Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Echoes of uncertainty

3 weeks ago, I have taken a test to join Mensa. We've been told that the results may take up to 1 month before hitting our mailboxes. So, I have no complaint about the time it takes though of course, impatience is growing. But in the meantime, I've been reading a book about gifted adults, reading articles about high intelligence, joining a forum for gifted people, listening to recordings of radio shows and watching documentaries and lectures about high IQ.

I see myself as a smart guy. Don't we all? But I have the arrogance to imagine I might be among those who are qualified as "gifted" who compose the top 2% of the population in terms of IQ. At first, I know that saying "top 2%" sounds very restrictive and elitist. But the top 2% of a country's population or even a town's population... that's still a huge crowd. Considering my town and its urban area that have a population of 500,000 people, the top 2% represent 10,000 people. Enough to fill a quarter of the seats of the local football stadium.

But while I'm waiting for the results of the Mensa test, it is exhausting to keep pondering: "Am I one of them? What if I'm just an average person and I've deluded myself into recognizing myself in the descriptions of gifted people?".

It seems vacuous when you think that it will probably not matter a lot. After all, if I am in the 2%, it means I've been in the 2% all my life and simply didn't know about it. Also, having a confirmation (or confirmation that I'm not) will not suddenly change my taste of foods, or the kind of people I feel comfortable with. It won't suddenly make me distaste philosophy and enjoy watching sports on television.

At the same time, having a confirmation will certainly encourage me to go and get a more thorough IQ test like WAIS 4 in order to understand the finer details of my cognitive dispositions. This could be a useful start to later make plans on how I choose to develop myself. Depending on who I want to be, it could be helpful to know if I'll be able to develop some specific sets of skills in only half the time of normal people or if on the contrary I'll need double the time of normal people. It could help also to figure out if I'm more efficient in learning small quantities of information on a regular basis, or if I'm better able (as I believe) to soak in huge chunk of information in a short time. The discussion with a psychologist could also help me to decide if spending efforts on disciplines for which I'm not gifted is a waste of time or a winning long-term strategy. It also seems (though it's not clear) that some of my cognitive abilities may be favorable to coveting higher hierarchical positions professionally while some others of my cognitive abilities would be unfavorable. This could help orienting my professional career in a direction that is compatible with what I'm good at and with what I like doing.

Because people who are "diagnosed" as gifted aren't the kind of superheroes who excel at everything. There is some amount of validity to the quantity represented by the IQ score, but it seems that the most fundamental difference between the majority of people and gifted people is in a different way of working. It's not so much a matter of being better but more a matter of being different. At least, that's what the books say and that's what the psychologists and psychiatrists say. High intelligence doesn't guarantee your socioeconomic success (33% of gifted people are jobless) nor your happiness.

In the meantime, I don't have a lot of certitudes regarding my results. Positive results would open the door to being a member of Mensa. I'm not sure it would be very useful, especially considering that Mensa is under-represented in France. And negative results would... well I don't know. I suppose that near-pass results would keep me on edge and would push me towards the WAIS test anyway. But terrible results would probably be depressing and make me turn my back on all of the high-IQ things.

There's plenty more to say on the subject of intelligence but that'll be for another day. Gotta go check my mailbox :-)

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