comments on IQ

Comments on pieces about IQ from A Very Short Introduction to Psychology

A long-term study of children with very high IQs found that some became
very successful adults but others did not, and there were no differences in IQ
between the two groups. There were, however, great differences in
motivation: the more successful ones had much more ambition and drive to
succeed. (
from Psychology, a Very Short Introduction, by Gillian Butler and
Freda McManus, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998, p. 94).

Well, no doubt some collective source was willing to pay for this tendentious and rubbishy piece of 'research', leaving out all the operative factors. (Whereas I can't get any funding for any of the research projects which I would undertake if I could, and which would really advance knowledge). Research being funded by the state means it is paid for with money taken from individuals by taxation - confiscation of their freedom to do what they want, which might include meaningful research.

Let us consider the particular piece of 'research' in question. As usual, we talk about 'very high' IQs or 'gifted children' without distinguishing levels of IQ. There is a lot of difference between 140, 160, 180 and off-the-scale. Even when I was at school I used to think with disgust that I was always being interpreted as if my IQ was about 130. Therefore I would have to be working very 'hard' (as they call it) to produce the results I did. Actually I thought that a person with an IQ of 130 being slave-driven by an ambitious father would still not be able to equal what I, with an off-scale IQ, produced in a state of exhaustion and depression (the latter being caused by frustration and intellectual starvation, not by overwork).

Although in other contexts they like to say that the individual can't be considered in isolation from his social environment, here we are talking as if the environment is a neutral factor; it is just an objective characteristic of the individual if he/she can't succeed in the 'educational' obstacle race set up by society. We won't consider different IQ levels and the needs to do things at different ages that they might imply, the increasing handicap of doing things at too late an age which may go with increasingly high IQ level, the greater hostility and desire to frustrate that may be aroused by higher IQs and more obvious ambition and drive, along with other unusual personality characteristics that may occur in association with exceptional intellectual capacity.

We won't consider, either, how far the parents are willing and able to protect the individual from social hostility. If they are sufficiently well-off they may automatically protect the individual to some extent, simply by keeping him away from the state 'educational' system and sending him to fee-paying schools, because this is what is done by people of their social class.

How is a modern psychologist going to quantify something so subjective as ambition or drive to succeed? Such things can only be expressed behaviourally in a social context, so if the system is sufficiently antagonistic the strongest drive will be reduced to apathy and emotional exhaustion. As ambition and drive are likely to be defined as synonymous with being able to remain functional within the system of 'preparation' which is supposed to lead to such socially recognised 'success' as is permitted, if the system manages to produce complete disconnection and disaffection in an individual it will be said that the individual has no 'motivation' or 'does not want to work'.

As a matter of fact, the strongest drive and the greatest need for a level of functionality which would correspond to outstanding success if it were permitted by the social circumstances, will most rapidly result in depression and emotional exhaustion if frustrated.

The German teenager, refused permission to take his qualifying examination, and who shot a number of people at his school before killing himself, was described as 'an indifferent student'. That means he was not able to function well within the prescribed course that was supposed to lead to qualification. Nor, incidentally, was Einstein, whose interest in topics that lay outside the preparatory course was already developing and who, independently of that, would quite possibly have found the way the material was handled rebarbative. Perhaps his teachers would have described him as 'unambitious' and 'lacking in drive' because of his difficulty in relating to their course work.

The German student was said by one of his classmates to be 'ambitious' and to have 'always wanted to be famous'. So it could be a superficial view of his problems to describe him as lacking in motivation because he 'did not get on with the teachers', as was also said of him. When Einstein failed to obtain an Assistantship to proceed to the next stage in an academic career, his disappointment was so great that he wrote to every theoretical physicist in Europe.

While it is often pointed out that supportive parents can improve their offspring's prospects with encouragement and tutors who are paid to suppress their hostility (and what is wrong with that, when and if it happens?) - it is never pointed out that it is the easiest thing in the world for hostile teachers and supervisors of studies (not paid directly by a parent) to ruin their pupil's chances. They have so much control over what he is supposed to do, and the way in which he is made to do it, that they can easily provide him with a programme of study quite incompatible with his requirements, as determined by his own mental age, temperament, and capacity.

It is particularly easy to do this in the case of the highest IQs, which are likely to require opportunities of an exceptional kind, of which those with lower IQs would not be able to take advantage if offered them, and which they would be unlikely to ask for. It is therefore only necessary for malevolent teachers to withhold concessions and insist on the mechanical application of their usual course of study, in order to produce extreme disaffection and disconnection, which may then be described as a lack of ambition (or may be ascribed to overwork). The resulting 'lack of ambition' may be ascribed to the deleterious effects of parental 'pushing', but the fact that it may be recognised as a consequence of social influence (even if the influence is incorrectly identified) does not lead to its being regarded as remediable.

No, it is regarded as a permanent state of affairs, and it is assumed that the 'unambitious' student will really prefer to live in poverty without a career.