The Plight of the Super Genius

I came across this posted on Maggie’s Farm the other day.

The probability of entering and remaining in an intellectually elite profession such as Physician, Judge, Professor, Scientist, Corporate Executive, etc. increases with IQ to about 133.  It then falls about 1/3 by 140.  By 150 IQ the probability has fallen by 97%!  In other words, a significant percentage of people with IQs over 140 are being systematically and, most likely inappropriately, excluded from the population that addresses the biggest problems of our time or who are responsible for assuring the efficient operation of social, scientific, political and economic institutions.  This benefits neither the excluded group nor society in general. For society, it is a horrendous waste of a very valuable resource.  For the high IQ person it is a personal tragedy commonly resulting in unrealized social, educational and productive potential.

I think the facts presented in the article are open to debate, but they do correspond with my own observations. The most obvious example is Rick Rosner, who has some of the highest test scores ever recorded. He’s also a bit of a wacko. I’ve known a few 1% IQ’s who struggled to make good use of their IQ. Even those who did “mainstream” often did poorly compared to their less savvy coevals.

The two best examples of the latter are John Sununu and Chuck Schumer. Sununu tested into Mega Society and Schumer hit a perfect score on his SAT back in the 60’s when it was still a real test. Sununu had some success in politics, but his prickly personality was a problem. Schumer, of course, is known as the most unpleasant human on earth.

I suppose, in the case of Schumer and Sununu, it can be argued that their unpleasant demeanor was overcome by their high IQ’s. Chuck Schumer’s position is entirely dependent on his ability to push through sophisticated legislation allowing the financial sector to loot the economy. You have to be a smart guy to do that well so being a raging dickhead probably counts for little.

Still, at the extreme right side of the curve, we see a lot of eccentrics who prefer to be outside the conventional career paths. This is probably why we say there is a fine line between genius and insanity. These folksy observations persist for a reason and that reason is they have a kernel of truth. High IQ people tend to be weirdos.

What applies to productive environments also applies to social environments and even personal relationships.  Theoretically, after Hollingworth, a person’s social relationships should be limited to people with R16IQs within 30 points of their own.  For the 100 IQ person, this will include about 94% of the population and consequently it is not an issue.  However, for the 150 R16IQ (140 D15IQ), social relationships are limited to 120-180 R16IQ people which represents just a little over 10% of the population.  The 165 R16IQ (150D15IQ) person will be limited to people with 135+ R16IQs (130 D15IQ).  This comprises just 2% of the population.   By 182 R16IQ (160 D15IQ) the problem becomes critical with social relationships limited to those with R16IQs over 152 (142 D15IQ) which comprises just 0.25% of the population.

For the readers on the left side of the curve, not you of course, those other guys, let me explain what this means. Humans tend to associate with people like themselves. This does not just apply to IQ, by the way. This does not mean we associate with people identical to us. It means the more alike, the more we hold in common, which is the basis for relationships.

Take, for example, a typical working class Irish guy from a Boston neighborhood. He will easily socialize with people in his neighborhood and other working class guys from other Boston neighborhoods. The further you get from his natural environment, however, the less he will have in common with people from other states, countries, etc. There comes a point where socializing becomes impossible. It’s why dropping Bantu warriors into Lewiston Maine is a very stupid idea.

In IQ, a similar relationship between distance and commonality exists. If you have a 100 IQ, you will be roughly as smart as 90% of the people you will encounter on a daily basis. That means you will be able to understand most of the same things and not understand most of the same things. That last bit is vital. Ignorance is bliss, especially when shared with friends.

The further you move to the right on the curve, the smaller the population pool of people in your intelligence range. That means most of the people you meet will not know what you know and will probably never know it. Worse yet, the vast majority don’t think like you think. That’s not always appreciated.

Members of high IQ societies, especially those that require D15IQs above 145, often comment that around this IQ, qualitatively different thinking emerges.  By this they mean that the 145+ D15IQ person doesn’t just do the same things, intellectually, as a lower IQ person, just faster and more accurately, but actually engages in fundamentally different intellectual processes.  David Wechsler, D. K. Simonton, et alia, have observed the same thing.

Since intimate social relationships are predicated upon mutual understanding, this draws a kind of ‘line in the sand’ at 140-150 D15IQ that appears to separate humans into two distinct groups.  This may truncate the 30 point limit for those between 150 and 160 D15IQ people.  Even when 150+ D15IQ people learn to function in the mainstream society, they will always be considered, and will feel, in some way ‘different’.  Grady Towers explored this in depth in his article, ‘The Outsiders’.  This is of mild interest to the group within which the 150+ D15IQ person is embedded but it is moderately to profoundly important to the high IQ individual who will feel an often profound sense of isolation.

It has often been observed that 150+ D15IQ people are loners.  Also, Loius Termann found that children at this IQ level were emotionally maladjusted in about 40% of the cases.  However from the above one cannot help but wonder if this results from the children being constantly thrust into ‘no-win’ social situations and never given the opportunity to hone their social skills among their intellectual peers.

I think the loner aspect is due as much to boredom with other people as anything else. Human interaction is an exchange of value. If one side is simply too stupid to value the other side, they will get bored. The super-genius will also get bored or simply prefer to interact with a machine or book.

In some respects, a 1% IQ is like being seven feet tall. There’s some value at the fringes, but otherwise it has no value and can be a burden. There’s a low demand for seven footers and to most people it is a little weird being around a freakish giant. A 1% IQ is not in much demand and most people don’t like being around Wile E. Coyote for long, unless the genius is also blessed with a high agreeableness and extroversion.

16 thoughts on “The Plight of the Super Genius

  1. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy “Survivor” so much. You get these folks that far away from their comfort zone, and they turn into looney tunes. It’s hilarious.

    There’s a guy right now, a working class (“blue collar”) dude from Boston, who is so intellectually and socially out of his league that he’s having fits. He totally has it out for this Texan who is head and shoulders more likable (and somewhat smarter, but not much) than Mr. Boston. Tex is not so much out of his element, as he’s a pretty astute outdoorsman. It is absolutely hilarious to see this inter-play.

    Then, you have these really smart ‘white collar’ tribe members who are so much smarter than the others, and they know enough to keep their mouths shut. “Let the knuckleheads do their things and make fools of themselves, we’ll just sit back and do our thing”, and they’re doing quite well. I am totally enjoying watching the smart people take over and piss off the ding-dongs.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any 145 < people in real life. Statistically they are so rare. But online seems like it's the other way around in that everyone has an IQ above 120. So where are the other 95%? I guess on facebook and twitter. That's the invisible bulk of America.

    • Instagram, I’m guessing. Maybe snapchat.

      My guess is you traffic the same sorts of sites I read so that means mostly college educated, high number of post-graduate degrees and professionals. Those are people better at not revealing their limits, but they also are in the high normal IQ range. The typical MR poster is probably 115-120. Steve Sailer’s posters probably skew a bit lower, but there’s a lot of overlap I bet.

      Go read the comments on NR when Drudge links one of their stories. You will see a few thousand comments, rather than a few hundred. The comments suggest Drudge’s readership is in an IQ range of 80-90.

  3. It would be interesting to see whether the “loner” problem applies equally to men and women at the upper reaches of the IQ distribution. I tested at about 160 on the Wechsler when I was in high school. I’ve never had serious difficulty relating to other people, whether men or other women, and I’ve had close friends of both sexes. It may be that girls learn social skills more easily than boys– that is, if the child psychologists are correct. As for boredom, I’ve never found other people boring– maybe that has to do with lifelong church commitment and activity.

    • My guess is the left side finds the right side of the curve uninteresting, but the right side will often find the left side very interesting, for a variety of reasons. Curiosity and IQ probably track very close.

      As far as the loner issue, that could very well be a male issue. By nature, males will have fewer friends. Male bonding is about elevating status in order to better compete against other males. It may not feel like that in the suburbs, but that’s the biology.

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  5. I haven’t found that very highly elevated IQ or accomplishment commonly leaves that individual uniformly elevated in all things, Sometimes the gap is so great that it is startling, where it might not be were the individual to be average in the first place. The people who may be more likely to be elevated in a broader number of things are in the 120’s and 130’s. For what it’s worth, the sweet spot for chess is 135. Bobby Fisher was the exception, but he was also crazy.

    • There’s IQ, talent and then skill. Personality layers over it. I’m not an IQ determinist like Sailer and many of the HBD guys. I think personality traits have a big impact on individual success. There’s also talent, which is hard to pin down, but we all know people who are naturally good at certain things and/or terrible at others.

      That said, when you start reaching the extremes, IQ becomes dominant.

  6. Chuck Shumer “the most unpleasant man alive”?…..not while Harry Reid is still alive.

  7. There’s a low demand for seven footers and to most people it is a little weird being around a freakish giant.


    I would disagree to the extent that there is actually a very high demand for very athletic seven footers who know how to rebound and block shots.

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  9. Most surgeons are 1%’ers.
    I wish I was had been born a 1%’er.

    It is customary in the 1% and smaller crowd to refer to it in the opposite manner. ie. The ones you have labeled 1%, we call 99ers.

    The difference in thought styles and processes is exaggerated as you start adding 9’s to the appellation. A triple 9 thinks very differently than a 99er and a quad 9 will be even more different than the triple. Triples and up don’t even get along with each other. They challenge. They compete. Their self image is predicated on being the smartest. Doesn’t that sound fun?

    I believe that one of the worst things that ever happened to me was being told my IQ at too young of an age. All of a sudden, I was way better than anybody else. Ruins a kid, don’tcha know?

    Fuck it. This is too painful, but thank you for writing the article. The more people who understand that there is a real difference in us oddballs, the better for us.

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