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HIQ: Pronounced Hike

In High IQ (HIQ), Research by Emerson Jane BrowneLeave a Comment

Mardi Gras maskI strongly dislike the word “Gifted” as it is used currently as a euphemism for high IQ.

IQ is a continuum that falls into a bell shaped curve. Every single number on that continuum has gifts. Just spend some time with a person with Downs Syndrome and think about “Gifts”.1

Look around you; EVERYONE is gifted in some way.

Therefore I want to suggest a new nomenclature: HIQ pronounced Hike. There can also be NIQ (Nike) and LIQ (Like?)

If someone has a better pronunciation, please let me know. I have to admit that when I typed “LIQ” I thought “Oh! That is the beginning of liquor.” Umm, it would then sound like: Lick, Hick, and Nick . . . Nah!”

Back to HIQ; I am quite serious about this. I think the word “Gifted” needs to be tossed.

Using the term “Gifted” sets people with High IQ apart in a way that is not helpful.  It continues the misnomer that having a high IQ makes someone “better than” and that having a high IQ only has positive attributes.

Both are wrong! Different and in the minority would be a better description.

I think using the term “Gifted” makes it far more difficult for a person to admit that they could possibly have a high IQ even to themselves.

Knowing that one has a HIQ is important. Not only is it important, it is usually a phenomenal relief to realize it.  Finally one can begin to understand oneself after a lifetime of feeling like a misfit and assigning negative labels to the “side effects” of HIQ. I felt like I had come home when I finally stumbled upon a site that listed characteristics and explained how adults often mislabel and condemn themselves

 The importance of being actively aware of such identity is explained in an article by Andrew Mahoney “In Search of the Gifted [HIQ] Identity.”  (Since what follows is a direct quote I am leaving the word gifted in.)

“I’ve become convinced that focusing on your identity as a gifted person — and how that relates to the whole self — is the foundation for growth. Learning how people are gifted and understanding it in the context of family, friends and co-workers is always the first step to reaching full potential and leading more fulfilling lives.2

In fact Willem Kuipers and Annelien van Kempen have written an interesting piece entitled “How to Charm Gifted Adults into Admitting Giftedness: Their Own and Somebody Else’s”.  They came up with the term Xi for eXtra intelligence to avoid using the word Gifted.

Many gifted [HIQ] adults are not aware of their giftedness [HIQ] or deny it for lack of adequate knowledge about the subject. They often carry the load of being different all alone and unaware of the true reasons for those differences.3 (I know I did!!)

They go on to say

As many authors in this field have indicated, the are quite susceptible to the Impostor Syndrome, the inner conviction that you’re about to be unmasked as a fraud because you are not as smart as other people (seem to) think you are.” (Bell, 1990; Clance, 1985)3

The term “Gifted” has helped create the “Impostor Syndrome”.  It has lead to the dominant belief that for adults the only proof of high IQ would be nothing short of a Nobel Prize.

So, help me out here!  Stop using the word “Gifted”.  Lets call it what it is: High IQ or HIQ.  It does not detract from the attributes that come with having a high IQ but it does detach the weight of the label.



  1. In regards to the comment on Downs Syndrome at the beginning of this post please note: I am not jumping into the trap of thinking all DS people have a “sweet and loving disposition”; To quote Len Leshin, MD “I’m reminded of the mother of a girl with DS who would respond to the comment about children with DS being so sweet and loving with: “I’ll call you the next time she puts the cat in the dryer”.
  2. Andrew Mahoney “In Search of the Gifted Identity.“, 1998
  3. Willem Kuipers and Annelien van Kempen, “How to Charm Gifted Adults into Admitting Giftedness: Their Own and Somebody Else’s”, Advanced Development Journal, Volume 11 (2007)
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.