The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, November 28, 2011

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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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:51 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding very high IQ schoolchildren not being given the proper support: I think you need to read this article by my friend Michael Ferguson.

I believe he is referring to the chances of extremely high IQ people making it in life without any particular effort being made by families, schools etc., not what happens when they are adequately supported. Perhaps I'm going blind, but I'm sure there used to be a line in this article that said something like, "...for those with IQ's of 160 and above, the chances of gaining entry to a top academic career or profession are statistically negligible".

Anyway, I think that Michael's article does rather prove your point. Society deems it acceptable to squander away our brightest minds, but then when we aren't there to solve its problems (we're flipping burgers somewhere just to make a living), then suddenly WE'RE the ones who're wasting our potential...

9:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for the link. I will read it later.

I am quite ready to believe that high IQ children may not reach their potential...particularly if unsupported. This is because their potential is so great, so the heights they could achieve are great indeed...with ideal support. Often that support is not there...hence the burglar flipping PhDs...

Yes. Society is quick to blame high IQ types for "wasting their potential" but curiously slow to help in any way. It is almost as if they get a certain pleasure at their "failure". Some of them, no doubt, would rather the brightest got nowhere, than to see them succeed.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Lemni said...

I remember as a gifted elementary school student, without my parents telling me an IQ score, that even the other students in the gifted class seemed immature and slow. At that time I had very low self-esteem, so I assumed that I had obtained the lowest possible score to qualify for the program -- an IQ of 130. But looking back on it, I realize that even then that I was very different from the "typically gifted," so I must have scored at least 10 points higher than the minimum.

4:32 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Oops. Wonderful typo above...instead of "burglar flipping" - which sounds very should read "burger flipping"!!!

However, the typo is just so wonderful I am not going to change it. It is much better than the original intended words.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Lemni,

I rather think you were probably more than 10 points ahead, if they seemed "immature and slow" to you. Just think, a child of IQ 160, looks upon a moderately gifted child of 130, much as the moderately gifted child does an average child of 100. Most people are unaware of just how different the various points on the IQ scale are from each other.

Most children in a gifted programme will cluster around the moderately gifted point of 130 for obvious statistical reasons. The truly smart can still feel left out - as you did - in such surroundings.

I hope you have found a fulfilling path through life, since.

Best wishes.

1:31 PM  
Blogger EbTech said...

Part of this myth might come from how people measure success. An IQ of 130 is enough to enter most high-paying careers, which unfortunately is the most common measure of seccess. The greatest long-term contributors to society aren't typically the wealthiest.

And as you've said before, IQ tests usually fail to distinguish the peaks of genius. The SAT measures work ethic in addition to intelligence, both of which would correlate with success.

Finally, I sense that people hate thinking they lack the potential to achieve at the highest level. It can be dispiriting to find that one's best efforts are no match for a natural talent which came about with no effort. It's like being destined for failure.

I could sympathize with this; after all, don't we all value fairness? Unfortunately, people often react inappropriately to such facts of life. This mode of thought is a root cause of society's attitudes against the most gifted. Defeating it might require changing how we as a society perceive success.

2:03 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Firstly, welcome back Eb is years since I have heard from you. I suppose you must have graduated by now? If so, well done.

Anyway, I think you are right. If people measure life success by admission to professions - then the threshold of 130 would define a point at which it would not matter any more, beyond it. However, in reality that is not so - for the brighter one is, the more likely one is to do something remarkable - and that holds for all professions and all walks of life.

Yes. Some people might see individual gift as "unjust" - but it is not so if you reflect on it. We all had the same jumbling of the genes at our conception - we all had a "throw of the dice" we cannot begrudge differing outcomes, when we are all created by the same process. That would be irrational and itself a kind of unfairness.

Society is altogether healthier if it SUPPORTS and ENCOURAGES the people of gift within. Many societies however do the the detriment of all.

I hope you are doing well EbTech.

1:21 AM  

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