High IQ is overrated! Or is it?

In High IQ (HIQ), Research by Emerson Jane Browne5 Comments

1 Think about it.

There are no negative or even neutral words to describe an IQ that is more than two standard deviations from the mean.

When people have a High IQ, they are Gifted, Exceptional, Above Average, etc.

The CIVIQ Society, which accepts people with an IQ of over 145, explains:

“That high intelligence is a gift with only positive implications is a common misconception: it brings up facilities (talents, strengths and interests) on one hand, but often also specific difficulties and needs on the other.”  2

IQ falls in a bell shaped curve with long tails on either end.

Two standard deviations below the mean is considered to be low IQ or mentally handicapped. We accept that people with low IQ fall outside the norm and may need additional assistance to adapt and be successful in society.

Sadly, the same compassion and understanding does not often exist for people more than two standard deviations above the mean.  The existence of only “positive” words to describe IQ on the high side is an example of that.

A big difficulty for people with high IQs is that they are sorely in the minority.  Though there is a long tale to the bell curve it is a narrow one.  96% of all people fall within 30 points of the mean IQ of 100.  

For someone with an IQ of 146 they are 1 out of a 1000. Or in other words, for each person with an IQ of 146 there are about 999 people that have a lower IQ.

Therefore “gifted” people are very much a minority. The world is not set up for them!  By the term “world” I mean school, the workplace, and even many social situations.


Plus there is the additional burden of that it is not alright to talk about having a high IQ.  If you mention it you are thought to be boasting.  It cannot be discussed on any sort of equal, unemotional, and realistic footing. In fact, it is considered more politically correct to discuss hemorrhoids than IQ!  

Therefor “gifted” people often struggle in silence; not understanding why they don’t fit in and why their experience doesn’t match what everyone else is telling them.

“After a particularly tough day of feeling “different”, a 9-year-old, who is thinking of going underground with her abilities, says “I don’t want to be a purple leaf, when the rest of the tree is green.” 3

And another child describes herself as a cube, “in a world of flat squares.” 4

I can remember telling one of my bosses that, within the company, I was like the canary in a coal mine. I knew this was true. I would tend to be sensitive to and aware of a problem long before others. I wanted to help by sharing what I could so easily see. How presumptuous of me. She did not want to hear it. 5

Things are slowly improving for children in the “Gifted” arena.  There is much more awareness in schools.  Children are tested at an early age for giftedness and there are many gifted programs; even in public schools.  There are also many resources on the web for parents, educators, and kids to access.  (See the footnotes below for some links.)

So, back to the title of this post “High IQ is overrated! Or is it?”  

I don’t know if overrated is the right word.  “Koyaanisqatsi” is a Hopi word. It means “life out of balance”.  (It is also the name of an avant-garde 1982 film about the frenetic speed of modern life.)  It is how I feel about the overrating of having a high IQ.  The rating is out of balance.  It exaggerates the positive aspects of the IQ without respecting the difficulties.


  1. The cartoon is by Jeff Gregory of Jagged Smile and is used with permission.
  2.  The Civiq Society
  3.  The quotes come from the “You know you’re the parent of a gifted child when . . .” page of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page.  Hoagie’s is probably the very best site for parents of gifted kids and for the kids themselves.  It is a labor of love done by one couple.
  4. Ibid
  5. The quote is from “njg” who has a fantastic article with some good resources here: http://www.squidoo.com/high-iq
Emerson Jane Browne
I am Emerson Jane Browne. I write about Brains, Apps, & Productivity, and many other aspects of Life. I speak to TBI support groups, speak and teach workshops at tech, music, and writer conferences. I consult with organizations on strategic planning and building a strong community.