A reader sent me some emails which I’m publishing with his permission. His comments are in block quotes with my replies below.
Hi, I had a psychologist administer the WAIS-III test (along with several other tests including on for ADHD) IN 2006 when I was in law school, and my interest in the results was rekindled by your blog…
I was wondering if you’d be interested in interpreting the results and helping me figure out how to maximize my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses in order to maximize my income and status.
I am interested but you should know I’m not a psychologist or trained professional in any capacity.
Two facts that might pique your interest: first, I answered the series of questions you developed for estimating IQ, and the results exactly matched my full-scale IQ test result (132), … second, the psychologist stated that only 2.6% of the population has a disparity between Verbal Scale IQ (139) and Performance Scale IQ (116) as significant as mine.
It is rare to have such a large split but it’s not rare for someone with such an extreme verbal IQ. Assuming about a 0.7 correlation between verbal and performance IQ, the average person with a verbal IQ of 139 would have a performance IQ of 0.7(139 – 100) + 100 = 127 and about 15% of them would have Performance IQs of 116 or less. That’s just basic regression to the mean…
Additionally, she said that these scores represented low estimates of my IQ, as this disparity reflected attention deficit and anxiety issues that would disrupt my ability to concentrate and focus.
But the same problems that prevent you from reaching your potential on an IQ test could prevent you from reaching your potential in life.
I’d really like to understand how I can elevate my circumstances. My verbal iq is in the top .5% of the population, and my full scale is in the top 2%. According to you, I should be earning a fuckload of money. I firmly believe I should be doing so. But I need to shore up my performance weaknesses and learn how to optimize my efforts in a pragmatic way based on my scores…
Actually what I’ve stated is that the average self-made billionaire has an IQ around 130, but that’s not the same as saying the average IQ 130 is a billionaire or even a millionaire. The correlation between IQ and money is about 0.4, which means someone with better than one in a million financial success will typically regress to about the top 2% when it comes to IQ, while the average person who is in the top 2% of IQ will regress to around the top 25% in money. Regression to the mean implies that rich people are typically much less smart than they are rich and smart people are typically much less rich than they are smart. This chart I made shows the median incomes of Americans in their early thirties at different IQ levels:
I tend to think that if my performance and verbal scores were reversed, I’d be far better off.
Not really. You attended law school so presumably you’re in a field that requires verbal ability, not spatial talent. Second of all, if you look at Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans, Ashkenazi Jews (verbal IQ > Performance IQ) are vastly more over-represented than East Asian Americans (Performance IQ > Verbal IQ), so your cognitive profile seems quite typical of billionaires. The problem is millions of Americans have your cognitive profile, while only several hundred can be billionaires.
I have numerous questions. Do my scores mean I’m condemned to simply be in the top .5% of human bullshitters, yet nothing special when it comes to putting any of my talents to practical use?
No. For starters, of all the scores you provided, the best predictor of your success and productivity is probably your overall IQ, and not any specific strengths or weakness, because your overall IQ best reflects g (general cognitive ability) and g influences all conscious human behavior and predicts your functioning in countless domains not measured on any IQ test. Secondly, being a bullshitter is of practical use in today’s society if you want to acquire money and status. Thirdly, your highest score was on a subtest called Comprehension which David Wechsler himself (author of the Wechsler intelligence scales) described as a measure of practical knowledge and social judgement so you should be especially good at maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.
What does this get me in life? Does their substantial disparity explain why I’m a better songwriter than performer? Why I’m better at ideation than execution? Why I’m a better test-taker than student?
You understand the implications of your scores quite well which makes sense because your highest score was on the Comprehension subtest.
And am I stuck this way, or can I somehow use my superior abilities to elevate my weaker ones?
You can use them to compensate for your weaker ones.
For which professions would I be well-suited?
Your best scores are Comprehension, Vocabulary and Similarities. Similarities requires the ability to organize and categorize your thoughts, and as I said above, Comprehension requires practical social understanding. These two strengths combined with Vocabulary suggest you’d be good in media or politics. However you were only somewhat above average on the Picture Arangement subtest which measures the ability to visually interpret social situations. This relative weakness combined with anxiety and attention problems suggests broadcast media or politics might be challenging and you might be better off in print media/writing. Of course, it’s important not to over-interpret sub-test scatter (much of which is just caused by unreliability in the test). It’s also important not to over-emphasize cognitive ability. You’re above average in every subtest on the WAIS-III, and especially above average in overall IQ, so your real challenge is finding a field that you’re passionate about.
Is there anything I might do to minimize the anxiety and concentration issues she references?
When I suffer from anxiety, I try to imagine the worst case scenario and get comfortable with it.
Really, I just want that ten-trillion-dollar company my full-scale IQ seems to promise me. Or how bout just a paltry billion?
Even though your IQ is extremely high…higher than probably 50% of self-made billionaires, the average self-made billionaire not only has extreme IQ, but exceptional opportunities, special talents, drive, passion, certain personality traits, and that X factor. Given that IQ only explains 16% of the variation in income, you would need an IQ of 278 just to have a 50% chance of becoming a billionaire. So you can’t be a billionaire, but if you work hard and play your cards right, you might become a multi-millionaire.