IQ as a necessary but not sufficient condition for genius


Jason Collins


May 4, 2012

A quote from Arthur Jensen (From Steve Hsu. A fuller version of the interview can be found here):

[T]he outstanding feature of any famous and accomplished person, especially a reputed genius, such as Feynman, is never their level of g (or their IQ), but some special talent and some other traits (e.g., zeal, persistence). Outstanding achievements(s) depend on these other qualities besides high intelligence. The special talents, such as mathematical musical, artistic, literary, or any other of the various “multiple intelligences” that have been mentioned by Howard Gardner and others are more salient in the achievements of geniuses than is their typically high level of g. Most very high-IQ people, of course, are not recognized as geniuses, because they haven’t any very outstanding creative achievements to their credit. However, there is a threshold property of IQ, or g, below which few if any individuals are even able to develop high-level complex talents or become known for socially significant intellectual or artistic achievements. This bare minimum threshold is probably somewhere between about +1.5 sigma and +2 sigma from the population mean on highly g-loaded tests.

But IQ is not meant to capture everything of interest:

So-called intelligence tests, or IQ, are not intended to assess these special abilities unrelated to IQ or any other traits involved in outstanding achievement. It would be undesirable for IQ tests to attempt to do so, as it would be undesirable for a clinical thermometer to measure not just temperature but some combination of temperature, blood count, metabolic rate, etc. A good IQ test attempts to estimate the g factor, which isn’t a mixture, but a distillate of the one factor (i.e., a unitary source of individual differences variance) that is common to all cognitive tests, however diverse.