Hugh Reilly: High IQ often fails the common sense test

Albert Einstein. Picture: AP
Albert Einstein. Picture: AP
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HOW do you know when a Mensa member enters the room? He tells you.

Last week, Agnijo Banerjee, a 12-year-old schoolboy who attends Grove Academy in Broughty Ferry, scored 162 in an IQ test – higher than the 160 recorded for Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. In a hastily cobbled-together press release, Broughty Ferry’s most eminent citizen, Bob Servant, claimed to have an IQ of 163 but vehemently declined to undergo a polygraph test.

Somewhat stereotypically, Agnijo has a flair for mathematics, a turgid subject that still affords cult status to an old Greek codger, Archimedes, who inadvertently overfilled his bath and caused his downstairs neighbours to be displaced. Agnijo already has a Standard Grade Credit award and this May he will sit Higher maths. Were it not for his tender years, he could have applied to study at Glasgow University, where the pre-teen’s maturity may have cascaded down to those boorish male students who continue to embarrass the institution with their sexist behaviour.

Although not old enough to put a razor to good use, Agnijo is not the youngest member of Mensa. That title is held by three-year-old Sherwyn Sarabi, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire who, at the age of two, could read, count to 200, and recognise planets. Sadly, while his toddler group peers gawp at picture book tales of a barely credible top-hat-wearing cat, Sherwyn sits alone in a corner of the sandpit engrossed in a paperback edition of Ulysses, his birthday present.

Parents intent on producing hyper-intelligent seed should be aware that musical training in childhood has been linked to a higher-than-average IQ. I don’t know if Agnijo or Sherwyn can tickle the ivories, but apparently listening to classical music increases one’s IQ score, the so-called Mozart Effect.

With hindsight, perhaps my IQ potential was not fully realised due to my pater’s love of playing Hank Williams when he came in from the pub. My mother’s penchant for singing along to Sidney Devine records probably further dampened any innate intelligence.

According to boffins, an IQ score is the best predictor of educational and career success. Unsurprisingly, many celebrities are intelligent. For example, Madonna has an IQ of 140 which, next year, will be re-invented into 145. Arnold Shwarzenegger, an actor few shake hands with for fear of getting a skelf, achieved a praiseworthy score of 135. Fellow American thespian, James Woods, claims to have an IQ of 180, his modest assertion a tad undermined by the fact that the highest possible score for an adult, according to Mensa, is 161.

Being a genius isn’t easy – nobody has to tell me that. Whenever I do something silly, mater instantly rebukes me with that Scottish maxim, “ye might be intelligent but yuv nae common sense”. To be fair, evidence that clever people do stupid things is all around us. Oxford-educated Chris Huhne and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, were yesterday reunited in the dock before being whisked away to spend some quantity-time at one of the less desirable properties in Her Majesty’s estate portfolio. His scorned spouse, a leading economist, had intended to land a knockout blow, but lost on points.

As a youngster, Foreign Secretary William Hague hit the headlines when the blond political prodigy sprang on to the stage to address a Conservative Party conference looking like a Shirley Temple drag-act. Now shorn by dint of male-pattern baldness, our Samson managed to pull down the pillars of wisdom when he recently announced that UK armoured cars are to be given to the Syrian opposition. One can only assume that the minister lauded for his great intellect thought it wise that kidnapped UN peacekeeping troops at least be driven to hostage hideouts in relative safety and comfort.

In my experience, some child geniuses have great difficulty in relating to others cursed with smaller frontal lobes. They often lack “emotional intelligence”, failing to pick up the synchronised classroom fidgeting they elicit when they are expounding their views on a topic. Soft skills, such as an ability to work as part of a team, are often absent. In an admittedly tiny minority of cases, I came across gifted children who displayed utter disdain for teaching staff. It never occurred to these arrogant students that, although their IQ score may have been higher than their teacher’s, Sir possessed more knowledge of the subject matter.

One wouldn’t need to be Einstein to know that.