From the minute you learned what an intelligence quotient was, you probably wanted to take the test to find out where you land on the smarts spectrum. Forget SATs, grades, or how much you've actually succeeded in life: If you have a high IQ, you're a genius, and if you have a low IQ, you're a moron.
You hear that actress Sharon Stone has an IQ of 154 and you immediately have a different opinion of her. If they tell you your child has an IQ in double digits, you assume the child's destined for a life scrubbing toilets or starring in a reality show.
Most IQ tests assess "symbolic logic," which includes stuff like problem solving, imagining how pictures would look if rotated or manipulated, and short term memory. If that sounds like a tiny sliver of what makes up a person's intelligence and leaves out huge things like creativity, congratulations! You've passed the ultimate test of intelligence, which is figuring out that tests of intelligence are bullshit.
Neuroscientists will happily tell you that cognitive ability is way more complicated than solving self-contained problems and remembering things from a few questions before. You could be brilliant at logic problems but an idiot at verbal intelligence, which is a whole other piece of the smarts puzzle. You could have an off-the-charts memory capacity, like characters in Psych or Monk or No One in Real Life, but could be a 2-year-old when it comes to solving problems. Hell, the people in your life who you think of as geniuses might just be really well-spoken or charismatic. Or they might read a lot.
amana productions inc/amana images/Getty Images
Although you should be able to spot the ones that read list-based comedy websites by a theoretical increase in penis size.
Either way, their IQ might not be anything special, because IQ only measures one thing: how good you are at taking an IQ test.
Oh, and here's the worst part: Where we think of IQ as being in the same category as eye color -- a natural talent passed along by good genes -- the reality is that even the skills that IQ tests do measure can be improved with everything from a good family life to a better education. Well, shit. If we can't use IQ as an excuse to look down on other people, why keep it around at all?
Maya is on Twitter, and you can follow her here. Please don't follow her in real life, though.
Related Reading: If you think lie detectors aren't bullshit, think again. And don't get too attached to your sense of sight, because what your brain ACTUALLY sees and what happens in the world are very different. Want to read about some psychology experiments that prove mankind is doomed? Click right here.