Does High IQ Spell Success?

Photo: Youngest person accepted by Mensa

A typical 1-and-a-half-year-old might wake up his or her parents in the middle of the night asking for a drink of water or needing to be comforted after a bad dream. But Oscar Wrigley had more pressing things on his mind.

"He was very interested in the Romans at the time, and he came and woke us up and said, 'Romans built temple of Claudius! Mummy, wear a toga and daddy, wear a helmet!'" said Oscar's mother Hannah Wrigley, 26, of Reading, Berkshire in the U.K.

Wrigley said she and her husband Joe always knew their alert, curious baby was bright, but intelligence tests administered in July of this year showed that Oscar, now 2-and-a-half, was off the charts smart, with an IQ of at least 160. The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, which was used in Oscar's case, does not go any higher.

"At four months, we would read real children's stories and he'd laugh in all the right places," Wrigley said. "By 18 months, he knew all the British birds. His vocabulary was 600-plus words, where a normal 18-month-old's is about 20."

While having the genius potential of Einstein may seem like hitting the mental jackpot, experts say that hitting the familial and social jackpot is just as important for children like Oscar. As it turns out, the conventional wisdom that being smart assures success -- academic, financial or otherwise -- has little relevance to IQ

High IQ? You Might Do Well in School

"The best thing IQ measures is the ability to do well in school," said Alan Kazdin, professor of psychology and director of the Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic at Yale University. "At this age, consider it potential. But you have to have the right environment to nurture this."

A score on an IQ test measures one's mental abilities in relation to their peer group. IQ tests, of which the two most common are the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and the Stanford-Binet, come in adult and children's versions and are similar to standardized tests, such as the SAT.

100 is the average IQ and anything above 140 is considered "genius."

IQ Tests Don't Measure Everything

But Kazdin pointed out that IQ tests are far less general than the public believes. They test very specific areas of knowledge where vocabulary, pattern recognition and problem solving are most important.

The drawback of such tests is that they cannot measure creativity and practical knowledge in areas such as music, art or athletics. Nor can such tests point out a particular talent.

Frank Lawlis, psychological supervisor of American MENSA, a society for people with high IQ, said the tests can emphasize how many different kinds of intelligence there are, but if there is no way to determine a person's skill in an area of interest beyond reading and general problem solving, then they will not be recognized by an IQ test.

"We're going to miss that person's best intelligence," Lawlis said.

A nurturing, varied and intellectually stimulating environment helps a bright child to discover areas of interest and apply their substantial mental faculties to them. However, such an environment is entirely controlled by other people, such as parents and teachers, during a child's formative years.

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