Have you recently taken an IQ test and got a really nice, high score in the 120 to 145 range? Good job. You’re among the top 10% of the population. But before you rush to tell everyone about your results, consider that the high score on a standardized IQ exam doesn’t say anything about your overall intelligence. And while you may be good at logic, spotting patterns and abstract reasoning, you might be a total washout in the critical thinking department and not even know it. If you want to be really intelligent, you need both academic knowledge and what we generally call street smarts. Basically, you want to be a cross between a scientist and Bugs Bunny.
This is the point of an article in New Scientist that focuses on a long known flaw of today’s IQ tests, which are decent at grading working memory and basic logical skills but offer no way to figure out whether the test taker will actually use them in the real world. As a result, we could have someone get a score of 160 on one of the several standardized tests out there and find her totally incompetent in the real world because all that ability to reason and make decisions based on logic is limited solely to test taking.
But most researchers agree that the correlation between [IQ] and successful decision-making is weak. The exception is when people are warned that they might be vulnerable to a thinking bias, in which case those with high IQs tend to do better. This, says Evans, is because while smart people don’t always reason more than others, “when they do reason, they reason better”.
So next time you’re talking to a reasonably smart person and he or she drops a major whopper on you, filled to the brim with obvious pseudoscience or nonsensical New Age woo, you have an answer as to why someone who seems so clever can be so irrational. They really are clever, but they just don’t, or won’t, apply their critical thinking skills out in the real world. But that doesn’t mean they’re doomed to languish in the world of woo until the end of time. Just like you can train to get a better IQ test score, you can also train your mind to be far more skeptical and analytical. A scientific mindset is built by training and constant questioning and they can too. All they need is a good reason to start…