Does IQ Really Matter?

Testing has been with us for 2,000 years

For more than 2,000 years, humans have been administering standardized tests in various forms.

During the Han Dynasty, a group of bureaucrats underwent competency tests.

Later dynasties elaborated and formalized this system of examinations.

Those who rule should be inculcated with timeless values and possess intellectual capabilities, according to these examinations.

The Chinese gentry mastered the classics to gain high office, while the West's elite viewed education largely as an avenue to cohesion and status.

There are few psychological measures as predictive as general intelligence. It is true that ability to test well reflects how well you take tests, but it is trivial.

The implication that test measurement does not correlate with other aspects of performance is manifestly false. People with higher measured IQs earn more, obtain more education, and commit fewer crimes (this holds true among siblings who differ in IQ).

In psychological science, this is well known, but in broader western culture, it has been obscured and downplayed for various reasons.

In the same way that athletically gifted children perform differently, intellectually gifted children perform differently as well.

Here are the results of 259 children who were identified as very gifted on the SAT when they were in their early teens:


Out of thirteen extremely bright children, one became a tenured professor. One out of thirty-three people became a published author.

Doctorates were obtained by nearly half of the students. Children like these do not simply "test well." There is luck in life, but the dice are loaded. Although high intelligence does not guarantee exceptional achievement, it clearly changes the odds.

IQ and socially relevant variables can have modest correlations. Children's IQ and income as adults are found to be correlated by 0.40 in some studies. One interpretation of this is that “IQ doesn’t matter,” after all, there are many well-off people with lower IQs and many poor people with higher IQs. We all know cases like this, so it is intuitively impossible that IQ matters so much in life outcomes.

The process of becoming wealthy can take many forms. A disagreeable person with low conscientiousness, regardless of their IQ, has little chance of succeeding.

Standardized tests continue to be used in Chinese and other Asian nations for admission and sorting. This does not guarantee better leaders necessarily, but it does mean that members of the professional class have all gone through the same mechanism of selection, and one which is relatively insulated from the impact of pedigree and connection

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