How Smart Are You?

Dr. Steve Mason

“We make some of our greatest gains when we see old things in new ways.”

Contact Dr. Mason by email at

How Smart Are You?

Most people have heard of an I.Q. test and many people have taken one but only a few will know their score and fewer still will know what it means. This is surprising as I.Q. testing is arguably the most valid, reliable psychometric ever developed.

The concept of an Intelligence Quotient came out of WW 1 when the Army found itself faced with a mob of recruits. From peeling potatoes to fixing engines. some jobs require more brain power than others and measuring one’s mental potential proved to be a remarkably accurate indicator of one’s ability to learn. Colleges then picked up on the tests and used them to separate applicants into those who could, and those who couldn’t, benefit from a higher education.

All went well for over half a century until the Politically Correct movement came along and decided that everybody was equal; even though some might be more equal than others. And because I Q’s made this inconvenient truth obvious, every sort of attempt has been made to discredit the notion that some of us might be brighter than others of us. This has reached the point where a student with no proof of intellectual competence can run up a $200,000 debt for a degree in Diversity Studies.

Just the other day, I read about a basketball player who signed a contract for $450 million. He was described as a genius. He certainly has a talent for putting a ball through a hoop but using the word genius is inappropriate. It shows that terms used to describe intelligence – such as Dull, Bright, Gifted, Trainable and Genius – have lost their meaning.

The standard bell curve sets the average IQ at 100 with 34% of the population scoring higher (between 100 and 115) and another 34% scoring lower (between 100 and 85). going still lower, it means that roughly 15% of Americans have I Q’s below 85. Without attaching a label, it would be fair to say that this group is significantly challenged.

Americans tend to be generous. They’re quick to offer food and shelter after fires and storms. Yet 4.5 million individuals (1 out of 7) with a low I.Q. lead marginal lives; often homeless and frequently incarcerated. Even the Army knows that bad things can happen to those with low I Q’s – and to anyone standing near them, so it typically rejects such volunteers.


People have some really weird beliefs when it comes to I.Q. tests. They say they don’t test for anything or if they do it doesn’t count. They say they’re racist or elitist. They say if you study hard you can improve your score or that, given a chance, anyone can do any job. Unfortunately, these and similar myths have made any new research in the field extremely difficult if not impossible. Yet how else does one approach a problem effecting millions of people? It’s sad when that’s the very group that suffers the most when attempts to measure intelligence are besmirched and belittled.




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