With Christmas only days away, what better topic to discuss than Martha Stewart and cold winters. Few people better personify the theory that cold winters selected for high IQ, particularly high spatial IQ, than Northern ancestry Martha Stewart, who Oprah describes as a genius for her domestic inventiveness. While most rich people seem to have earned their fortune through verbal or mathematical talents, Martha Stewart got rich by making things: pies, crafts, clothing, omelettes, soap, furniture etc. “I’m a doer”, she likes to say. If there’s one gazillionaire you’d want to be stranded with on a deserted island, it would be Martha Stewart, because she has the adaptability to actually survive without modern ammenities.

Around the turn of the century, Martha Stewart was adaptable enough to briefly overtake Oprah as the richest self-made woman in America, when she took her company public causing her net worth to skyrocket to billionaire level. I estimate the average American billionaire has an IQ around 130 (98 percentile), but because self-made women are so rare at the highest levels, I estimate that both Oprah and Martha tower with an IQ around 140 (99.5 percentile). Despite having such similar overall ability (in my opinion), the two women have opposite cognitive profiles. Oprah (whose ancestors lived in tropical Africa, where evolution favoured talents that helped in mating success; sexual selection) has, in my opinion, a social IQ > spatial IQ profile while Martha (whose ancestors lived in freezing Northern Europe, where evolution favoured talents that helped in survival; natural selection) has a spatial IQ > social IQ profile, so when Martha would appear on Oprah’s show, it was television at its best, because Martha would provide the practical survival skills, while Oprah would make the hour funny and entertaining. Martha would teach the audience how to make their own soap and insist that each guest in her home gets a fresh bar of soap, causing Oprah to inspire roaring laughter by adlibbing “because you wouldn’t anyone else’s hairs, in your nice homemade soap.”

So while Oprah and Martha would bring different cognitive abilities to the table, one day Oprah’s enormous brain size seemed to allow her the higher level cognitive ability that transcended cognitive abilities themselves: Meta cognition; self-awareness, the ability to mazimize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, is not well understood, let alone well measured by IQ tests, but it is pivotal to our ability to adapt situations to our advantage (the essence of intelligence) and in some ways is more important to intelligence than all other intellectual abilities combined, including g (general intelligence). This is something I have long believed and I was incredibley impressed to discover that commenter Santoculto had the same understanding. He wrote:

…the self awareness is the bio-cultural differentiation of human beings compared to other animals, its true soul. And I believe that self awareness is therefore the cognitive component hierarchically superior to all others. It is as if our intelligence were divided into several spaceships, where self awareness is the mothership.

How did Oprah display self-awareness? Martha Stewart began showing Oprah a very efficient way to maneuver a bed sheet, and asked Oprah to grap one corner of the bed sheet. Sensing she didn’t have the spatial ability to perform the task competently and not wanting to look foolish in front of millions of TV viewers, Oprah was forced to adapt. Instead of grabbing the corner of the sheet, Oprah spontaneously ran to the audience to grab a Martha Stewart fan. The woman couldn’t believe her good luck, for Oprah was giving her a chance to maneuvre a bed sheet with her hero. Meanwhile Oprah took the woman’s seat in the audience and watched the two of them on the stage. I don’t know if Martha had enough social IQ to understand Oprah’s true motives in bringing the audience member on stage, but she rolled with it, and began instructing the lady to copy all the elaborate complex rapid twists and turns Martha was doing with her corner of the bed sheet. Not having the spatial IQ to keep up, the lady began twisting and turning the sheet in wrong directions causing Martha to scold the lady for screwing up.

At that point Oprah stood up from the seat in the audience she had taken and yelled “I’m so glad I didn’t do it” and started dancing around with joy as the audience howled and clapped with laughter. This demonstrates how having the self-awareness to know what her strengths and weaknesses were allowed Oprah to adapt a potentially humiliating situation (failing to correctly maneuver a bed sheet) to her advantage (laughter and applause from the audience).

Conversely, a lack of self-awareness would prove to be Martha Stewart’s Archille’s heel. Oprah once said to Martha “I heard your ex-husband got a court order forbidding you to speak to him. I’ve never heard of such a thing”. That was a kind of punishment, Martha explained. “Was it punishment for being too smart?” Oprah asked.

Men are very threatened by women who are smarter than they are, and Martha’s limitless competence at doing work inside and outside the home and making gazillions of dollars in the process, must have made her husband feel inadequate and inferior. But when Martha became a self-made billionaire, she made the whole world feel inferior, with the smug way she embraced her billions, and the world took its revenge by putting her in jail and causing her fortune to tumble. Had Martha Stewart had the self-awareness to know social IQ was not her strength, and had a publicist coach her on dealing with the public, she might still be a billionaire today (though she remains super rich). But this demonstrates the hierarchical nature of intelligence that Santoculto described. You can be brilliant in virtually every area and have extremely high g (general intelligence), but if you lack the self-awareness to know where your blind spots are, your will fail to adapt situations to your advantage, and you will not be intelligent, in the truest sense.

Of course with the amount of jealousy, resentment and hate directed at successful women, perhaps no amount of intelligence is enough to avoid the traps the world sets for you, and Martha continues to be one of the richest women in America, despite no longer being a billionaire. But competition threatens her business, particularly from TV star Rachael Ray. Despite the fact that Ray has a self-described “huge head” and reportedly scored above 150 on an IQ test, she is of Southern European ancestry so her ancestors were not exposed to the extreme cold that pruned the gene pool of spatial incompetence, and Martha regards ray as unworthy competition:

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