The graphs of IQ scores appeared to form a “normal distribution”, in the shape of a bell centered on the average score of 100 points, which means that there are as many people above the average as below, and IQs at either extreme are incredibly rare.
“There is nothing in an individual as important as an IQ,” Terman said in an article on the subject, and predicts that a child‘The s score is said to predict great accomplishments later in life.
Beginning in the early 1920s, Terman began touring California‘s schools for students with an IQ of at least 140, which he considered the threshold of genius. More than 1,000 children passed — a cohort he and his colleagues would study for the next seven decades.
Many of these “Termites”, as they were affectionately called, had successful careers. There was Shelley Smith Mydans, for example, a war journalist and novelist, and Jess Oppenheimer, a producer and writer who became famous for his work with comedienne Lucille Ball. (She called him “the mastermind” behind her acclaimed hit series I Love Lucy.) At the time of Terman‘s died in the late 1950s, more than 30 had been in the Who‘s Who in America – a book of influential people – and nearly 80 have been recognized in a reference book describing the United States‘s most eminent scientists, called American Men of Science. (Despite the name, women were eligible to be included, although the book‘s name did not reflect this fact until the 1970s.)
However, when you look closely at the data, these statistics do not strongly support the idea that people with high IQs are destined for greatness. This‘s important to control for potentially confounding factors such as the socio-economic circumstances of the termites‘ families. Children whose parents are educated and who have more household resources tend to perform better on IQ tests, and this privilege could, in turn, facilitate success later in life. Once that’s factored in, the Termites didn’t perform much more remarkably than any child from similar backgrounds.
Other studies looked at IQ differences within the Terman group to see if the top scorers were proportionally more likely to pass than those who only scratched.‘t. When David Henry Fieldman examined measures of professional distinction, such as a lawyer appointed as a judge or an architect winning a prestigious award, people with an IQ above 180 were only slightly more successful than those scoring 30 to 40 points lower. . “A high IQ does not seem to indicate ‘genius‘ in the ordinary sense of the word,” he concluded.
It is telling that Terman‘s original study rejected two Californian boys – William Shockley and Luis Walter Alvarez – who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, while none of the children who achieved the rank would receive such an accolade.
Having grown up in New York, Richard Feynman would never have had the chance to participate in the Genetic Studies of Genius, which took place in California. But even if he had lived near Stanford, where Terman was based, his alleged childhood IQ score of 125 would have meant he wouldn’t have qualified either.
A multi-faceted spirit
Termites‘ life stories should not undermine the usefulness of IQ as a scientific tool. Although it is far from perfect, we know that IQ scores are correlated with educational attainment and income across the population as a whole. It will definitely help someone grasp abstract concepts that are important in many disciplines – especially those in math, science, engineering or philosophy.
But when it comes to predicting what extraordinary accomplishments might be considered genius, that seems to be only a small part of the picture.