04 January 2016

Mensa: debasing the idea of ‘genius’

The parents of a child genius with an IQ similar to Einstein’s have said she is ‘perfectly ordinary’. Ophelia Spracklen, 12, scored a stunning 157 on her Mensa test – only three points lower than Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

More than 121,000 people worldwide are members of Mensa, an elite society that boasts some of the smartest brains on the planet. Its tests gauge Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, using problem-solving tests. ... Ophelia’s results put her into the genius category of 145 to 159.

... Chief executive of Mensa John Stevenage said Ophelia’s score put her in the top one per cent of the population.
(Oxford Times, 31 December 2015)
They appear still further to have debased the concept of ‘genius’. Havelock Ellis defined it by reference to a person having an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography. More recently, it has been defined by performance in socially recognised IQ tests.

When my IQ was tested in 1945, I was told that it was 180. At that time, I was given to understand that there was a population of people with an IQ between 180 and 200, and also a population of people with IQs over 200 who were ‘geniuses’. Now, it appears, a testable IQ of over 145 qualifies its possessor to be described as a ‘genius’. This seems to imply that about 1% of the population of this country are geniuses.

In my school days in the 1940s, I used to think that an IQ of 140 or more would usually enable you to be top of your class in a grammar school.

Using the new definition, it would seem that these days, one is never more than a mile away from a ‘genius’.