random · Writing

High IQ? Sorry to say, less happiness for you


“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” – Ernest Hemingway

I wonder why this is true. My IQ is not by any means off the freaking charts high. It is a modest 140. But I have always had a strong dissatisfaction with life. Almost like I enjoy my cynicism and melancholy. Perhaps I do but I don’t enjoy it when it gets to be less talking about overall happiness and more about depression.

Constant worrying may, in fact, be a sign of intelligence – but not in the way these armchair philosophers had imagined. Interviewing students on campus about various topics of discussion, Alexander Penney at MacEwan University in Canada found that those with the higher IQ did indeed feel more anxiety throughout the day. Interestingly, most worries were mundane, day-to-day concerns, though; the high-IQ students were far more likely to be replaying an awkward conversation, than asking the “big questions”. “It’s not that their worries were more profound, but they are just worrying more often about more things,” says Penney. “If something negative happened, they thought about it more.” BBC

I don’t know about you guys but who doesn’t love a good ruminate fest. Yeah I think and think and then over think until I can’t think any more. You can out-think yourself out of the moment, out of happiness and out of pretty much anything.

That sense of burden – particularly when combined with others’ expectations – is a recurring motif for many other gifted children. The most notable, and sad, case concerns the maths prodigy Sufiah Yusof. Enrolled at Oxford University aged 12, she dropped out of her course before taking her finals and started waitressing. She later worked as a call girl, entertaining clients with her ability to recite equations during sexual acts.

Well. That is interesting. We all do this though. The what if game. What if I did that? Although I get the burden of expectation that would be on a genius. Meant for Great Things. Intelligence doesn’t guarantee this. Many mensa member with run of the mill jobs.

The article also said: We have a bias blind spot. Less likely to see our own flaws but awesome at seeing others. Since I am at the bottom of this spectrum I am glad I missed this or I am just really good at knowing my flaws. It said we also have a greater tendency to fall for the gambler’s fallacy, which surprises the hell out of me. “the idea that if a tossed coin turns heads 10 times, it will be more likely to fall tails on the 11th.” Anyway, to me gambling is irrational and I rarely get involved in that. It goes on to say that a high number of Mensa members believe in the paranormal. And to be honest I am open to it myself because it is possible. You cannot exclude it from an ontology when it never has been adequately investigated. I even like the idea of a quantum consciousness. Anyway… I’m with them on this one. Last one was to state someone with an IQ of 140 was twice as likely to max their credit card. Have to watch out for that I suppose.

So what brings on the happiness then? If not big ol’ brains?

Maybe wisdom? St the University of Waterloo, Igor Grossmann thinks so.

High scores turned out to predict greater life satisfaction, relationship quality, and, crucially, reduced anxiety and rumination – all the qualities that seem to be absent in classically smart people. Wiser reasoning even seemed to ensure a longer life – those with the higher scores were less likely to die over intervening years. Crucially, Grossmann found that IQ was not related to any of these measures, and certainly didn’t predict greater wisdom. “People who are very sharp may generate, very quickly, arguments [for] why their claims are the correct ones – but may do it in a very biased fashion.”

And there you have it. If it is not my brain and it ruminating on the wrong things… if it is wisdom, well…

I am screwed.

The only thing I know, is that I know nothing at all. And since Socrates said something similar I must have a wee smidgen of wisdom in there somewhere. A glimmer. Or maybe that is just white hairs.

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2 thoughts on “High IQ? Sorry to say, less happiness for you

  1. An IQ of 140 puts you in the 95th percentile of the population, and would make you smarter than the vast majority of university professors. Remember the average is 100; most people score between 90 and 110. Whatever your IQ is, the correlation to unhappiness is only statistical, not determinist: a ‘smart’ person is just as able to be happy as anyone else, they just have more detail to sort through.

    I’d recommend taking the online menza test. If you score 140 on that, then you should apply for a formal sitting so you can join the club.

    1. My step-mother was a member of mensa and her opinion of it always turned me off of it to be honest. Not to mention I am not one for clubs. On the other hand, that particular one has intrigued me. My family basically have IQs around the same numbers. So it is quite normal in my house. Pretty much raised to think it is just normal. You just think nothing of it really. I tend to think ‘high’ is 160 and over. And mind-blowing 200 and over. So I am sort of skewed on my feelings about where I am at. Although I am aware where I am on the curve.

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