Friday, March 18, 2011

Lady Einstein

I have a confession to make. I only just realized that I may share Einstein's IQ.

2 days ago, I came across the Mail Online news about Little Miss Einstein, 11 year-old Victoria Cowie, in UK. The news article stated that the girl was tested by Mensa and it put her IQ between Einstein's and Descartes'. I guess it implies that Albert Einstein's estimated IQ is based on a scale with a standard deviation (S.D.) similar to the Cattell IQ scale with a S.D. of 24.
  1. UK's Little Miss Einstein was tested by Mensa which uses the Cattell IQ scale for scoring.
  2. Einstein's score is only an estimated one, not one based on actual IQ tests.
  3. I was tested by Mensa almost 20 years ago as an adult. I am not sure, but I think it may have been the Cattell Culture Fair III A.
I have heard of Einstein's IQ score before -- when my nursing classmates' group did a presentation. Given that there are many IQ score scales, I simply assumed that Einstein IQ of 160 is based on a scale with a small standard deviation. I didn't think that I would be anywhere near his level. Here's what my Mensa Singapore test result letter actually states.
Congratulations! Your supervised IQ test has now been marked and returned to us from Mensa International, and we find that according to this evidence your intelligence quotient appears to be [number], which is higher that 98%/99% percent of the population. ... blah blah blah. [Note: The number was handwritten and 98% was canceled by hand with the same ink.]
When I received the above result, I thought 1 in 100 is not that rare. [My sister, who did the test at the same sitting as me, had the same score too.] At that time, I was working in a mid-sized company which had around 300 staff locally, so theoretically speaking there would be around 3 in the company itself. Thus, I didn't think that Einstein would belong to this not-so-rare group.

Tonight, I checked out the Normal Distribution Z table calculator online. Yup, entering 100 for mean, 24 for SD and somewhere around 0.01 (i.e. 1%) for the shaded area, gives my reported IQ.

What does all the above mean? Not very much when it comes to achievements in life according to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. It cites the example of Christopher Langan whose IQ is reportedly between 195 and 210. [Read the book or the link here for more about Christopher Langan.] I am inclined to agree with Malcolm's suggestion that beyond having enough intelligence to qualify for a college education*, IQ is far less predictive of life achievements.

*Note: Typically estimated to be around 1 standard deviation away, i.e. an IQ score of around 124 and above.

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