January 09, 2006

Has Anyone Out There Ever Known

. . . a member of MENSA who was actually smart?

Just curious.

Posted by Attila Girl at January 9, 2006 12:08 AM | TrackBack


Posted by: Kathy K at January 9, 2006 05:51 AM


Posted by: Desert Cat at January 9, 2006 07:15 AM

Is this a trick question? Is this about
whether "smart" means something other than intelligence, such as "ability to make good choices" or "ability to socialize in a witty and entertaining manner", or "coming to the same conclusions as the group, given the same data set"?

I'm loaded for bear.

Posted by: Desert Cat at January 9, 2006 09:14 AM

I'm guessing she doesn't mean "good at taking tests"; most likely, she is asking whether anyone has ever met a member of MENSA who has a lick of common sense.

In which case, my answer would have to be "No."

Posted by: MrSpkr at January 9, 2006 09:52 AM

Would the "common" part of common sense then be something along the lines of "coming to the same conclusions as the group"?

As I've heard tell, good sense is neither terribly common, nor does what pass for "common sense" often make a whole lot of sense.

Of course, being good at taking intelligence tests has nothing whatsoever to do with innate intelligence, right?

Posted by: Desert Cat at January 9, 2006 11:41 AM

no, but I know lots of smart people who refuse to join MENSA.

Posted by: caltechgirl at January 9, 2006 11:55 AM

Well, DC, if you're in it, then my question is answered, and the organization is redeemed in my eyes.

I grew up in Los Angeles and went to Santa Monica High and just never had trouble meeting people who were really smart, so there would have been no purpose for a club like that.

And I've only known two people who were MENSA members; they were both a bit dim. I therefore have had a sense for years that most MENSA-ites were drawn to it because of insecurities.

So I was actually curious.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 9, 2006 12:49 PM

My experience with Mensa members has been they joined the organization because their intelligence was not otherwise readily noticeable.

Posted by: tommy at January 9, 2006 02:23 PM

Ah. So we're talking about dorks and geeks who would function as the butt of endless jokes from the "cool" crowd or otherwise labor in obscurity, were it not for their ability to join an exclusive organization?

First, that would tend to skew the membership pool toward those needing to prove something, despite their other shortcomings, no?

Having said that however, there does appear to be no small amount of resentment amongst some portions of the ineligible 97.9% of the population in the face of said proof.

Being "cool" is never quite compensation enough for being average or worse in intelligence. And having proof of one's hyperintelligence is never quite compensation enough for being laughed at for one's social faux pas.

I can tell you that many highly intelligent people find it difficult to relate to "normal" people. For them, Mensa was formed as a refuge where they could hang with people more like themselves, where they would feel less "wierd".

For some, it's an epiphany. My father was labeled "dumb" and "slow" as a child. He carried that belief through much of his life, choosing career paths and making life decisions accordingly. He never fit in as a child, always last to be picked for the team, etc. However, together with his brother, he concocted and pulled off some tremendous practical jokes on the bullies.

It wasn't until his forties that he began to question the conventional wisdom. When he finally took a proctored intelligence test, he scored in the 99.9th percentile (enough to qualify for the Triple Sigma Society, which most Mensans could never join). This was revolutionary to him! He joined Mensa because he had just discovered why he never fit in, and who it was he really fit in with.

I cannot express here what it means to rarely be understood, to rarely see anyone else's bulb light up when you explain your thoughts, to rarely find someone who thinks about the things you think of. It can make for a very distorted self-image. For those, Mensa can become a clear mirror that goes a long way toward building a healthy self-image.

I was a teen at the time, and as his child, I also easily qualified. Mensa gatherings were always places of fascinating conversation, but I let my membership lapse after high school. Later, I found my peers amongst my fellow engineering students, and now amongst high-level bloggers as well.

Unfortunately being a Mensan has been turned into a stamp of scorn and derision by some. Which is really too bad, all things considered.

Posted by: Desert Cat at January 9, 2006 03:57 PM

Well, there is me. So I guess, no. My proctor committed suicide a few days after my test. I guess I should thank you. I hadn't thought about that for twenty years. I should light a candle for him and say a prayer...

Posted by: Darrell at January 9, 2006 09:51 PM

I like to think I'm actually smart; I joined MENSA in high school because I could. I didn't really stick to it - I had enough social problems without staying in a group that nurtured instead of corrected those problems.
I went through a lot of emotional trouble when I was young because of my intelligence; I never fit in. I actually like my current job (US Army, MI) because I can find other people like me, who are searching for structure and intelligence together. I hope my kids don't face the discrimination and hatred I did in school; I believe that my wife is actually smarter than I, except for a problem with math/logic tied to a slight learning disability. Smart kids are the last unprotected minority in schools; everyone else can claim some sort of lack, but smart kids are put on little pedastals by instructors. It just makes them better targets for the masses.

Sorry about the bitterness; my school years were hell. The 99th percentile in SAT, ACT, and over 160 on IQ have done nothing to ease that pain.

SGT Dave

Posted by: SGT Dave at January 9, 2006 11:25 PM

I always want to go into Sarah Conner mode: "Listen; I didn't ask for this 'honor,' and I don't want it."

I'll forgive it if I ever see some money from it.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 10, 2006 01:04 AM

Miss Attila, the money part played a role for me, too.

I got invite letters from Mensa for many years without responding to them. Then, in my mid-20's in college, I finally decided I was curious enough to look into it.

I met with the local rep who'd sent me a letter. He said I was in on the strength of my entrance exam test scores (ACT). I asked what the purpose of the group was. His reply contained the same things mentioned here.

I met him on campus, where he was a university employee. A professor? a researcher? I'd wondered what position he held.

I was directed to a huge hulking industrial-type building with something like *Sanitation Engineering* on its door.

He was a janitor.

It brought to mind all my own experiences with not fitting in, both at school and later on the job. How those of us who skirt the *genius* level are said to belong to a group that can find life more difficult than many clear *geniuses,* because we're both more apt to question authority, and more *well-rounded.* With so many diverse interests and talents and skills, it can be much harder to find a career path than for someone whose stratospheric mental relationship with math, say, has them clearly and cleanly pointed in one happy direction all their life.

The less-endowed lump us together with what I think of as *true genius,* especially when we exceed that arbitrary 140 threshold. But IMO, there is a difference.

I have never doubted that I'm happier right where I am.

Other commenters have spoken so well to the grief this position puts us through, I won't expound on it. Except to say, yeah, I've been there, and it sure influences my feelings about bullying and social-status bullshit to this day.

I can say that being raised by a scientist father and a gifted, science writer mother, I had intellectual companionship at home that stood me in good stead as I grew up. Lucky.

Somehow, in my early teens, I tapped into better social skills than I'd had. I've moved, oh, say parallel to the *cool crowd* in many ways ever since. But it comes and goes, and I still commit those social blunders left and right. Being so isolated from others the last 15 years has really exacerbated it, it's undone what progress I'd made.

Are there smart people in Mensa? Hell yes. *Book smart* and *common sense,* both.

Are there people who join because of social inadequacies? Hell yes.

And more power to them. I hope they can all find some social comfort rather than hanging out in the cold like usual. We are social creatures and it hurts us to be cast aside.

Are there wannabes who aren't really all that smart? Hell yes.

My favorite example is George Trepal, the Florida "Mensa Murderer" sentenced to death in 1991 for killing neighbor Peggy Carr quite viciously, by spiking her Coca Cola with thallium nitrate.

Others associated with the case sometimes called Trepal a "genius" because he was a Mensa member. His IQ was a puny 130, though. The errors he made in his efforts to get away with murder were really dumb, just like other criminals tend to be. No common sense. Still, he almost pulled it off.

I don't disrespect a 130 IQ, BTW. That's a smart person. I disrespect people who set themselves up as better than others because they're smart, and people who think they're smarter than they are. I like reality, and I respect those who take care to perceive it clearly.

Back to where I was in the mid-1980's, standing in front of that hulking building with the Mensa sanitation engineer on a beautiful Florida morning...Did I join?

They wanted $30 from me.

?!? The university'd hoodwinked this student about the level of financial support they'd provide the incoming 4.0 folks they were recruiting. Unlike the football team, I was living on chicken wings, kool-aid and rice - and not enough of it. $30 was a fortune. And I was comfortable enough with my social standing, my self-worth, so forth, not to feel much need to join anyway.

So I kept my $30, sent them my verbal regards, wished the gentleman a nice day, and went on my way.

Posted by: k at January 10, 2006 06:42 AM

Recall that the most intelligent and insightful character in the Dilbert comic strip is not the engineers, certainly not the management, but the garbage guy.

Posted by: Desert Cat at January 10, 2006 03:51 PM

my mensa-ness is totally tempered by my blonditude. yeah.

I'm a member. Does it mean anything? No, not really. I've never even been to a meeting.

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