My impression is that the point of Mensa is to provide smart people who would otherwise be isolated with opportunities to interact with other smart people. Now:

  • These days, the internet makes this much less of a problem than before, so Mensa has less value, so people who might otherwise have joined will be less inclined to do so.
  • There's always been a tendency for smart people to congregate in places with a high density of other smart people, not only for social reasons but also because that's where good smart-people jobs tend to be.
  • So entrance to Mensa has to be easy enough that you get a reasonable number of potential Mensa members even in places where most of the smart people have gone elsewhere.
  • And then the people in a given place who want to join Mensa will tend to be the ones who haven't found other things to do (there or elsewhere) that put them in contact with other smart people. And who don't form satisfactory (to them) relationships with other not-so-smart people.

So Mensa seems likely to be selecting for the following combination of attributes:

  • Intelligent
    • ... but not too intelligent
  • Not especially social
  • Not especially ambitious
  • Not a lot of specific strong intellectual interests

Now, of course not everyone there will fit that pattern, for all kinds of reasons. And some people who do fit that pattern may be interesting fun people capable of getting things done. But it doesn't seem like it should be a big surprise if a lot of them aren't.

Intelligent ... but not too intelligent

For statistical reasons, there are much more people with IQ 130 than with IQ 150 (or whatever is the LW average). So an organization of "IQ 130 or more" will turn out to be "IQ 130, and only rarely more".

Not especially ambitious

I'd say that the less ambitious members are more visible in Mensa, because they don't have alternatives. For example, one member of our local Mensa got currently into parliament. That seems ambitious enough to me. But he doesn't spend nearly as much time in Mensa as t... (read more)

Open thread, Apr. 18 - Apr. 24, 2016

by MrMind 1 min read18th Apr 2016176 comments


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