A reader’s cousin takes the WAIS-IV

[This article was updated on Januaaryn 18, 2021 to include additional data I learned of in the comment section]

Commenter “Carlos” left a number of comments on this blog about his brilliant cousin. These comments are posted below in red.

On September 10, 2020, commenter “Carlos” wrote:

Hi Pumpkin Person! I’ve been reading you since too long and now i have an intersting case for you
My cousin is pretty brilliant and I’ve been observing him for quite a long time. I would like your estimate on his IQ. Here it goes his history: at 5 years old he memorized around 200 country flags in a book,and was able to draw any flag at any time. At 16 years old he memorized 200 pi numbers in a couple of hours. In high school he was the best math student despite lack of effort (in fact he doesnt like studying).He started musi. College at 18 and now at 20 is able to play around 30 instruments with greatness. He does extremely fast mental calculus. Since I’m really intersted in IQ testing, I tried something with him. At 16 years old I sat him the Raven standard progressive matrices, which he achieved 60/60. Later, at 18, he passed mensa test,but I dont know what test was used neither the score, and later marked 36/36 on Raven advanced matrices. He even said it was too easy. Last week I showed him your PATMA test, and in less than 5 minutes he got 10/10. I tried the digit span with him and he was capable of doing 9 forward and 8 backwards, but had one fail: when he had to repeat 8 digits backwards, he got one right and one wrong, saying he could not hear properly the one he got wrong (I didnt try any more than this).ohh I also tried with him the arithmetic part of WAIS IV, in which he was able to get everything right, answering every question in under than 10 seconds)…. The only other information I have is about a high range IQ test called Sigma Test. He did from the 1 to 20 easily, with no difficulty, but was quite lazy to do anything more.

I’d really enjoy your study in this case.

Greeting from London!

My first question is how did Carlos sit his cousin for the Raven Standard Progressive Matrices & the WAIS-IV arithmetic test? Does he have access to these tests?

On Sept 11, 2020, he wrote:

Yeah, I’m not making up. He’s really my cousin! I have always been curious about him and his real IQ. His father is also gifted, but waaaay less than him. Another thing I remembered is that he is able to speak any words backwards very fast. People are always asking him to do it, because it’s really fun to see. He was born here in London but lived some time in Paris, as his father is an engineer and was moved

On Jan 4, 2021, Carlos wrote:

Some time ago I posted a comment talking about my cousin Brian, who has exceptional intelligence. Yesterday I found out he was evaluated with WAIS IV this year, january, at 20 years old. The raw scores:

Vocabulary: 45/57
Similarities: 34/36
Information: 23/26
Matrices: 26/26
Visual Puzzles: 23/26
(Carlos later said he made an error & actual score was 25/26)
Block Design: 66/66
Digit Span: 45/48
Arithmetic: 22/22
Coding: 98/135
Symbol Search: 49/60

He is a musician and is studying to become an orchestra conductor. He plays very well around 25 musical instruments and has great memory skills.

As you can see he excelled Arithmetic (all the questions answered in less than 10 seconds, according to his psychologist), matrices subtests and Block Design, so I’m going to give you some other informations so you can try a better estimate.

Her psychologist administered some WISC V subtests, as they are pretty hard (even more than the WAIS IV) he excelled the Matrix Reasoning part and had a 51 on Digit Span. Also had a 33/34 on arithmetic. Arithmetic on WISC V is way harder than arithmetic on WAIS IV, but the norms are a bit awkward. Maybe you can try to extrapolate. There is a extended WISC V norms on internet, just search for it and its easy to find.

Some months ago I showed him your PATMA. He had 10/10 with no efforts. He took the Raven Advanced matrices with 18 years old and scored 36/36 on the 40 minutes version.
Also he took the Cattell Culture Fair Form B with 18 years old and scored a very high 42 out of 50 questions (her mother couldn’t recall exactly). Also scored 43/44 on D70 and 44/44 on D48 tests.

I think it would be great if you show us your estimative about him, as he had some ceiling problems with WAIS IV.

Carlos’s cousin sounds ridiculously intelligent and the fact that he’s an aspiring conductor reminds me that Arthur Jensen viewed conductors as men of high intelligence. “The musicians in the symphony orchestras are kind of average” he told Forbes magazine’s Daniel Seligman. “They’re at about the level of an average BA graduate. But the conductors–now they’re something else again.”

But I’m surprised he took the WAIS-IV in January 2021. Aren’t we in a pandemic? Did he and the psychologist wear a mask or was the test administered by zoom? The latter seems unlikely since Block Design was administered.

Nonetheless, using the raw scores Carlos provided, I converted his cousin’s WAIS-IV scores to scaled score & IQ equivalents (isn’t this the job of the psychologist who tested him?). I’m assuming he took the American version. Note that the subtests are expressed as scaled scores where the U.S. mean and standard deviation at all age groups are set at 10 and 3 respectively. By contrast, the index scores and full-scale IQ use a scale where the U.S. mean and SD are set at 100 and 15 respectively.

scores before Flynn effect adjustmentsadjusted for the Flynn effect
Vocabulary (word knowledge)1412.73
Similarities (verbal abstraction & thought organization)1716.11
Information (long-term memory & environmental awareness)1716.36
Matrices (visual pattern recognition)18 (24 using WISC-V scores)17.24 (23.84 using WISC-V scores)
Visual Puzzles (spatial reasoning)1716.62
Block Design (visual organization & spatial analysis)1918.62
Digit Span (rote memory & attention)19 (22 using WISC-V scores)18.62 (21.9 using WISC-V scores)
Arithmetic (mental math)19 (17 using WISC-V scores)19 (17 using WISC-V scores)
Coding (rapid eye-hand coordination)1514.75
Symbol Search (visual scanning)1615.75
Verbal comprehension index136130
Perceptual Reasoning index146 (150+ if we substitute WISC-V scores for Matrices)142 (150+ if we substitute WISC-V scores for Matrices)
Working Memory index150+ (150+ if we substitute WISC-V scores for Digit Span & Arithmetic)150+ (150+ if we substitute WISC-V scores for Digit Span & Arithmetic)
Processing speed index129129
Full-scale IQ151 (157 if we substitute WISC-V scores for Matrices, Digit Span & Arithmetic)148 (154 if we substitute WISC-V scores for Digit Span & Arithmetic)
Adjustments for Flynn effect were made using page 240 of Are We Getting SMARTER? by James Flynn. I assumed that the rate of change that occurred between the norming of the WAIS-III (1995) and the WAIS-IV (2006) has continued to 2020. Flynn had no data for Visual Puzzles or Symbol Search so rates for Block Design & Coding were assumed for both of those subtests respectively.

As the above data shows, Carlo’s cousin has an overall WAIS-IV IQ of roughly 150 (before and after corrections for the Flynn effect). This puts him at the extremely brilliant range and sounds consistent with his spectacular intellectual achievements.

Although he hit the WAIS-IV raw score ceiling on three subtests (Arithmetic, Matrices & Block Design) and the WAIS-IV scaled score ceiling (19) on three subtests ( Arithmetic, Block Design & Digit Span) it was not immediately obvious that his WAIS-IV full-scale IQ was supressed by ceiling bumping. My general rule for ceiling bumping is when at least half the subtests hit the scaled score ceiling or there’s a non-trivial median scaled score > mean scaled score gap. Carlos’s cousin meets neither of these criteria for full-scale IQ but he does meet the first one for Working Memory index.

Thus it’s interesting that the psychologist administered the Matrices, Digit Span and Arithmetic subtests of the children’s scale (WISC-V) because these now have super high ceiling norms (above scaled score 19) for identifying profoundly gifted kids. Unfortunately at age 20, Carlos’s cousin is too old for these norms but if we use the norms for U.S. 16.95-year-olds, his WISC-V Digit Span gets a scaled score of 23 (roughly one in 136,000 level)! However given that he was presumably 20-years-old, I would reduce this to 22 (roughly one in 31,000 level). Given that these extended norms were published in 2019 (and likely gathered circa 2017?) one might reduce this further to 21.9 for the Digit Span Flynn effect.

Meanwhile on the WISC-IV Matrices subtest, he obtained a scaled scored of 24 (about one in 652,000 level!) and because performance on this task (at least at the high end) does not increase from age 16.95 to age 20, there was no need to adjust for age, though after Flynn effect correction it became 23.84.

After acing the WAIS-IV Arithmetic subtest and the PATMA, Carlos’s cousin regressed to the mean on the WISC-V Arithmetic subtest. The extended norms don’t show equivalents below a scaled score of 18 but if they did, Carlos’s cousin would have likely scored 17 for 16.95-year-olds (one in 100 level) and this should be reduced to 16 assuming he was 20-years-old. Arithmetic shows no Flynn effect so no need to adjust for slightly old norms.

Too bad the psychologists apparently did not give the WISC-V Block Design to see if he could have exceeded a subscale score of 19 on that subtest too, although given the high practice effect of this subtest, it would have been unwise to administer it so soon after the WAIS-IV version.

Although Carlos’s cousin was above average on all subtests, he scored relatively low on Vocabulary. Given that Carlos appears to be Hispanic, I wonder if his cousin is bilingual and if that may have supressed his English vocabulary.

Even during civil war, Trump’s Oprah obsession continues

Earlier today President Trump said:

Oprah used to be a friend of mine…I was on her last show, her last week…I don’t think she thinks that way anymore…Once I ran for president, I didn’t noticed there weren’t too many calls coming from Oprah…Believe it or not, she used to like me.

President Trump has been repeatedly called out by CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale for falsely claiming to have been on the last episode of the highest rated talk show of all time, but Oprah did have him and his whole family on during her final season. The fact that Trump feels the need to embellish this honor shows the unparalleled status Oprah has in the culture. Despite being a billionaire, a U.S. President, and a TV star in his own right, Trump still feels the need to constantly brag about being on Oprah. It’s the ultimate validation.

Of course Trump couldn’t have been Oprah’s final guest, because in the end it was decided that only guest worthy of Oprah’s final show was Oprah herself, and so she spent that final hour in May 2011 standing alone on stage. When Oprah walked off the stage to thunderous applause from the studio audience, she was greeted backstage by all of her hundreds of employees (from lawyers to janitors) applauding her final walk down the hall of Harpo studios to the backdrop of a song Paul Simon composed exclusively for her:

Nice interview with Whitney Webb


I enjoyed the below interview with journalist Whitney Webb: An extremely intelligent and brave young lady. If America were a functional democracy she’d be a Pulitzer prize winning New York Times reporter or have her own show on CNN, but sadly it’s an oligarchy where much of the news get suppressed by powerful interests. This is a very dangerous situation because if the public can’t trust the traditional elite media, they fill the void with ridiculous social media conspiracy theories. Webb seems to be one of the few people who offers a credible alternative to both.

Defending Jacob (2020)

Pumpkin Person rating 8 out of 10

I recently used an adapter to hook up my Apple ipad to my huge screen TV and watched Apple TV’s Defending Jacob. Fantastic show! About a district-attorney investigating the brutal murder of a 14-year-old kid, only to discover that his own 14-year-old son Jacob is the lead suspect. It’s about the conflicting emotions a family feels when a loved one is accused of something horrific, and that trauma being all the more acute in today’s age of cancel culture and twitter mobs. Great plot and great performances by the three leads! Riveting!

I especially enjoyed the part where they take Jacob to see a forensic psychologist who assesses his propensity for violence with DNA testing and psychometrics. She administers a psychopathy test to see how he reacts to images of violence . I’ve never taken a psychopathy test but my mother seems like the least psychopathic person I’ve ever known if this is what they’re like. She is disturbed by even the mildest images of suffering.

Jacob is also given an IQ test and found to be unusually bright. Like the woman who intelligence tested me as a kid, Jacob’s examiner is of South Asian ancestry but unlike the woman who tested me, she is cold and detached and is fully Westernized in her clothing and speaking style.

Jacob’s the kind of kid who you would never know was brilliant unless he took an IQ test. A lot of white kids are like that. I went to school with a red-headed freckled faced guy named Troy who got bad marks in school and never had anything interesting to say. Then one day the Indian woman who had tested me knocked on the classroom door and asked to see him. Knowing she had come to the school to give him the WISC-R I later asked him about it. “It was easy as all hell” was all he could say. The examiner would later meet with his parents to discuss why someone so bright was doing so poorly in school.

Crazy, not insane (2020)

Pumpkin Person rating: 7.5 out of 10

Over the weekend I watched this HBO documentary written and directed by Alex Gibney. The film documents the career of Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis who studied murderers. Lewis is one of those older female professionals who comes across as a bit ditzy despite being objectively very intelligent (Yale psychiatrist). One thing I love about older versions of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale IQ tests is that no matter how ditzy an older woman seems, if they say intelligent things (as she does), they’ll do well on the WAIS, because unlike the verbal SAT, the Wechsler verbal subtests give you all the time in the World to express your thoughts. They’ll even do okay on the subtests measuring brute speed like Digit Symbol, because as slow as they move, they are compared to their own age group who is even slower.

Like David Wechsler himself, Lewis was part of the great wave of 20th century New York Jews who revolutionized the fields of psychology and psychiatry. Her mother was obsessed with anti-Semites and understanding how anyone could be as evil as Hitler helped inspire Lewis’s work with serial killers. Like Wechsler, she worked at the legendary Bellevue Hospital.

Lewis became controversial for two reasons: 1) she didn’t believe in the concept of “evil” (which made her hated by the less educated part of society like commenter “Mug of Pee” who believes in the concept). Instead she found that the most bizarre grotesque murderers had brain lesions and endured unspeakable sexual abuse as kids, and 2) she believed in multiple personality disorders (which made her hated by many academic elites). During the documentary, Lewis at times would show inappropriate affect, like giggling when describing a serial killer who would fall asleep after killing women, only to wake up and think “oops I did it again”.

One problem with Lewis’s work is that like so many, she seems to assume being abused in childhood is the cause of later violence, when in reality both the early abuse and later violence could both be the products of violent genes inherited from parents. Perhaps she’s considered this possibility and rebutted it, but it would have been nice to see more clips of Lewis responding to critiques of her ideas.

Lewis notes a contradiction in the legal system which asks jurors to punish criminals more harshly if their crimes are depraved, yet show mercy if the criminal himself has been a victim. It is precisely the most depraved criminals, who according to Lewis, who were the most abused and the most neurologically impaired!

Black Bear (2020)

Pumpkin Person rating: 8/10

Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, Black Bear is an abstract funny art-house movie that my co-workers and I watched over the weekend. It is extremely challenging, requiring above average verbal IQ, an above average social IQ, and an above average IQ. In addition to these three cognitive requirements, you also need to be upper class. Sadly, there are many people in the comment section who are culturally and neurologically incapable of enjoying such high-art. The idea of commenters Mug of Pee or Philospher watching this movie is just ridiculous.

The film is about Gabe (played by Christopher Abbott from HBO’s Girls) and Blair (Sarah Gadon), a couple in their thirties who despite having low income, are snobs because they are aspiring artists. But they live in a beautiful lake house in the Adirondack Mountains where they rent out a guest cabin to supplement their low incomes, and to allow them to meet artists (who are the only people they will rent to). They end up renting the cabin to Allison (Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation ) , a thirty-something film maker. Allison senses that Blair is threatened by her sexiness and high IQ so she complements Blair on her looks and pretends to not know what solipsistic means, despite having attended Wellesley College on a scholarship.

As the tension between the three main characters builds over a long dinner, the film suddenly reinvents itself completely and everything is the opposite of what is was before. Can’t say much more than that without ruining the twist, though sadly, the twist will fly over the head of 90% of Americans.

What makes this film work is the gorgeous secluded setting, the strong performances by the three leads, and above all, the witty dialogue. Levine has a great sense of humor and a good understanding of marital conflict and hipster culture. Watch preview below:

Come Play (2020)

Pumpkin Person rating: 8/10

When I was a toddler one of my favorite books that my mother would read to me was Lamont the Lonely Monster, about a monster that was very sad because no one would be his friend. As an innocent four-year-old I would say “I’ll be your friend Lamont”.

Perhaps writer and director Jacob Chase was also inspired by that book because his new movie Come Play is about a children’s book about “Larry” the lonely, monster. In the story Larry is made fun of because he is different, being super tall, thin and pale, and Larry is just looking for a friend. In the film an autistic child named Oliver (who also has no friends) discovers the story on his ipad.

But things take a terrifying turn when Larry actually comes to visit Oliver.

I watched this over the weekend and it’s one of the best horror movies I have ever seen. The idea of turning the lonely monster storybook so many of us grew up with into something sinister was brilliant, and the film’s ending is poignant. Watch preview below:

Is the Flynn effect only 1 point a decade?

The Flynn effect is generally assumed to be 3 points a decade, at least on the Wechsler administered in the U.S.. However my own research in getting a modern sample of young adults in 2008 to 2019 to take the 1937 Wechsler, found they only scored 7 points higher than 1937 norms, suggesting a gain of only 1 point per decade. Of course my sample size was only 17 people so maybe the results will change if I get more data, but then I discovered something interesting.

In the UK, the Raven Standard Progressive Matrices shows a Flynn effect of several points a decade in adults, but only about 1 point a decade in kids (the same as I found for adults on the Wechsler).

Source: The Raven’s progressive matrices: change and stability over culture and time by
J Raven
Source: The Raven’s progressive matrices: change and stability over culture and time by
J Raven 

Richard Lynn once noted that the Raven Flynn effect is much larger in adults than in kids, a difference he attributed to schooling. Because the generation gaps in schooling are much larger in adults than in kids, schooling contributes to the adult Raven Flynn effect but not the children one, with the latter being a genuine rise in intelligence caused by prenatal nutrition, while the former is mostly spurious.

How does schooling affect a test as culture reduced as the Raven? Lynn argued that it was a disguised a math test that required addition, subtraction and distribution. I don’t buy it. The Flynn effect is supposed to be a fluid test so by definition it shouldn’t require much knowledge. Also, if the adult Raven Flynn effect were driven by learning arithmetic, why didn’t my research find an adult Flynn effect on the Wechsler Arithmetic subtest (in fact I found a negative Flynn effect on that subtest).

Instead I suspect schooling’s impact on the Raven is motivational, not cognitive. Because the Raven is not a fun like the subtests on the original Wechsler, only those who stay in school tend to have the confidence, interest and intellectual discipline to try their best. Those who drop out of school early (specifically the Roma in Serbia) complained that the test was giving them a headache.

Years ago I administered a version of the Raven to a woman in a bar who credited the test with her then passing her exam to attend college (because the Raven made her focus). I also once administered the WAIS-III Matrix Reasoning test (a Raven rip-off added to newer versions of the Wechsler) to a male relative, but he hurried through each item and scored the equivalent of IQ 120. When a female relative scored 135 he demanded to take the test again. This time he agonized over each item, studying the patterns for many minutes, and clocked in at 130.

So Victorian adults would have probably scored around IQ 65 on the Raven, but as kids they probably would have scored around 90. The IQ 90 should be considered a valid measure of their intelligence and makes perfect sense because as Jensen noted, the real component of the Flynn effect is likely caused by the 20th century rise in brain size and predictable from the brain size-IQ correlation. Don’t know the average brain size of Victorians but they were 1.68 SD shorter (11 cm). Assuming their brains were 1.68 SD smaller, and assuming IQ and brain size correlate at least 0.32, we should expect them to have been about 0.32(1.68 SD) = 8 IQ points less intelligent.

Richard Lynn also noted that the Flynn effect being larger on Wechsler Performance IQ than Wechsler verbal IQ is consistent with the nutrition theory because a study of identical twins found that the one born with a smaller head (presumably because of prenatal malnutrition) scored lower on the Wechsler at age 15, but only on the Performance subtests. But this was before the Wechsler added the Raven rip-off on which the malnourished twins would have likely showed some IQ impairment, but not as much as found on hard-core Performance tests. The Raven functions more like a measure of Wechsler full-scale IQ because you can either see the solution (Performance IQ) or talk your way to it logically (Verbal IQ).

RIP James Flynn (1934 to 2020)

Sadly it’s now being confirmed by many media outlets that James Flynn did indeed die this month. Flynn was a New Zealand IQ researcher (a cognitive archeologist really) best known for discovering the Flynn effect (the phenomenon by which IQ scores become inflated at a rate of about 3 IQ points a decade). Some have quibbled over the effect being named for him since others had noted it in the past, but these previous discoveries were largely local or one-time events that were quickly forgotten. Flynn established it as a consistent, predictable worldwide phenomenon that was so important, IQ scores had to be adjusted for it and tests required frequent re-norming. Had he not pushed the issue, most measured IQs would probably still be many points too high, thus distorting not only individual diagnosis, but the results of massive studies, and many prison inmates would be wrongly sentenced to death because their IQs were above 70 (making them criminally responsible).

Most of Flynn’s research focused on successive standardizations of the Wechsler intelligence scales where a sample of people would be tested twice on both the newly normed version and the previous version to make sure there was a high correlation. It was consistently noted that IQs would always be a little higher on the newer version. For example scores on the 1954 WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) were about 3 points higher than on the 1937 Wechsler. It was later found that scores on the 1978 WAIS were about 7 points higher than on the 1954 WAIS. Scores on the 1995 WAIS were about 3 points higher than on the 1978 WAIS. Finally, scores on the 2006 WAIS were about 3 points higher than on the 1995 WAIS.

Before Flynn’s discovery in the 1980s, such gains were just dismissed as tests becoming outdated and requiring new items and were generally too small to be considered significant. But Flynn’s genius was to add the gains of successive test normings to argue that a massive increase had occurred. For example, if you add up all the Wechsler adult gains from 1937 to 2006, you get 16 points (the same as the infamous black-white IQ gap within the United States). Since no one believed the IQ gains are genetic, Flynn used them to argue we shouldn’t believe racial IQ gaps are either.

For years I suspected that Flynn’s method of adding up gains from successive test normings was overestimating the Flynn effect and in 2008 I decided to prove it. I asked for the original 1937 Wechsler for Christmas (known as the ancient WBI) and gathered random strangers to take it. Of course this was a very time consuming project and I soon got distracted. In 2019 I became obsessed with completing the project and truth be told, one of the reasons I got obsessive was that being in his mid 80s, I worried Flynn would die before I could tell him about the research (one of my biggest regrets was Arthur Jensen dying before I could ask him my biggest questions). I did not know Flynn, but he was always kind enough to reply the few times I had sent him an email. By December 2019 I had a sample size of 17 people and as usual, Flynn was kind enough to reply to my emails.

Of course 17 people was not enough and I had really hoped to share with him the results of a much larger data-set but sadly the coronavirus made it too dangerous to get data in 2020, and now Flynn is gone.

May he rest in peace.