It was roughly a century ago when a French psychologist named Alfred Binet first attempted to measure a child’s intelligence. Binet’s original goal was to find a way to distinguish truly retarded students from lazy students with hidden ability. What ensued was the development of a series of tests involving math, vocabulary and reasoning that are still very much in use today. There are currently several different standardized tests designed to assess intelligence, all of which attempt primarily to gauge four abilities:
- verbal skills
- numerical skills
- spatial relations
Of the most notable intelligence tests being used today, the Stanford-Binet is the closest to Alfred Binet’s original, although, it has undergone a few revisions. The one currently being used is the fifth edition called the Standford-Binet 5.
What Binet began over 100 years ago led to the rise of numerous high IQ societies, each with their own criteria for acceptance. Typically, acceptance into these groups is based on approved IQ test scores. However, occasionally some groups make special allowances for creative people that they like who might have otherwise missed the cut by a point or two/ten.
Without a doubt the most well-known high IQ society is Mensa, which is both the oldest and largest high IQ society in the world. However, a lesser known fact is that as far as exclusivity goes, Mensa isn’t even in the same ball park as some of the others. Of the close to 60 similar organizations that limit membership to people who are within a certain high percentile of the Intelligence quotient (IQ), Mensa is actually one of the easier groups to get into. Mensa’s only requirement for membership is that one score at or above the 98th percentile on certain standardized IQ or other approved tests. That percentile equates to the top 2% of all people, or 1 person in 50.
By the way, the minimum accepted score for Mensa on the Stanford-Binet 5 intelligence test is 132. It takes about 1½ hrs to complete.
You can find out if you’re Mensa material here:
As far as exclusivity goes, this is how Mensa stacks up against some of the other high IQ societies:
- · The International High IQ Society is open to 1 person in 20.
- · Mensa is open to 1 person in 50.
- · The Triple Nine Society is open to 1 person in 1000.
- · The Prometheus Society is open to 1 person in 30,000.
- · The Mega Society is open to 1 person in 1,000,000.
- · The Olympiq Society is open to 1 person in 3,500,000.
- · PARS Society is open to 1 person in 3,500,000.
By comparison, Olympiq and PARS are actually 70,000 times more exclusive than Mensa. According to the numbers, of the 7 billion people who currently inhabit the earth, only the top 2000 would potentially make the cut for Olympiq or PARS, whereas, the top 140,000,000 would potentially make the cut for Mensa. Comparatively, it’s a huge difference.
For the special few that are at or above the 1 person in 1,000,000 range, standard IQ tests just aren’t enough. For example, the Stanford-Binet 5 only ranges from 40 to 160. People above that range are required to take special, usually un-timed, and usually unsupervised tests that have been normalized using standard statistical methods.
I thought it might be interesting to take a bit of a look at the lives of some of the people that make up the ultra-high IQ community. In doing so, I immediately noticed that there were some overlapping interests, like in psychology, physics, and music etc. However, after a closer look, what stood out more than the similarities were the differences. As a group, the ultra-high IQ community is as diverse as any.
One of the more interesting characters of the ultra-high IQ crowd is a 58-year-old American man named Christopher Michael Langan. Langan is an autodidact, which basically means that he’s self-educated for the most part. He became popular in the late 1990’s when it hit the news that the smartest man in America was working as a bouncer in a bar. His IQ was reported on ABC’s 20/20 and other media outlets as somewhere between 195 and 210.
On the 20/20 program, they actually brought in board-certified neuropsychologist Dr. Robert Novelly to test Langan’s IQ, which supposedly broke the ceiling of the test. Novelly was astounded and said: “Chris is the highest individual that I have ever measured in 25 years of doing this.”
In 2001, Errol Morris, a documentary film maker, interviewed Langan for his critically acclaimed television show First Person.
Here is a link to the Errol Morris (season 2) episode:
Chris and his wife Gina now have a non-profit corporation called the “Mega Foundation” which deals with programs designed to aid in the development of extremely gifted individuals and their ideas.
Here is a link to a more recent interview of the happy couple at their ranch:
Incidentally, one of the smartest women in the world is a 41-year-old Australian named Laura N. Kochen; a Olympiq Society member. Her membership is quite the impressive achievement given that since January 1, 2001, the Olympiq Society has only accepted 14 members (12 full and 2 prospective), of which only 2 are women, and Laura Kochen is one of them.
There isn’t much information about Laura Kochen on the internet, however, the Olympiq Society website mentions that she’s an active member of Greenpeace as well as Red Cross International.