Look At It This Way

Seeing old things in new ways.

The Low Down on a High I.Q.

Two skills that set high I.Q. folks apart.

What's the one thing that puts Homo Sapiens at the top of the heap? Bears are stronger, horses are faster, dogs have better noses and birds can take off without a ticket. As everyone knows, it's our brains that set us apart. And, as everyone also knows, some brains are better than others.

But now comes the tricky part. How do you know which ones are the better ones? The truth is, very few people know exactly what it is that makes one person more smart and another person less smart. They may say something like "Intelligence" or "IQ" but what does that mean? A person who is smart, or maybe even a genius, typically has just two things going for them - Words and Numbers.

Consider the following test:

Framer Gray and Farmer Brown were neighbors. One day, Farmer Brown bought Farmer Gray's horse for $60. Soon thereafter, Farmer Gray began complaining that the horse had been worth more. Farmer Brown then offered to sell the horse back and, since it was now supposedly worth more, demanded $70. Farmer Gray went along with this and paid the price. The next day, Farmer Brown claimed to have developed a fondness for the animal and bought it back for $80. This business came to an end a month later when Farmer Gray, remembering that harvest time was near, paid Farmer Brown $90 and took the horse home.

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Now here are the two questions:
1) Was any money made or lost during these transactions and if so
2) Who made and/or who lost how much?

I'll give you the answers at the end but for now let's consider those all-important Words and Numbers. The first, Words, are important because they represent ideas. To demonstrate this, just try to think a thought without using language. You're really quite limited aren't you? Maybe you can picture a friend's face or the room behind you but that's about it. It's also hard to remember anything prior to the time you first began to use language at around the age of two. This is why humans grow up to be smarter than apes. We have an inherent aptitude for language and they don't. In fact, thinking has been described as little more than rapid sub-vocal speech and, indeed, your vocal cords do vibrate slightly when you think. So people with large vocabularies, people who know lots and lots of words, have a distinct advantage when taking an I.Q. test.

The second, Numbers, are important because they represent relationships. People who are good with numbers are usually good at relating things one to another. They can predict in advance how some new idea will impact on some old idea. This really is the essence of mathematics. Algebra and calculus and differential equations and all those other high-powered techniques are really nothing more than formalized ways of dealing with relationships.

So think about it, the more words you know the more ideas you can handle and the better you are with numbers the better you can relate those ideas to a meaningful whole. That ‘s what smart is all about and that's exactly what you needed to solve our Farmer Gray and Farmer Brown brainteaser. Coming up with the right answer involved being able to convert all the words of the puzzle into meaningful pictures. You had to be able to see that horse being sold back and forth. And you then had to be able to take all the numbers involved and convert them into relationships. How did each new transaction relate to all the previous transactions?

Solving the problem necessitated condensing all the words and numbers into two simple statements:
1) Brown bought a horse for $60 and sold it for &70 and
2) Brown bought a horse for $80 and sold it for $90.
Therefore, the correct solution is that Farmer Brown made $20 while Farmer Gray lost $20.

It always surprises me when university students say something like Brown made $20 and Gray lost $10. If that were possible, we could get a horse, sell it back and forth in a field and wind up rich. But if you got it right and it seemed easy, you may be a candidate for MENSA - the international high I.Q. society. If you want more information on that group, you can visit their website at: www.MENSA.org.

Look At It This Way
The value of a high I.Q. is that you can use it to make complicated things simple. And when you reduce intelligence itself to its simplest components, you find nothing more than a superior ability with words and numbers; two skills that can be sharpened and improved at any stage of life.



Stephen Benedict-Mason is a psychologist, a former university professor, syndicated newspaper columnist and radio talk-show host.


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