exceptional brilliance. Basically one might expect that a genuine ultra-high level test instrument would be itself a collaborative effort in order to be worth anything in content. If memory serves, the complete answers were published on the website of a member of Singapore Mensa. As a matter of fact, in 1993, a few months after I had done my own attempts on Mega and Titan, an individual sent me answer sheets for both and requested me to review them. I'd say that each was, while probably not perfect, adequate for the person wishing to obtain a rating higher than the reputed one-in-a-million level.

FWM:   Interesting, I wonder if it was the person's own answers, or answers which he or she had garnered together. Either way, the availability of such answers is somewhat disturbing considering the validity of the test. I'm sure a number of people who have valid scores are worried, as well as those who cheated to reach a certain point. It may just be me, but it seems that in most instances I've seen, new normings always find the test population to become smarter, a shame if it is the renorming is heavily tainted. The temptation must be considerable though, I can think of few people who wouldn't be pleased to let the world know that [they are] one in a million.

I think that with such tests ... at least when people circulate answers over the internet, there's a certain degree of caution that needs to be taken if one cheats. Looking back, I think the answers were more than likely suspect if the person who posted them fell just a few points short of whatever he hoped to reach. Spreading those incorrect answers might have seemed like a great way to make the norming more favorable. It's just as likely that I'm completely wrong, or the person was just cynical.

JCC:   [L----] himself described a series of computer problems and other difficulties as a sort of apologia. I've drawn my own conclusions in the spirit of mid-life cynicism, and very much doubt that the greater portion of Omni readers who put a slice of time and a bit of money into this effort will ever see anything from it. Those who received a score report (the percentage I cannot guess) are a shade more fortunate. I'd be happy to give them mine had I not discarded the paper some years back.

??:   According to Darryl Miyaguchi's site, it was sufficient enough for Omni to sue. The site, if the information which he was given and reports there is accurate, gives a brief, but interesting account of the incident.

JCC:   On the plus side, the L.A.I.T. was entertaining... it is fair to say that it contained a pronounced bias toward the fluid component of intelligence. Some would claim that such rectifies an imbalance in standard testing. The norming process, as reported, seemed sufficiently plausible. My primary objections centered around the quality and balance of items on this test, which would likely seriously under-report IQ for most women and those whose strong suit is the crystallized side.

FWM:   Maybe he only used the better scores for norming. It's likely that more people spent money on the test if they felt they did well, than others, however, although, doing well is subjective, so I'm sure not that not all of them shared Hi-Q standards.

JCC:   It is unfortunate that the alleged improprieties over scoring fees cast a shadow over the entire cosmos of uncontrolled testing, but there it is... who had not heard that little phrase caveat emptor ? I prefer several alternative tests created by amateurs (in the literal and older sense), but came to recognize that there are sufficient controversies in the field of mental measurement that even well-intentioned and serious efforts have probably had the effect of discrediting somewhat the legitimacy of all IQ measures. I recall well that Dr Gerry Bidlack had voiced to me many fair concerns as early as 1980; experience has proven him essentially correct. Colloquy perhaps embodies some of my intention of recompense.

EM:   I have very mixed feelings about tests at this age of life. No matter what I might score, there is no use to which I could put it that means anything to me anymore. I enjoy Colloquy, and I have no interest in any of the other I.Q. societies. My earliest test scores caused much comment, whatever they were I'll never know, in that no one ever told me. It never crossed my mind to inquire. I knew I was a high scorer, and that fact did nothing whatsoever to make my life more agreeable in any fashion.

The earliest score of which I have a record is at Towson State in 1958, which put me in the top one percent, not refined beyond that point. There was at that time a female Dr. W-----, whose name I know as well as my own, who was my "advisor". She advised me that I had to take, at her insistence and requirement, a full course load of 17 credits, or she would not approve my admission. Anything less would not be a sufficient challenge with such a score. I carefully explained to her that I was then working 70 hours a week in the Post Office, and taking oboe lessons at Peabody Conservatory, which entailed about 20 hours per week practicing. I was also the only oboe player in the Towson State orchestra at the time, which took up more time. So, with travel time, we have accounted for about 100 hours out of 168 in a week, leaving me all of 68 hours to carry 17 credits.

For the first two months, I made do with 4 hours sleep per day and struggled with the courses. Then came Christmas in the Post Office. As a probationary employee, I was required to work all assigned hours or lose the job immediately. The 70 hours a week became 84 hours. My sleeping time was reduced to 3 hours, at which point I dropped out of college for the next 8 years, with a vast contempt for Dr W---- and my I.Q. scores both.

EM:   As a high school freshman, I was suspended for making too high a score on a vocabulary test. Nobody could possibly know that many words without cheating!... Later, I was advised I had made the highest I.Q. score ever recorded at the school. Nobody ever thought to connect the two events; my best guess is that I was presumed to have cheated on the I.Q. test as well.

{Some years afterward} I made the highest score in the Post Office on a supervisory test, the Armed Forces General Qualification Test as modified for civilian use. This was of 3500 employees who took the test. Since I look and talk the same as anyone else, it was a mystery to my fellow employees how I had made such a remarkable score.

The mystery was solved when some of my workmates realized my wife was a school teacher. Clearly she had coached me on the answers, and that was how I did it. I was then generally admired for getting over on the system by being able to beat the test without being caught. My experience in life with I.Q. tests has not been a happy one, sad to say.

FWM:   Indeed, especially as societies become more selective, it becomes harder and harder to qualify on some tests without a certain educational background. While many exceptionally high-ceilinged tests strive to eliminate cultural bias, I can say with some degree of authority that there are Mega Test, TFG, etc. questions that you have quite a hard time of getting without at least some college, mostly due to the scope of literary references made, IMHO. That brings me to another observation: ... both Mensa and Intertel ... refuse to accept the recentered SAT or enhanced ACT, and I would wonder if the mean age of their members has not perhaps gone up a bit. As far as I can see, they cut out a large potential audience because they don't accept tests which are rather [compulsory] for most American high school students, but, maybe I should really only refer to the branches of both organizations in the US. Or, maybe they just found that there's really a negligible number of teenagers willing to pay their membership fees annually. {smile}

??: There are people out there who have the degree but who could not qualify to join Mensa or Colloquy. The degree is, as you know, only a piece of paper. Its purpose is to provide some sort of testament or certification that the person has put in the time and effort, under competitive circumstances, to gain knowledge. A high-IQ individual could gain this knowledge through self-education.

FWM:   I disagree slightly here. There are, IMHO, some areas where what you could study on your own could not amount to the practical exposure someone would get working towards a degree. While I think that a degree is in no way indicative of intelligence, I have a fair amount of respect for those people who do really work for them, because they, again IMHO, deserve every last bit of credit for doing something that doesn't come easily. On the other hand, of course, self-study is more encouraging to look at things in a novel perspective, and a good deal of breakthroughs have not been made by following the previously accepted school of thought on matters.

On a disparate note, there was a previous thread about why people in IQ societies don't always work together harmoniously, I wonder if there's any pattern as to whether it increases or decreases as the groups get more selective. I don't mean to deride any group, but it seems logical that at a certain level, people are used to being the smartest around, bar none, and might resent other people who are their intellectual equals, just a tad. This could also differ from individual to individual, though, I know my own concepts of what constitutes being truly intelligent have changed over time, and, I suspect, they still will ...

CW:   Yes, the more selective the "society" is the less sociable. There are many very bright individuals who take themselves far too seriously and it seems to get worse the higher the cutoff.

FWM:   I have two half completed tests lying around, TFG short form and the W-87, what struck me was the largely different approaches both of these tests take, which were honestly unorthodox enough for me to question what exactly was being measured. I would say that while the W-87 bears a closer resemblance to what is generally thought of as an IQ test, it is still, largely, a far cry from what I've read the WAIS or Stanford-Binet to be. That being said, I often wonder ... just what types of intelligences many groups [encompass].

JCC:   W87 was the work of Chris Harding, of Qld. Australia, who ... deserves credit as the originator of the series of "ultra high level" tests. His original idea, as on the B-C Skyscraper (c.1975), was that the test could be taken at home, but under at less non-professional supervision, with a sworn and notarized statement from the test taker as to the time for completion and that no outside aids were used, etc. Needless to say, matters became increasingly lax as the years passed, since people can make copies, collaborate on answers later, whatever. It's the question of expediency ... it actually costs a great deal of money to develop and norm tests "by the book" in a manner consistent with academic recognition in the field of mental measurement.

FWM:   While there's probably a fair degree of intellectual heterogeneity in groups such as Mensa and Intertel, whose cut off levels are not so high that the number of entrance tests is limited, in groups such as the Mega or Prometheus Societies, there may be an entirely different composition of minds. It's also easy to assume, for obvious reasons, that such groups have less of a range of scores within themselves, but that's another point entirely.

JCC:   Yes, they do. You can see that the standard deviation of scores for Colloquy is less than six IQ points, or reduced to about 40% of that found in the general population. For groups with threshold at 99.9, assuming valid scores, the figure appears closer to four points. Now, these are merely quantitative measures, and, other things being equal, the qualitative intellectual diversity is quite formidable.

FWM:   If, however, most members of a very exclusive society get in on the basis of one of several similar tests, might not these groups only cater to people with certain intellectual slants? ... The question, however, is whether or not some tests take this into consideration, or have the ability to. I am personally inclined to think not, at least not entirely, and that a good deal of tests which try to measure from a base of roughly 130 yield somewhat poor results in the way of a real IQ as they claim, rather than subtest scores.

Now that I've made a good number of people mad, I may as well take it a step further and question the veracity of some exceptionally high scorers on such tests. It's rather a given fact that it couldn't be easily repeated elsewhere because the scores are so high, but is the 160+ scorer not really perhaps a 150 or 140 person, who has an extreme faculty in one area which compensates for the rest? ...

JCC:   You have, I believe, identified the major flaw (beyond methodological) of the typical unsupervised amateur effort. These are not directly connected with general or normally diverse populations, but largely normed on test enthusiasts drawn from IQ societies. The content can be easily picked apart as not well representative of a complete spectrum of mental abilities. In other words, you couldn't derive a set of meaningful subtest scores, and the overall score may not mean a lot, beyond saying that the person is bright and motivated to spend a lot of time and effort on a series of fun brain teasers. This will select in favor of the severely obsessive and discriminate heavily against folks who have a life to live.

It's a somewhat different matter to see what people can do in isolation, given a generous maximum of three hours, all under the *same* conditions. So the test designer must be very selective and thus choose a balanced yet limited selection of problems. This takes a great deal of effort and expertise to do with justice, better by a team of researchers combining several years of experience in the study and practice of test design. To create a test focused on gradations within the top one percent requires greater, not lesser, care to questions of design, methodology, norming, and test controls. Credentialed psychologists would be largely unwilling, I think, to have their reputations associated with questionable or possibly fraudulent efforts. Enough said by me on this point.

FWM:   I heartily agree. This was my first experience with submitting a self administered test, and may quite possibly be the last.{smile} There's a question of what to believe, though. It's safe to assume that Stanford-Binet and Weschler are as good a set of guidelines for an arbitrary number, as any. Interpretations of what is measured in those tests are quite different from test to test, however. Sometimes I wonder how rare four sigma intelligence really is; though no IQ society is filled with anything close to maximum capacity, someone who consistently scores 164 or higher would either be very stable, or possibly have a much higher IQ. ... I think everyone is, to some degree, inconsistent. ... However, I do feel good in knowing that in the vast majority of cases, people like to believe the highest score they have, {smile} unless the score is so disproportionate that it is utterly unbelievable.

Intellectual diversity is a great thing, though; it's just a shame that so few tests exist which measure up to that range and are taken seriously. My own experience is limited due to a certain lack of funds :}, but does anyone else have real experience with either these or widely recognized standardized tests, which has led him or her to have a clear favorite?

Proceed to Part Two

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