Grumpy about the IQ tests

I am just not a bright bulb these days. About a month ago I was bombarded by the IQs of my Facebook friends, based on quickie quizzes posted up by some unidentified sources. Everyone reported being in the 120 to 130 range, which struck me as curiously uniform.

Just for kicks, Anthony and I took one of the tests together, because we’re a team, we’re partners in life, we’re joined permanently in the universal union of love. Yeah. That’s why. Our collective IQ is allegedly in the 130’s, so I guess that means we’re about 65 each. That sounds right.

The test was short. There were simple pattern questions (numbers and shapes) and math and word stuff and some basic logic. Not especially impressive. Not like being able to sort out socks from six full loads of laundry without having even ONE singleton sock remaining. Which I seriously managed to do a couple months ago, so I know my laundry IQ is like, 200. (Or my OCD was in full blossom. You choose.)

I took another one of the IQ tests all by myself and attempted to get every single answer wrong. I tried really hard. My IQ was still reported as 115, which tells me something. It tells me that I’M TOO STUPID TO FAIL AN IQ TEST ON PURPOSE. Hopeless.

I’m not a fan of IQ tests. In my opinion, an “intelligence” test that asks this question — “which of the following does not belong?” — without providing criteria for belonging is, in the immortal words of Anthony, “a stupid test.” The answer depends on your perspective and culture and whether you can determine what category the test writer has in mind. There are almost always legitimate alternatives. It’s a test of something, just not innate intelligence. I feel this is even more true for patterning questions. What comes next in a pattern depends on how long the repeating pattern is, and there are lots of ways to shake that out when you only have a few observations to work with. So really the IQ being tested isn’t some innate smarty-pants thing, but a person’s ability to anticipate what the testing body was expecting the testee to observe. What do you call that, test-taking social cue IQ?

This is all redundant prattle, of course. Debates about IQ tests and standardized tests are the stuff of legend. LEGEND, I tell you.

I used to be really good at standardized tests, because I’m simple. I actually think they’re kind of fun, which says something very lame about me. I used to teach for the Princeton Review. My niche was teaching the reading and comprehension sections of the LSAT to the “rocks” — standardized testing bottom-dwellers. Working with this cohort was eye-opening. Most of the people were really interesting and sometimes outright strange. Usually they had more questioning minds than the average high-scoring joe or joan. Their perception of the meanings of words and phrases was frequently off norm, and yet perfectly sensible – even poetic sometimes – once they could explain it to me. On several occasions I was unable to formulate a legitimate, intellectually sound answer when challenged as to why one multi-choice answer was better than another. In such situations, I was apt to tell the student this. It doesn’t matter that you are making sense. You suck at standardized tests and you still will get the answer wrong. You need to think like the boob who wrote the test, and like the boobs who do well on the test, and like the boob standing in front of you right now trying to help you do better on the test.

When I was 10, we moved from Seoul, Korea — a vibrant, polluted third-world metropolis in 1976 — to Stockton-Someplace-Special, the armpit of California. After a short while in the local public school’s fifth grade, I was placed in a room with a strange man who presented me with a bunch of crazy-ass problems to solve. I had fixed in my mind that a 200 IQ was required to be a “genius.” I have no idea where that came from. When my mom told me I had been given an IQ test and mine was somewhere in the 150’s, I concluded with a mix of sadness and relief that I was a pretty ordinary schmo. I still believe that. There were a lot of reasons why I would test well when I was 10. I was bilingual and I could read in Korean, so that naturally made language stuff easier. I studied classical piano from when I was 4, so that gave me some discipline and less anxiety in a performance/testing setting. My dad was a reader, so I read a lot. My dad loved crossword puzzles, logic problems, spatial brain teasers and such, so I grew up doing all of that from an early age. I had a really good memory, so that made all the academic basics easier. Maybe the DOD schools were better in Korea. Who knows. None of this meant I was innately smarter than anyone else, but it surely would have made it easier for me to work my way through an IQ test with some school psychologist.

If I took a real IQ test now, I believe I would present with a double-digit number, hopefully a high one. And I would be proud. My once phenomenal memory has been shot to pieces by aging, parenthood, and sleep deprivation, and I’m just not very good at logical problem solving anymore. What does spending nearly a decade almost exclusively in the company of small children do to a brain? I get depressed when I think about it too much. I can practically see and hear my brain pathways withering away and dumbing down, my memories of mathematical concepts and musical forms and complex legal principles methodically replaced by monosyllabic rhyming words and threatening 5-counts, my ability to process and organize large amounts of data transformed into a spectacular talent for finding where Nick last hid his green dragon with the orange horns and see-through wings, my axons sheering away left and right like chunks of ice crumbling off the arctic sheet.

How long was that sentence?? See what I mean?? I make no sense anymore.

I can’t make it through a single day in a sensible fashion. I experience life as a chaotic, quantum affair, ping-ponging from need to need as my children bully me through each day. My bulb is dimming. The only way for me to get to three digits on a real IQ test would be if they give me long enough and I manage to pull a trick, like the hypothetical monkey who types randomly on a keyboard for ten years and eventually produces a Shakespearean sonnet.

Anyway, why did people post up their fake IQs on Facebook? Who cares? I’m so much more interested in specific skills, like if people said things like… I’m so good at spatial problem solving than I managed to make 7.5 inch floor tiles fit a 12-foot square room without a single cut by manipulating the grout width perfectly. I’m so good with plants that I wintered over calla lilies in Fairbanks. I hear voices and music in my head, here watch this Youtube video where I recorded some of them. I ran a seven-minute mile, check it out on map-my-run so you know I ain’t lyin’. My farts can clear an entire conference room; anyone know a good consultant who can help me update my resume?

If my Facebook friends posted up things like that, I would think they were all geniuses and it would be a really fascinating day on Facebook.


One thought on “Grumpy about the IQ tests

  1. Congrats on your 200 sock laundry IQ. Impressive! When I had kids at home I never managed a single time in nearly two decades to do laundry without a lost sock. BUT similarly to you, I did once create a wall tile design around our tub using 3 sizes of tiles in different configurations so that not a single tile had to be cut. Great minds sometimes work alike! Other than that, nothing remotely intelligent to report.

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