Do You Care About the Candidates' IQs?

|

Me neither. But for those who take nourishment from detailed political irrelevance, this Steve Sailer column is positively swimming in intelligence-test minutiae.

NEXT: "I'm not running to be minister of Illinois"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I used to tutor SATs. I could raise your score 150 points without even talking about any of the material.

    The fact that George Bush may have scored higher on a standardized intelligence test than John Kerry goes down as reason #23938 why I consider standardized tests to be bs.

  2. The routine about Dubyah being an idiot is based entirely on his lackluster camera presence. He has a “common man” aura about him. This offends people who are concerned with style and not substance. Live Shot on the other hand is all about the style. That’s why they call him Live Shot.

    I don’t know how relevant it is who is smarter. I’d venture that most of us in this forum are smarter than both of them combined.

    goes down as reason #23938 why I consider standardized tests to be bs.

    That’s a bit retarded. The numbers don’t fit your model, so the tests must be bullshit? Of course standardized tests are silly, but I wouldn’t exactly count their comparative performance among the reasons.

  3. Maybe I’m just dumb, but that site was completely unreadable.

  4. “reason #23938 why I consider standardized tests to be bs.”

    I suppose we can assume, then, that you’re taken 23,937 standardized tests.

  5. lackluster camera presence = being President of the United States, and having no idea what the term “tribal sovereignty” means when asked

    He didn’t keep repeating the words “sovereign” and “entity” without expressing any thoughts because of his camera presence.

  6. Actually, JDM, the first time I began to question standardized tests was when I did light years better on the PSATs than classmates who I knew, for a fact, to be roughly as intelligent as me.

    Then, when I was hired as an SAT tutor and spent time in a class learning how they worked, my suspicions were confirmed.

  7. It’s not a big deal to me if Bush’s IQ is a few points higher than Kerry’s, but it is interesting given the widespread preception of Bush as a dolt and Kerry as a smart guy.

    Mostly I’m just glad you linked to Steve Sailer, who I think is a terrific writer with a lot of interesting things to say.

  8. joe,
    I say you are bs. The only way you could raise SAT scores 150 points is if your clients are pretty stupid to begin with. The fact is, standardized tests are the best predictor of future performance bar none. However, while that is very true for large groups, it doesn’t work so well for individuals.

    ed,
    You are right. I got about 1500 words into that and realized that it wasn’t saying anything.

  9. being President of the United States, and having no idea what the term “tribal sovereignty” means when asked

    The stupidity of the question notwithstanding, was he asked on camera?

  10. “The only way you could raise SAT scores 150 points is if your clients are pretty stupid to begin with.”

    That’s because you don’t know very much about the subject. The form of the SAT can be manipulated to increase your score even if you don’t know the right answer to questions. Strategic guessing, recognizing likely trick answers (they deliberately put in wrong answers that would be appealing to somebody who wants to guess, and you can sometimes recognize which ones they are), and other tricks of the trade are about 2/3 of what SAT tutoring is all about.

    It’s primarily a test of how well you take that sort of test – so it’s not terribly surprising that it is a good predictor of how people do, in the future, on tests.

  11. I tend to agree with joe that standardized tests are limited in their ability to determine intelligence. Just the fact that they depend on one or a couple of sittings is one HUGE flaw. I got a perfect score on the LSAT when I took a previous year’s version for practice (under test conditions), but I scored in the 90th percentile or so when I actually took it. Such tests are useful as rough indicators but no more.

    As for Bush’s intelligence, I’ve always wondered about it. Obviously, he’s a terrible public speaker. Does that make him an idiot all around? No, of course not. Listen to a Nobel acceptance speech sometime, if you disagree. Still, my general impression is that he isn’t any kind of intellectual, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t smart enough to be president. I think the real question isn’t intelligence, per se–presidents have plenty of brains on staff–but whether a president has all of those intangible leadership and decision-making skills. Because my political assumptions and goals differ so radically from those exhibited by the Administration, I really can’t judge whether Bush is reasonably intelligent or not. All I know is that I don’t much agree with the way he’s operating.

  12. The question was “What does tribal sovereignty mean in the 21st century?” Why is that a stupid question? Because it makes your boy look bad?

    I don’t know if he was asked on camera, or if there was only audio, but he had no freaking idea of what he was talking about. “Tribal sovereignty means you’re – you’ve been given – you’re a sovereign – uh – entity. Tribal sovereignty means you’re relating to each other as two sovereign – um – entities.”

  13. Warren is right, however, about standarized tests being better at comparing group to group than individual to individual.

  14. The ease of raising your SAT score is based on 1) the fact that you’re deducted more for answering wrong on easy questions than you are for not answering hard questions at all, and 2) the fact that the test itself caters to a 10th grade reading level. The most intelligent people tend not to score perfectly on SATs because if you read into an SAT question at all, you’re thinking about it too much. In effect, the SAT is designed to reward a very specific kind of intellectual laziness. If you’ve reading comprehension skills of any caliber beyond Dick and Jane, the trick questions aren’t even tricks, they’re jokes.

    So if you went into the SAT not knowing at all how the thing worked, and then got a little insight from somebody, perhaps even joe, you could raise your score by 150 points with no additional effort whatsoever – probably less effort, even.

  15. …although the groups have to be reasonably similar, at least in terms of the fraction of their membership that is likely to have the “test taking” skills I mentioned above.

  16. Why is that a stupid question? Because it makes your boy look bad?

    Bush isn’t my boy, and it doesn’t make him look bad. It’s a stupid question because you’d have to be stupid not to know without asking. Goes to that whole reading comprehension thing. T-r-i-b-a-l…s-o-v-e-r-e-i-g-n-t-y. The self-rule enjoyed by a collective over a given (but not necessarily fixed) demographic or geographic area. Do we need the president to define that for us? Webster would probably do the trick if you don’t already know how to analyze your mother tongue.

    I’m not an intellectual elitist, but I don’t expect the head of state to pander to idiots.

  17. So if you went into the SAT not knowing at all how the thing worked, and then got a little insight from somebody, perhaps even joe, you could raise your score by 150 points with no additional effort whatsoever – probably less effort, even.

    OK I’ll buy that. But the key is that you would need to have virtually no experience with standardized tests. If however, you had taken two or three sometime previously in your life, all the so-called “tricks of the trade” are obvious.

  18. Of course, maybe if any of you read the article, you’d see it says little about the SAT. Most of it is about intelligence tests taken by Kerry and Bush when they went through OCS.

    Bush may or may not be smarter than Kerry, or have a higher IQ, but he isn’t the drooling idiot liberals make him out to be. That’s always been a lazy caricature of him.

    And let’s be honest here, many liberals have a smug sense of superiorty that leads them to believe all conservatives and Republicans are idiots and not just Bush. (And before any liberals jump on me—I said “many”, not “all” nor the “majority” nor “most” liberals! Trust me on this though–it’s the one trait I can’t stand from liberals I work with and I see it in a lot of the liberal blogs.)

    But Pro Liberate is correct, Bush is certainly no “intellectual”, for lack of a better term.

  19. “T-r-i-b-a-l…s-o-v-e-r-e-i-g-n-t-y. The self-rule enjoyed by a collective over a given (but not necessarily fixed) demographic or geographic area.”

    No, you twit, the term refers to the authority enjoyed by recognized American Indian tribal govenrments, and the question was about how the federal government related to them.

    You’d damned well better NOT be an intellectual elitist!
    At least Bush was familiar with the definition, even if he was at a loss to identify even a single related issue to discuss.

  20. Huck, the weaknesses of standardized tests show up across various tests – which is why the blogger felt comfortable comparing IQ scores to military intelligence tests.

  21. The routine about Dubyah being an idiot is based entirely on his lackluster camera presence. He has a “common man” aura about him. This offends people who are concerned with style and not substance.

    No, it offends people, like me, who find his “common man” aura to be entirely fake and cynical. I would rather have Kerry’s natural, obvious patrician arrogance.

  22. Of course, maybe if any of you read the article, you’d see it says little about the SAT.

    So? I read the article, but since I had no delusions about Kerry being overwhelmingly smarter than Bush in the first place, I found the tangential discussion on standardized testing to be way funner.

  23. and the question was about how the federal government related to them.

    Provide the context when you ask the question, you twat. All you talked about was the term “tribal sovereignty” and how Bush couldn’t define it.

  24. The self-rule enjoyed by a collective over a given (but not necessarily fixed) demographic or geographic area.”

    the authority enjoyed by recognized American Indian tribal govenrments

    So replace “collective” with “recognized American Indian tribal government” and we’re saying the same thing. Quit being an asshole joe.

  25. I would rather have Kerry’s natural, obvious patrician arrogance.

    This is of course if I had to choose from just the two. The third party candidates always seem much more down to earth.

  26. The question was “What does tribal sovereignty mean in the 21st century?”

    Was that really the question in it’s entirety? It sounds so vague as to be almost meaningless, like, “What does it mean to be a human being in the 21st century? What does religion mean in the 21st century?” It sounds like the question was phrased to make the questioner look smart without having enough specific substance to let the questionee respond readily. Or maybe I’m just cranky.

    If I were asked that question, I’d need some time to think about it. Doubtless I’d stammer even worse than Dubya. Then maybe I’d say something like, “I’m interested in seeing the American Indian nations achieve more autonomy from the federal government. Of course, I’d also like the same for the 50 states…”

  27. When W. first ran, I remember being profoundly unimpressed by his apparent intelligence. All I had to go one was his public speaking. I would have voted for the Libertarian candidate, but I felt I had more evidence that Gore was even dumber, and decided it was more important to vote for the marginally better candidate who had the best chance of beating Gore. (Yes, I know.)

    However, I am also very wary of concluding “that person must be stupid, because he expresses himself very poorly.” Because I have the example of my dad, a retired engineer who is a very intelligent man.

    – He can’t spell very well. Once he left a note for his boss, “I will be in late tomorrow morning because I have to stop by the warehouse.” Only he spelled it “wharehouse.” And his “A” looked kinda like an “O,” which led to curt note from his boss to “do that on your own time!”

    – Once he created a bunch of signs he planned to put on his front lawn: “It takes a village to tease an idiot.” “Has your dog hugged your leg today?” “No soliciting (unless your a prostitute).” Clever stuff. But nitpickers will note he used the wrong form of “you’re.”

    – He starts far more sentences than he ever finishes.

    – He tends to use all nouns interchangeably — which makes things really interesting when he’s giving you road directions, or teaching you to drive a stick-shift. “Brake! Brake! …I meant ‘clutch’! You knew I meant ‘clutch’!”

    Notwithstanding, when he’s on a roll, using complete sentences and all the right nouns, my father is a very sharp guy.

    So I tend to give Dubya a little slack even though he can’t pronounce nuclear (and that drives me nuts). I think he’s still probably smarter than somebody who thinks you can magically create wealth by raising the minimum wage, or improve the environment by making people poorer.

  28. Steveo, you came up with something intelligent to say, and you’re just a series of ones and zeros in my processor!

    George Bush has been POTUS for four years. He appointed the Sec. of the Interior, and the Director of the BIA. How many regulations and reports and bills related to tribal sovereignty do you think have come across his desk? 50? 20? 100?

    The man couldn’t think of anything to say about an issue he’s supposed to be familiar with! Hell, it was such a softball question, he could have taken it in any direction he wanted. He didn’t have a direction to take it, because he doesn’t have any idea about the issue! This isn’t about spelling, and it isn’t about “style.”

    BTW, disagreeing with you on policy issues does not mean someone is unintelligent. Robert Reich wants to raise the minimum wage, and he didn’t get that Rhodes Scholarship in a cereal box.

  29. ‘So replace “collective” with “recognized American Indian tribal government” and we’re saying the same thing.’

    That’s a pretty big change. Instead of the question being about his philosophical position on identity politics, it becomes a question about the relationship between two governments. I guess only an asshole would notice that.

  30. joe-

    There is a video http://www.ifilm.com in the viral video section. The audio is nothing, he looks absolutely lost and confused. I think Patrick said it, Bush isn’t stupid but rather has a calculated facade of stupidity. Do I need to point out that most people are average? And they love a president they can identify with; It doesn’t matter if you can’t say nuclear, neither can the president! Get use to it, were going to have to suffer another four years of this guy.

  31. I heard (Dr.) Howard Dean say “nucular” on NPR. Does that make him an idiot too? Or do we grant exceptions for (liberal) people we know are really smart?

  32. I think he’s stupid. Really really stupid.

    Sly. But stupid.

  33. No, not really really stupid. Probably about average.

    But he seems to have a reflexive dislike of people who know more than he does, or tell him he’s incorrect, and a desire to belittle them. That’s not a good quality in a president.

  34. joe-
    Qualities in a president? Lets see; how about abdicating the legislative branch?s war powers, or signing the PATRIOT act without reading it.

  35. George Bush has been POTUS for four years. He appointed the Sec. of the Interior, and the Director of the BIA. How many regulations and reports and bills related to tribal sovereignty do you think have come across his desk? 50? 20?100?

    One?

    Why would you note that Bush appointed a Director of the BIA and then turn around and assume that Bush must be inundated with reports and bills that required knowledge of the term “tribal sovereignity”? Indian-related matters would only be brought to Bush’s attention if neither the DoBOI nor the Secretary of the Interior had the authority to deal with them, or if the matters were of such crucial political importance that it was necessary for the President to involve himself.

    You also seem to be equating “knowing what ‘tribal sovereignity’ means” with “knowing that the various tribes have quasi-independent status”. But of course, plenty of people know the latter without knowing the legal term for it. An argument could be made that the President should know the latter bit of information (although the tribes are of trivial importance these days), but there’s really no reason why he would need to know the former.

    But while we’re on the subject of people not knowing essential political definitions, does it bother you that John Kerry thinks “unilateral action” means “action undertaken with allies, but without UN approval”?

  36. I have to wade in my hip boots through road apples for coming in late here because my employer’s firewall? wouldn’t allow me to see the source material.

    I’m old enough to be reminded of Carter vs. Ford. There was an obvious dim bulb losing to a whiz kid, but, it would have been better to have stuck with the guy who played football without his helmet.

    2004 will be noted as the battle of the Kelvinator bulbs.
    Whomever wins, we all need to cryogenicise ourselves for four years.

  37. It seems that Al Gore had pretty high IQ and Clinton way above all. (Carter probably too).
    Which proves that whatever these tests predict – making a good President isnt’t what they predict.

  38. The main problem with Kerry is that his whole life has been devoted to one thing only: becoming President of the United States. Because of this he has become a political whore, doing whatever *he thinks* will gain popular support. It takes a lot more than “booksmarts” and public speaking skills to be a good leader. Anybody can become a well-spoken public speaker that tells the masses what they want and puts on a good show. This doesn’t mean that person can actually do what he tells everyone. I have an Intelligence Quotient that is “off the charts”, but IQ is only as good as the effort one puts forth. Most people who have high IQs are simply lazy and they’re no more intelligent than people with below average IQs. I don’t get why so many people think intelligence and intelligence quotient are the same things. They aren’t; one is how much water you have in a glass, the other is how much water your glass can hold.

  39. I ended up getting 200 points higher on my SATs than my PSATs and 16 points higher on my LSATs than when I took a practice test without any preparation.

    If someone is applying to college or law school and can’t spend 10-15 hours for a month or so to practice these exams then they are simply lazy and if there scores are lower because of it, then they deserve it. Furthermore, if someone does not take the 2 hours it takes to learn about a few skills like intelligent guessing, then they are

    That being said, many people no matter how much they study are incapable of learning how to answer some of the questions, or at least doing them at a certain speed. So even if you can alter your scores by practice, they still are pretty g-loaded. I would also add that I believe the Officers qualifying tests that Kerry took is even more g-loaded than the SATs.

    Finally while Joel is correct that IQ only goes as far as the effort one puts into it, that does not mean that it doesn’t accurately reflect intelligence. It simply means IQ does not measure laziness. No one claims that intelligence is the only factor to success.

  40. That’s what I was trying to say with the glass analogy. Having a high IQ actually makes some people lazier because they believe they can do things without any effort (and usually do for a period) but once they get into college they see it’s not everything. One of my older brother’s friend became a MAJOR alcoholic in college because he thought he could just never go to classes and take the exam and pass a class. He could for math, but not every subject. He’s 23 and in the Navy now, after being kicked out of college twice. High IQs tend to exacerbate many things, both good and bad. I’m a sophomore in college and, luckily, I’ve seen enough highly intelligent people ruin themselves to learn from their mistakes. His drinking probably cost him millions of dollars in the long run, due to so many lost opportunities. People who say having a high IQ doesn’t mean anything are the same who say money doesn’t buy happiness: you need it to know what it’s like. It’s also not all it’s cracked up to be. Not being able to forget things, having a photographic memory , and constantly wanting to correct every factual mistake people spew is annoying. That’s why so many high IQ’ers drink themselves into oblivion. Not everybody can be an alcoholic and cokehead until the age of 40 (Bush) and then just stop because you’re tired of it. That takes something special.

    I agree with you on the standardized tests. Some people simply can’t do good on them at all. I dated a girl in high school who had a 3.8 GPA and got a 13 (yes, as a total score) on the ACT twice. I also know a guy who just constantly studied and read like four or five ACT prep books (best way to study, having people teach you sucks) and got a 33. He wasn’t even smart, just took the time to study for one MAJOR test. He got into every Ivy League school, federal college grants (no repaying required since he had a kid in high school) and full-ride training/job offers from Investment Banking firms in London. I went to a terrible high school, mind you.

  41. Well the ACT’s are much less g-loaded then the SATs or LSATs, and in fact are designed in part to allow less intelligent people who study to get good scores.

    Someone who is not very bright can not get a good score on the SATs or LSATs no matter how much they study, though it may help there score a bit.

    As to your point about intelligence causing people to do bad behavior, that may be true to a certain extent, but as the Bell Curve demonstrates, generally anti-social and self-destructive behavior has a negative correlation with IQ.

    I attend one of the more difficult schools (in terms of being hard to get into and also not having much grade inflation.) My general observation would be that those who got by in highschool without trying to hard but got great SAT scores tended to have a much better time than those who got lower SAT scores, but were good students with A averages, as those people really could not keep up with the work load in difficult subjects no matter how much they tried

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.