Culturally Inane


Dumber Than You Thought

Without offering any data on all that occurs between conception and the age of kindergarten,
they announce on the basis of what they have got out of a few thousand questionnaires
that they are measuring the hereditary mental endowment of human beings.
Obviously, this is not a conclusion obtained by research.  It is a conclusion planted by the will to believe.
It is, I think, for the most part unconsciously planted...  If the impression takes root that these tests really measure intelligence,
that they constitute a sort of last judgment on the child's capacity, that they reveal "scientifically" his predestined ability,
then it would be a thousand times better if all the intelligence testers and all their questionnaires were sunk in the Sargasso Sea.

- Walter Lippmann

How many people today are conversant with either Latin or Greek?  Nowadays, an educated person apparently needs to know Java, C++ or html as his or her second language - though these may sound like Greek to most of us.  (I'm beginning to know enough to see how much there is to learn.)

Illustration of the Cultural Bias of IQ Tests

I believe IQ tests don't always measure what they seem to measure.  Not only that, but progressive maturity indicates life "slides" down the DNA strand.  This means different genes are ascendant at different stages of life.  I believe this and other influences mean we can have different IQs at different periods in our lives.

There's nothing like that feeling that we're better than others at something!  If we no longer feel that way, but one time in our lives we did, then the next best thing is to re-live those times when we were tops.  Say you were good at team sports in high school or university, perhaps a member of the varsity baseball team, then you may very well have spent your 20s, and even 30s, playing on your company's or your neighbourhood bar's baseball team.  By your 40s, when you were slower, a little overweight, you may have found you no longer had the time or energy to actually play.  Now, perhaps you talk a good game.

You'll likely seek situations where you'll have the opportunity to talk about that no-hitter you pitched against East Kingston High.  (Or how good you were at building soapbox racers as a kid.  Or flying kites, or playing the saxophone.)  I don't think it matters so much to you how good you actually were, it only matters how good you now think you were compared to the others who were doing it at the same time as you.  (The benefits of boasting are current, not past, benefits.)

Maybe you weren't athletically or musically inclined.  Perhaps you were endowed with a great memory and were always the person who made the highest grades on history tests.  But maybe events conspired such that you ended up a technical writer, postman, or cab driver.  In your 20s and 30s, you may find you're really good at games like TRIVIA, and begin sitting up until midnight twice a week playing on some on-line computer information network.  (Never mind that your friends and family members tell you that trivia is - well - trivial.  The members of your team type sighs of relief when you sign on seconds before the big game is about to begin.)

What if you once had a mind like a steel trap, but in your 40s and beyond you find rusty spots have allowed information to leak out like a sieve?  Can you get the same satisfaction from sitting around the company cafeteria boasting about how smart you used to be as you can from talking about physical or sexual skills you once had?

Perhaps we aren't talking about comparable things here.  Is true intelligence something that may get less detailed, but become more of a storehouse of experiential knowledge, helping us to deal more effectively with life's vagaries as time wears on?  Where does intelligence stop and trivia begin, anyway?

From Test Your Intelligence by Norman Sullivan:

Aptitude - an innate predilection for a certain subject or subjects, though it may allow ignorance of other subjects.

Intelligence - the ability to reason quickly and logically in a subject, even though there is no natural aptitude for that subject; to be able to get to the root of a problem and from that arrive rationally, quickly, and correctly at the solution.

In the section, "Overall Ratings..," we find:

But take heart!  Such tests only cover a limited number of subjects - mainly of an academic nature.  It may well be that even if you had a very low score you are more adapted to tests requiring manual dexterity.  A brilliant mathematician is not necessarily a good carpenter or gardener.

Why not say, "A brilliant carpenter or gardener is not necessarily a good mathematician"?

In Test Your Intelligence 2, also by Norman Sullivan, we find that:

Heim (in The Appraisal of Intelligence) defines intelligence as "the ability to respond the most appropriately in any given situation and grasp and respond to the essentials in situations which baffle others."  Intelligence is affected by genotypical characteristics, which are transferred in the genes at fertilisation and which steadily diminish or disappear from the moment of conception as they are taken over by phenotypical characteristics - that is, when environmental effects take precedence over genetic influences.

Is one who can solve The Times crossword puzzle inside 30 minutes automatically more intelligent than one who cannot complete a simple crossword in two hours?  Certainly, creative thinking, music, art or business acumen have not been convincingly measured by intelligence tests.

I've taken many intelligence tests in my life.  On some, I did exceedingly well.  On others, I found the questions trivial or nonsensical.  (See What Does It Mean to Be Schooled?)  Who REALLY has a high IQ?  Perhaps in reality there is no reality - there is only some test writer's instructions for the interpretation of test results.

Black students in the US have historically made lower grades on IQ tests administered by schools.  During their lives, they certainly gain the same amount of experience as whites, but their experiences may differ widely.  What constitutes wisdom to a bushman of the Kalahari, to a 17-year-old on the street, to an overweight executive, to a politician, to a pastor?  Can one IQ test possibly measure the wisdom (or potential for same) among such a disparate group?  Maybe - but the tests I've seen aren't capable of doing that.  All tests start out with loads of hidden assumptions - some of them the authors of the test may have been completely unaware of.  (Because their own IQs were lower than they thought?)

In Frames of Mind: the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner theorises that we have not one intelligence, but seven.  These include:

bulletLinguistic - Gardner sees poets as geniuses in this area.  This would, of course, include understanding the rules of language, the nuances of words, and require the possession of an extensive vocabulary.
bulletSpatial - Visual spatial abilities might predict an artist or architect; an audio-spatial sense might herald a musician or conductor; excellent mental spatial abilities would include being able to rotate a three-dimensional object in one's mind, to play chess while blindfolded, to discern complex patterns, or to orient one's self in a strange locale.
bulletLogical/Mathematical - This ability would be required for computer programming, systems design, detective work, tracking prey, and for a family physician ferreting out the source of puzzling illnesses.
bulletBodily/Kinesthetic - Examples of persons talented in this area would be mimes, dancers, gymnasts, athletes, prizefighters, racecar drivers, actors, inventors, jugglers, surgeons, and competitive sailors.
bulletMusical - This talent would definitely be found in composers and in those people who can play a musical composition on the instrument of their choice after hearing it only once or twice.
bulletSocial Adroitness - This talent is characterised by highly developed interpersonal skills, and includes politicians, religious leaders, skilled parents and teachers, shamans, seminar leaders, and other people possessing great charisma and poise.
bulletSelf-knowledge - The core capacity at work here is access to one's own emotions, the capacity to discriminate among feelings.  Examples would include novelists, therapists and their successful patients, wise elders, philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists.

Gardner maintains that standardized IQ tests measure language and logical/mathematical abilities and a smattering of spatial skills.  The other "intelligences," he feels, are not measured (in part, because a comprehensive IQ test would be too difficult - and too expensive! - to administer and to evaluate).


(The fact that it's hard does NOT say anything about its quality!)

1.     Which word is the odd one out?[1]

  BYE     CAN     GEE     PAW     POT     TAM     TAR     TOM

2.     In each of the following, find a word that can prefix all of the words in each group to form another word.

 a.     Rhyme, Stalk, Water
 b.     Brush, Frame, Tight
 c.     Plate, Straw, Table
 d.     Bark, Dish, Less, Root, Wort
 e.     Body, Day, Time, Ways, What
 f.     Able, Book, Over, Port, Word
 g.     Boy, Flower, Point, Room
 h.     Bench, Let, On, Runner, Wise
 i.     Land, Penny, Plate, Pole, Weed, Word
 j.     Dog, Fish, Light, Sail, Shade
 k.     Brain, Down, Jaw, Pot, Rope, Up
 l.     Age, Ball, Berry, Bind, Bottle, Brash, Ice, Pipe

3.     Mr Hoan has eight favourite letters, six of which are H, L, S, P, N and M.  What are Mr Hoan's two other favourite letters?

4.     Arrange the following into three groups of three:


5.     What are the two longest words that can be typed using the top row of the typewriter keyboard?

6.     What is X ? [2]


7.     If 3(76) = 212 and 4(320) = 125, what is:


8.     Which symbol should take the place of X?

        Assume the top figures are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4.  Which numbered symbol is the answer?

9.     What WORD is represented by X?

31     31    X    31

10.     Which is the odd one out?

E.     ABUTS

11.     What should go into the empty segment?


12.     Which words go into the brackets?  Each word must logically follow the previous word and precede the next word, e.g. putting (GREEN) fingers.

        A       (             )

        B        (             )

        C         (            )

        D         (            )

        E         (            )

        F         (            )

        G         (            )

        H         (            )

         I         (            )

        J         (            )


13.     Here are seven common words.  Which is the odd one out?

A.     DIM
B.     MIND
C.     MILL
D.     LIVID
E.     VIM
F.     MIX
G.     CIVIL

14.     Which is the odd one out?


                                  A                 B                     C                   D                     E                         F

15.     What letter starts the last word?

_ E N D

16.     Find words for A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H:

        A         (            )

        B         (            )

        C         (            )

        D         (            )

        E         (            )

        F         (            )

        G         (            )

        H         (            )


17.     Which of the numbered figures at the bottom should take the places of A, B, and C?




19.     Which letter is in the wrong line?


20.     What comes next?

13     122     83     314     305     3    163

21.     Which is the odd one out?[3]


22.     Which is the odd one out?


23.     Three of these days have one thing in common.  Which day does not share this common feature?


24.     What are the next two terms in this series?

36     91     21     51     82
       12     42        7     __     __       

25.     Which is the odd one out?

C.     LATIN
D.     HOURI
E.     JACK
F.     LOCUM

26.     Which is the odd one out?[4]

 AIL                  NOT               ROW   
INCH                 LOVER             THREAD

27.     What is unique about the number 854917632?

28.     When the following numbers are applied to MALT:


            what is MALT converted to?

29.     What do the answers to the following clues all have in common?

Tract of waste land

Dwelling place

Place of great delight or contentment

A rule

Flake off


A cardinal point


1.     POT

All of the other words can be doubled to form another word: BYEBYE, CANCAN, GEEGEE, et cetera.

2.     a. Eye; b. Air; c. Bed; d. Soap; e. Some; f. Pass; g. Ball; h. Front; i. Catch; j. Moon; k. Crack; l. Corn

3.     B and D.

Hoan is an anagram of Noah.  If you place the word ark after each of the eight letters, a new 4-letter word is formed. H, L, S, P, N, M, B and D are the only letters to which this applies.

4.    Frank, Ralph, Colin...all types of bird
       Beryl, Hazel, Ruby....all prefixes for colours (Beryl blue, Hazel brown, Ruby red)
       Ellen, Glen, Douglas...all English rivers

5.    Proprietory and Rupturewort.

6.     B

In each section, the letters in the outer ring combine with those in the inner ring to form a word in conjunction with LAND, which is common to all words:


7.    3020

The first two digits on the right of the brackets are divided by the digit on the left to give the first digit inside the brackets.  The remaining number on the right of the brackets is multiplied by the digit on the left of the brackets to give the remaining number inside the brackets.

8.    2 

In each row the first symbol is the same as the second in the previous row and the other symbols continue in the same order.  (The answer given in the actual test was incorrect.   As far as I'm concerned, there is no possible excuse to have an error in an intelligence test.)


These are obviously the number of days in the months.  September is the only month that has two 31-day months before it and one after it.

10.  C

CANOPY contains three consecutive letters in their correct order.  All the other words contain three consecutive letters in reverse order.

11.  elbi

Each word starts with COM.  The syllables that follow are read backwards in the outer sections:

COM - EST - IBLE (the only possible syllable to make a word.

12.  A     MARKET
      B     PARTY
      C     LEVEL
      D     MAN
      E     HOUSE
      F     RACE
      G     SHOE
      H     WATCH
      I     ROSE
      J     PIGEON

13.  B

All other words are made up with Roman numerals.  N is not a Roman numeral.

14.  C

In C there are 8 curves and 6 straight lines.  In all the others there are 6 curves and 6 straight lines.

15.  V

Giving each letter a value according to its position in the alphabet, each word must have a total letter-value of 45.

16.         paper
      A     MONEY
      B     CRAB
      C     JACK
      D     SHOT
      E     DOG
      F     BONE
      G     CLEAN
      H     GLASS

17.  A 5      B 2      C 12

Consider the movements of the black section in each figure.  It goes diagonally across the square from bottom left to top right and then back again.  In the circle it moves two segments at a time in a clockwise direction.  In the diamond it moves alternately from top to bottom.

18.  2     4     12

The first number equals the number of CENTRE spots.  The second number is the total of the spots that surround the centre spots.  The third number is the total of remaining spots.

19.  S

All the letters in the top line except S will read the same if reflected in a mirror.  S should be in the bottom line, in which every letter would read backwards if reflected in a mirror.

20.  0

Correctly spaced, the series becomes:

1  31     2  28     3  31      4  30     5  31     6  3_

The series is based on the days and months of the year - the month followed by the number of days.  June has 30 days, so the final term should be 30.

21.  C

Although they are all boys' names, A and B also contain other boys' names in reverse: ROGER and RON.

22.  A

All the words contain names of towns or cities.  Except for A they are all in England.  A is in Ireland:

A     unCORKed
B     BURYing
C     statELY
E     bLEEDS
F     wheelBARROW
G     fareWELLS

23.  A

The others contain two consecutive letters of the alphabet:

B     TUesday
C     thuRSday
D     saTUrday

24.  3 and 0

The series must be spaced correctly:

3     6     9     12      15     18     21      24     27

The terms increase by 3 throughout, so 30 is next.

25.  C

The first and last letters of all the others are consecutive in the alphabet.

A     BucoliC
B     DiatribE
D     HourI
E     JacK
F     LocuM

26.  Thread - The rest are all headless birds: (R)ail, (K)not, (C)row, (F)inch, (P)lover.

27.  It contains the numbers 1 to 9 in alphabetical order.

28.  Get out your conversion tables.  Convert:

Miles     to     Centimetres
Acres    to      Hectares
Litres    to      Ounces
Tons     to      Pounds

MALT     =     CHOP

29.  They were all British Prime Ministers: Heath, Home, Eden, Law, Peel, Grey, North.


[1]   The first five problems are taken from A Challenging Book of Brain Teasers, compiled by Mensa UK member Alan Wareham, Ward Lock, 1990.
[2]   The next 15 problems are from Test Your Intelligence, by Norman Sullivan, Blandford Press, 1988.
[3]   The next five problems are from Test Your Intelligence, by Norman Sullivan, Blandford, 1990.
[4]   The remainder of the problems are from Take the IQ Challenge 3 by Philip J Carter & Ken A Russell, Joint editors of the Mensa (UK) Puzzle Group Journal, Blandford Press, 1990.

So - how did you do?  If this test were being used to determine whether or not you were admitted to university or qualified to immigrate, would you have made it?

Also see:

bulletBrain Games (in the Animation section) - requires a fast connection and Flash.
bulletFour Modern Questions (elsewhere in this section) - from Mensa (which are also contained in Brain Games, above).
bulletCan This Be True? (elsewhere in this section) - short visual test of an area problem (also in Brain Games).
bulletAre You a Professional? (elsewhere in this section) - test of creative thinking.
bulletPassing the 8th Grade, 1895 (elsewhere in this section) - includes history and world affairs questions drawn from The Economist as well (the latter are also included in Brain Games, above).
bullet100 Facts (in the section on Oddities) - I'll bet you don't know most of them...
bulletThanks, Mom, for the Brains (in the section on Men) - articles which discuss the genetic basis for IQ

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