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Extremely High Intelligence

21 September, 2015 - 14:21

Having extremely high IQ is clearly less of a problem than having extremely low IQ, but there may also be challenges to being particularly smart. It is often assumed that schoolchildren who are labeled as “gifted” may have adjustment problems that make it more difficult for them to create social relationships. To study gifted children, Lewis Terman and his colleagues (Terman & Oden, 1959) 1 selected about 1,500 high school students who scored in the top 1% on the Stanford-Binet and similar IQ tests (i.e., who had IQs of about 135 or higher), and tracked them for more than seven decades (the children became known as the “termites” and are still being studied today). This study found, first, that these students were not unhealthy or poorly adjusted but rather were above average in physical health and were taller a nd heavier than individuals in the general population. The students also had above average social relationships—for instance, eing less likely to divorce than the average person (Seagoe, 1975). 2

Terman’s study also found that many of these students went on to achieve high levels of education and entered prestigious professions, including medicine, law, and science. Of the sample, 7% earned doctoral degrees, 4% earned medical degrees, and 6% earned law degrees. These numbers are all considerably higher than what would have been expected from a more general population. Another study of young adolescents who had even higher IQs found that these students ended up attending graduate school at a rate more than 50 times higher than that in the general population (Lubinski & Benbow, 2006). 3

As you might expect based on our discussion of intelligence, kids who are gifted have higher scores on general intelligence (g). But there are also different types of giftedness. Some children are particularly g ood at math or science, some at automobile repair or carpentry, some at music or art, some at sports or leadership, and so on. There is a lively debate among scholars about whether it is appropriate or beneficial to label some children as “gifted and talented” in school and to provide them with accelerated special classes and other programs that are not available to everyone. Although doing so may help the gifted kids (Colangelo & Assouline, 2009), 4 it also may isolate them from their peers and make such provisions unavailable to those who are not classified as “gifted.”