The value of IQ points.
There is a legend that IQ doesn’t matter beyond 120. It is commonly told – though never with a stated source, in my experience – that once a person has an IQ of 120 or more, that additional IQ points have no real world value. The legend has it that someone with an IQ of 150 or 180 is no more likely to succeed than someone with an IQ of 120. This may be widely believed...but it is simply not true.
How much difference do you think 11 IQ points would make to life outcomes and achievements? It is a small difference in intelligence, comparatively speaking, given the huge range in human intelligence that exists. Many people would consider that it would have little value. A recent study by Vanderbilt University researchers David Lubinksi and Camilla Benbow begs to differ. They studied 2,000 intellectually precocious kids who scored in the top 1 per cent of the SAT at the age of 13. The SAT is, in effect, a form of IQ test. Thus it is a good proxy for a measure of intelligence. Lubinski and Benbow compared the life outcomes of those kids who scored at the 99.1 percentile level with those who scored at or above the 99.9 percentile. Now, that seems like a modest difference – but it corresponds to an IQ difference of 11 points (136 IQ compared to 147). At this point, I would like you to imagine what kind of difference in life outcomes the researchers found, for these two IQ thresholds. Please actually make a list, if you can of differences, if any. Perhaps you think they will be very similar.
Well, rather remarkably, Lubinski and Benbow found that children of IQ 147 and above, were three to five times more likely than those of IQ 136, to secure a patent, in their lifetime; to publish an article in a scientific journal, to publish a literary work, or to go on to achieve a doctorate. These are quite startling observations – that just 11 points of IQ could make so much difference to creative outcomes. How much more difference might 30 points of IQ make or 50? It is quite clear that IQ does contribute, in a very real way, to the likelihood of significant intellectual achievements. Being “smarter” counts for something.
There is value in this finding. Quite often, gifted kids are not given the support they need – particularly the most gifted – in education systems. They are not treasured, but neglected. There is great loss to a nation, in such indifference – for the most intelligent children are always – and ever shall be – the ones who could contribute the most to their societies, if given the right support and opportunity. Every IQ point makes a difference, to the possibilities of a child’s future. The brightest children can, one day, become the greatest adults – if they are allowed to be.
Don’t neglect the future of your country. Nurture the gifted among you – and remember just how much difference a few IQ points can make to the creative output of a life.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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