LessWrong IQ Survey

by Blackened1 min read2nd Dec 201259 comments


Personal Blog

The latest survey shows that the average LessWronger who entered his SAT or ACT is roughly in the top 0.11%. This is insanely high. For comparison, top 2% can be Mensa members. I do not know the correlation between SAT/ACT and IQ, but I know it's fairly high. Anyway, I'm very curious to see the average score on a real, culture-fair IQ test. Those are the only two tests that are free, online, correct and culture fair, from what I know.





Many people would prefer not to have people knowing their scores. That's great, but please please please do post it anonymously. Especially if it's a low one, but not if it's low because you rushed the test.

JCTI might take a while, so I recommend keeping your answers on Notepad in case you want to leave it and continue later.

Edit: I have included polls, thanks to the commenters.

Post your score here: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/fqq/average_iq_on_lw/7yad/


59 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:16 AM
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I think this topic has pretty effectively been beaten to death already. What is the endgame of this discussion?

I couldn't find any relevant discussion on the topic. Can anyone give me a link?

I'm looking for one where people have posted their scores on a reliable IQ test, rather than answering to the question "what is your IQ?".

Yvain had what I thought was a very thorough discussion in the original thread. If you're unhappy with that, I don't think there's really anything to say but I'm sorry. Because we're not going to get any better data - realistically, any survey you conduct isn't going to get the response rate that the general census did, especially when your tests are going to take a long time. Furthermore, I have no faith that your tests are any better than the one that was given in the census. Lastly, the correlations with SAT and ACT have settled the question to what I feel is a reasonable degree of accuracy, and sitting around talking about how smart we are doesn't send signals to onlookers that I think are in the best interests of LessWrong.

What's wrong about talking about how smart we are?

Given a large group of people, so far out on the tail end of a distribution for a particular quality, who didn't purposefully get together to talk about that quality, it would be stupid of us not to talk about this. We talk about our issues with akrasia. Why not talk about our issues with intelligence?

"It's sends a bad signal." Does it? Or is there a widespread prejudice against acknowledging your own intelligence? If this were height or weight, there'd be absolutely no issue about talking about it. But once it is intelligence, people get all weird about it.

I think you've motivated me to start a thread or two.

What's wrong about talking about how smart we are?

There is a widespread prejudice against acknowledging your own intelligence.

"It's sends a bad signal." Does it? Or is there a widespread prejudice against acknowledging your own intelligence?

Oh. You already knew that. Yes, it does send a bad signal, and it sends such a signal precisely because there is such a prejudice. Normatively, the prejudice seems like a bad idea, but descriptively, such a prejudice exists and it would be foolish to violate it.

I think you've motivated me to start a thread or two.

I expect you'll get downvoted; this thread is only tangentially related to discussing our intelligence (in that collecting empirical evidence is fairly noble) and it's at -3 at time of posting.

You think it's better to send a signal that we consciously kowtow to irrational prejudice against us?

Does this prejudice empower us, or disempower us? Does bending to it empower us, or disempower us?

Being right where the prevailing prejudice is wrong is exactly the kind of signal I often like to send - it attracts the right kind of people.

Does this prejudice empower us, or disempower us? Does bending to it empower us, or disempower us?

Taboo "empower". What are the short-term and long-term consequences of accepting or breaking this prejudice? And what is your certainly about your predictions about this?

I asked first.

I submit that kowtowing to irrational prejudice is prima facie undesirable. If you have an argument why it produces net desirable short and long term consequences in general, or in this case, do tell.

I think the prejudice exists for a reason, and the reason is this:

Intelligence, in general, correlates positively with success at life. However, speaking about one's own intelligence correlates negatively with success at life.

Of course there are many situations where this rule is misapplied. There is a difference when someone asks me about my IQ and as a matter of fact I say a number; and when I come into a room saying: "hey guys, let's talk about IQ and about how the world should worship the most intelligent people... and by the way, my IQ is XYZ". Yet, a careless observer may evaluate the first situation as the second one. Especially on the community forum where LessWrongers ask LessWrongers about their IQ -- if you see us as individuals, it is more like the first case, but if an outsider sees us as a community, it is more like the second case. The problem is not LessWrongers talking about their IQs, the problem is LessWrongers asking. Especially asking repeatedly in a short time frame.

The data you gathered here will be highly unreliable. First, it's self-reporting. What prevents me from taking the test, getting result 90 points, and reporting 190? Nothing. Second, self-sampling. Who is more likely to take the test: readers who usually get high values on IQ tests, or readers who usually get low values. Third, just the idea of an online IQ test makes me shiver -- the internet is full with fraudulent tests, or tests made by mentally unbalanced people with almost zero knowledge of psychometrics -- and the tests that pretends to reliably measure values above the usual IQ tests are very unlikely to be methodologically correct. It is about statistics: If you want to speak e.g. about "1 in 1000" intelligence level, you better callibrate your test on a few thousand randomly selected people. How likely are they to fill your test seriously, unless you pay them? How much is paying them going to cost you? How likely are you then to provide the resulting test and calibration online for free?

So the consequences of our breaking this prejudice will be 1) gathering data with almost zero reliability, and 2) looking like IQ-obsessed losers to outsider. I see nothing empowering in that.

If we are going to break a prejudice, at least let's make in a way that makes sense. If we are going to publish a result that e.g. 70% of LW readers have IQ above 130, and 20% are above 150, let's use a methodology a former psychology student would not find obviously flawed.

"Intelligence" is an interesting topic.

"How intelligent LW users are, as a population" ... not so much. What insight would we get from discussing it more?

We talk about our issues with akrasia because lots of LW users think that they (and others) achieve a lot less than they could because of akrasia and that a better understanding of akrasia might help to fix this. What comparable "issues with intelligence" do we have?

What comparable "issues with intelligence" do we have?

How would we know, unless we compared notes?

Maybe we could achieve a lot more if we found better ways to leverage the advantages and avoid the disadvantages of high intelligence. Found careers and social contexts where it was a greater advantage, and avoided those where it was less of an advantage, or a handicap. Found ways to deal with education institutions geared to the common denominator.

If nothing else, it might be an interesting to discuss why people get so weird about intelligence, per this thread. There wouldn't be a question about having a similar discussion for any other generally useful ability.

But none of these things is a matter of talking about how clever we are; they're about talking about what to do with our cleverness. The thing a bunch of people are skeptical about the value of is yet another attempt to quantify exactly how smart LW's population is (according to some particular numerical measure of some particular kinds of smartness), which is not at all the same thing.

What's wrong about talking about how smart we are?

Because I would rather us not turn into Reddit. r/circlejerk exists for a reason.

This would be a much more cogent objection if the OP were not looking at these IQ figures, raising an eyebrow, and saying 'ORLY'?

This is a very fair point. I guess I tend to see any numerical discussion of IQ as trying to figure out exactly how much smarter than average we are. I don't think that's a particularly relevant discussion to have, and I think it is pretty obvious to any casual observer that we tend to be above average.

That's not a serious comment; it's cheap and thoughtless dismissal, a common tactic among those defending untenable positions.

Are you personally unable to discuss intelligence with others without it turning into a circle jerk? Is it everyone here but you?

I have said all I wish to on this topic and others are expressing any points I would make. I am now tapping out.

It's a perfectly legitimate dismissal. People talking about how awesome they are has well known spiral qualities, and isn't that useful. As with the start of this comment chain: The burden of why we should talk about this is on people who think we should, as the reasons why we shouldn't are obvious: It doesn't appear to serve any use and is at risk of becoming nothing more than backpatting.

Mistake 1 - I am intelligent = I am awesome.

Mistake 2 - It's useless to talk about a trait that makes you "awesome".

Discussing how to capitalize on a positive trait seems quite useful to me, and the more "awesome" the trait, the more potential mileage of exchanging information on how to exploit it. It's a trait where we have a comparative advantage (and some disadvantages) far out on the tail of the distribution. It's stupid not to discuss it in the rare circumstance where we have a large sample size far out on the tail of the distribution, just where we need the data.

I think discussions of how to capitalize on intelligence might be interesting and worth while. That's got nothing much to do with discussing what the actual statistical distribution of IQ is among the LW population; all that needs saying about that is that it turns out that LW has quite a lot of high-IQ people.

(What would be said in a discussion of how to capitalize on IQ-style intelligence? Non-obvious careers in which such intelligence turns out to be highly advantageous. Typical weaknesses that accompany high IQ, and how to use abilities that correlate with IQ to overcome them. Classes of problems that turn out to submit more or less readily than you'd expect to the kinds of thinking that high-IQ people are good at. I don't know whether any of this would be unobvious enough to be worth it, but it seems at least an order of magnitude more productive than yet another Oh Grandmother, What A Big IQ You Have discussion.)

I think discussions of how to capitalize on intelligence might be interesting and worth while.

So do I.

But "Quite a lot of high-IQ people" strikes me as vague to the point of useless. The real distribution matters. Numbers matter. Being top 50% is different than being top 10% is different than being top 0.1%. The value of our population as a data sample is dependent on how rare the sample is. How we might capitalize would also depend on the numbers.

I don't know whether any of this would be unobvious enough to be worth it

IMO, a particular weakness of the very intelligent is behaving as if reality is obvious and rational, something that one can figure out, instead of something that will surprise you if you take the time to actually look at it, or ask other people about.

yet another Oh Grandmother, What A Big IQ You Have discussion.

I guess I missed the "who's got the biggest swinging IQ" discussions. Have you really had a lot of those? That does sound tiresome.

I'm more interested costs/benefits, and making the most of what should be an asset.

How we might capitalize would also depend on the numbers.

How, specifically, would it depend on the numbers? What are the important differences in the type of content we would want to encourage if the average IQ were 140 as opposed to if it were 130?

How we might capitalize would also depend on the numbers.

How any given person capitalizes on their mental powers will depend on just what those mental powers are. But it seems pretty clear to me that there's much more variation between different LWers than there is uncertainty in just where the average is. (From what I've seen it seems pretty much certain that for most measures of IQ, (1) the average among active LWers is somewhere between 120 and 140 and (2) the range is at least ~120 to ~160.)

What discussions would we have that would need to be much different depending on whether the average IQ here is 120 or 140, but that wouldn't end up being useless for most of LW in either case?

And suppose we nail down very accurately what the average IQ here is by some particular measure. That still won't tell us much, because whatever you may say about g there's plenty of variation in how smart people are smart.

I guess I missed the "who's got the biggest swinging IQ" discussions.

That isn't what I meant; sorry if I was unclear. I was intending to cover "who's got the biggest IQ", "what is our average IQ", "how much does our IQ vary", and basically the whole range of discussions that are about characterizing LW IQ measurements. I just don't see that there's much value to those discussions beyond the level (which we've already reached) of observing that the LW population is at least one or two standard deviations smarter than average according to typical IQ measures, because anything that would be invalidated by not having more precise knowledge of the LW population average is equally invalidated by the fact that the average is only an average and actual LWers are different in many different directions.

(1) the average among active LWers is somewhere between 120 and 140

The OP referred to the SAT/ACT score averages as 0.11%, giving 3sigma+, while the IQ numbers averages I saw were 140 to 146, being almost 3sigma.

Certainly this data set isn't equally useful to everyone, but I think significantly useful to many. It depends on how significant intelligence level is in life. Out at 3sigma and beyond, I'd think pretty significant. I wouldn't expect that estimate to be universal, but I would expect it to get at least a good plurality.

OK, so "between 120 and 140" was on the low side. That's not the point; the point is that whatever measure you pick, the remaining uncertainty about the mean is less than the known variation between people.

A = "Defending an untenable position"

B = "Gives a cheap and thoughtless dismissal"

p(A|B) ~= P(B|A). In fact, I'm not sure that P(B|A) > P(B|~A).

Just a warning: the JCTI is 50 questions, and all but the first 3 questions of the JCTI are in the difficulty range of the last 5 of the raven's test from the survey. So it'll take a while, even if you're used to breezing through these tests.

Minor point-- if you want links to look nice in articles, you need to use html rather than the markdown which is what works in comments. I don't know whether putting up with this is a sign that we're unusually intelligent.

Ahh. For some reason, I was convinced that the link worked before I edited my post, during the process of which I didn't touch the link. So I just left it there, out of frustration, it was clickable anyway. Fixed.

Maybe HTML does suggest something about LW's IQ, but it is not really useful, given the current evidence we have so far. The way I interpret it, it says that the average IQ is probably over 110-120 (no upper limit), with a quite weak reliability. Even if we don't take into account that 20-70% of the users know programming (many people don't study computer science, but still use programming).

I was making something of a joke. Are we smart because we are mostly able to handle a system which requires both markup and html, or are we stupid because we put up with it?

You need to include the polls as a comment, rather than the main post.

EDIT: Would actually recommend having them as two separate comments.

I think you mean NOT culture-based, right?

Yes. And I thought I reread the thing xD

I feel that the JCTI and other image tests are really measures of a specific skill of test-taking. I think I could move up several standard deviations if I learned what types of rules the more advanced questions were using. As it is, I'm just using 'there's a rotation theme here, and I'm going to assume that this texture repeats this pattern, and only one of the answers keeps the rotation theme and that texture in that pattern'. I suppose being able to eliminate 'wrong' answers and guess randomly is part of what the test is intended to measure, but I can see other patterns that eliminate the answer I chose. I'm picking the patterns based on an internalized guess of what I think the test maker is thinking when he is making the test.

For the record, I scored slightly higher than the Less Wrong median when I voted, so I don't think there's a large 'I don't get it, therefore it sucks' aspect to my opinion.

Agreed. Operations equivalent to addition, subtraction, and xoring are also popular on this type of test. I'm sure there are more that I'm not aware of either, and quite confident that the tricks are learnable.

There were at least two cases where I said "Of the five things here, one is the XOR of two of the others, and the XOR of the other two is one of the answers."

It's really the questions where I can't tell if there is supposed to be some progression, or just a series of unordered things.

117 on Cerebrals

Does test two seriously want me to write down answers? That seems like a lot of work.

JCTI score [pollid:257] Please don't use this field for scores from other tests, except for clinical ones - note that there are some that are not free and are still not valid (one costed a few hundred Euros!). You can post scores from other tests if you are really sure they are valid, but don't forget to convert it to SD15. As far as I know, some Mensa admission tests are not accurate.

Mean 89222.75
Median 137.0

Somebody's being a douchebag.

If you don't like a topic, proper responses can include: 1) Don't participate, 2) Downvote, 3) Make a comment saying why you dislike discussion of the topic.

The proper response is NOT to sabotage the topic.

The reason this site maintains relatively high levels of rational discourse, rather than trolling and flame wars, etc, is because we all do our best to follow the social contract of this site. Breaking the contract (via actions such as sabotaging polls, karmassassination, etc) pushes the LW dynamic away from all the things we like (open, reasoned discussion, thoughtful ideas, etc) and towards the things we don't like (i.e. 4chan)

tl;dr- Don't be a douchebag.

We can still view the individual responses and ignore this one.

Fortunately, we can still view individual replies.

If at least one person is being obnoxious enough to enter completely nonsensical numbers, then probably some people are being less blatantly obnoxious -- e.g., entering plausible but wrong answers (such as their own estimates of their IQ). Not that any poll of this sort is immune to such things.

'but don't remember to convert it to SD15' did you mean don't forget?

Yes. Edited.

CFNSE score [pollid:259] Here is the percentile convertor for CFNSE. http://www.etienne.se/cfnse/norm.htm

Note that the best strategy is to look at Adults percentile, even if this is less accurate than the age group. We are looking at the intelligence compared to all humans, not compared to all humans at the same age range.

Anyway, I'm very curious to see the average score on a real, culture-fair IQ test.

Show, don't tell.

I think this is a great idea but you chose the wrong title. The latter should make it clear that this post is actually about measuring, polling the IQ.

I did notice the title didn't sound right to me. But I also couldn't find the right words (English isn't my native language). Any suggestions?

HOW about: LessWrong IQ Poll better: LessWrong IQ Survey

[-][anonymous]8y 0

JCTI might take a while

How long? And what about the other one?

It strongly depends on the person, some are faster than others.

JCTI takes at least an hour for nearly all people with high scores. 2-3 hours isn't too much.

CFNSE takes 2 to 5 hours, according to the estimation on the website - it's an accurate estimation IMO. A possible strategy is to do it "quickly" (for 2-5 hours or so) and leave everything you couldn't answer definitely for the last. Then spend 30-60 minutes on each of those. I think this isn't going to artificially inflate your score, and I'm quite certain that someone with 100-110 IQ can't figure out the patterns for any of the hardest questions, even if he spends hours/days on each.

[-][anonymous]8y -1

To start a poll, type this in a comment:

What is your IQ? []

without the <>

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