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Apr 28 2013

MENSA (UPDATED)

What kind of fucken sadde freake joins MENSA?

UPDATE: Just took a look at the standards for membership, and these fuckes aren’t even thatte motherfucken smart. For example, by the SAT cutoff, pretty much every undergrad at my university would get in.

38 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    Someone slightly above average and proud of that minor difference?

  2. 2
    lost academic

    We did as kids. When you’re little, it seems cool. And there were puzzle books.

  3. 3
    smrnda

    MENSA. I can’t figure out what would compel someone to join an organization based on their score on some standardized test. Smart people tend to be driven by their interests and end up hanging around people who share those interests. You go into academia to study what you like, get a job as an engineer, or join clubs built around what you love to learn about.

    I find that crackpots will often list MENSA membership as some kind of badge of status, as if it *proves* that they are smart and should be taken seriously, but a real problem with IQ tests is that they tend to measure pattern recognition ability and they really don’t prove anything about what a person knows, and in the end, specific knowledge of subject areas is a prerequisite to an informed opinion.

    On related news, I actually run into people in their 50s who still talk about how they did on the old SAT or ACT. Mos of these people haven’t really done much since high school, so I’d imagine a test score is something you brag about in lieu of an interesting an exciting life.

  4. 4
    Pteryxx

    Apparently, MENSA attracts the sort of people who join MENSA… and not much else. Some unintentionally hilarious reading:

    http://www.mensafoundation.org/about-the-mensa-foundation/foundation-voices/why-do-people-make-charitable-donations/

    (spoiler)

    Author Sandra Sims lists the top five reasons why people give to charitable causes:

    Personal experiences;
    They want to make a difference;
    They want to do something active about a problem or take a stand on a particular issue;
    They are motivated by personal recognition and benefits;
    Giving is good thing to do.

    [...]

    All of which is gratifying to those of us on the Foundation Board and our hundreds of Local Group scholarship volunteers, but we’re left with a puzzling question: Why do less than 2 percent of American Mensa members donate to the Foundation?

  5. 5
    Tyrant

    What I find astonishing is that people of such intelligence should be smart enough to realize that reducing a person’s skills and abilities to one number (which is not even a constant over time for each person) is hopelessly inadequate. You can’t project brain function to a one-dimensional space and expect that it means much.

    No, it’s really just one more way to feel superior to the mob without having to accomplish anything.
    It’s really closely related in spirit to the most annoying segment of the skeptical community in that respect, with an additional Brave new Worldish touch.

  6. 6
    BecomingJulie

    In six words? People with more money than sense.

  7. 7
    Tyrant

    and by mob I meant plebs

  8. 8
    David Warman

    first, at 17, introduced to the idea and encouraged by a science teacher, it seemed cool. Later, at 19, to meet girls who were both hot and could argue one into the corner. Married one for a while. Accidentally attended a meeting where the subject turned out to be “it’s our responsibility to save the world” and ran. But kept the fun group connection as normal friends for many years. 40+ and counting, in some cases. Others passed along the way.

    Lesson: MENSA collects people with a certain type of clarity of thought that have trouble finding fellows in random social interactions. Like the various other such clubs. However, it quickly came clear to me that there is zero correlation between IQ and character and interests, or even with being stupid or ignorant, except the higher IQ’s seem to make for better and more effective crazies than normally found elsewhere. Not all, normal distribution for such, but somewhat relatively speaking exaggerated. Everybody who joins seems to have some of that exaggerated-ness, which can be a problem when interfacing with members of the main part of the bell-curve, and leads to being a bit of an outcast. Indeed, about the only correlation with IQ I have observed is disabilities such as Asperger and ADHD at higher proportion than the general populace. In some ways, a high IQ itself is a bit of a disability, socially. Check out “twice exceptional” – not a fun ride at all.

    As to the discussion on just what an IQ number means, I refer you to

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.171641-What-is-your-I-Q?page=5

  9. 9
    Tyrant

    Some quotes from that text sound strange to me

    “The most common form of testing includes progressive matrices, that mostly uses logical abstraction and pattern recognition – qualities that are not dependent on culture or previous knowledge. It is impossible to train for an IQ test, your IQ will always be the same no matter how hard you study… Actually, you can train your IQ one or two points through rigorous repetition, but it won’t really affect your placement among the percentiles”

    I don’t find either those statements credible.

  10. 10
    Gregory in Seattle

    This “sadde freake” for one. So fuck you, ass-wipe.

  11. 11
    Gregory in Seattle

    Ok, my response above was overly harsh. You asked a question, I will give you an answer.

    I went to public schools. The public school system is geared towards the average: anyone outside of that average is going to have a very difficult time of things. Factor in the social stigma of doing well in school: the bullying, the accusations of being a “teacher’s pet,” all of that. What is already a very harsh, difficult environment become much worse. For school age kids, Mensa (it is not an acronym, so it is not all upper case) offers a refuge. It gives people a chance to socialize with other kids of similar experiences. It gives them an environment where they can brag about acing a test or getting on the honor roll or scoring in the 99th percentile of the ACT. Those kinds of friendships, hard enough to build for most kids anyway, remain into adulthood, and kids who join Mensa tend to stay in Mensa.

    I joined as an adult. I found a group of people who had a similar body of experiences growing up, who knew what it was like to be bullied for being smart. More, I found people I could talk to. A very common characteristic of intelligent people is both breadth and depth of interests: it is not unusual for a Mensan conversation to start with organic gardening and end up with colonizing other planets, after following a path that touched on government regulations, world politics, global warming, physics, warp drive, Star Trek, and optimism for the future.

    Another neat thing about Mensa is that most activities are member-driven, using a system of “special interest groups”, or SIGs. If you have any interest at all, from reading romance novels to foreign films to motorcycles to atheism, there is a SIG you can join to meet others with the same interest. If not, it is easy enough to start one up and find others who want to get involved. Mensa is, start to finish, a social group; it just has an unusual entry requirement. Yes, some people join just for “bragging rights,” but they rarely get involved and never stay for very long. Trust me: for a lot of us, the social aspects of the group are pretty important.

    As for the SAT cutoffs and other scores that can be used for membership, please note that the SAT stopped being a metric as of January 31, 1994. That was because the test had been changed to the point where it no longer reflected a measure of intelligence; scores from earlier versions of the test can still be used.

  12. 12
    Tyrant

    What happens if your IQ drops some because of some accident, disability, or just so (e.g. depression can affect IQ, can’t it)? Do you get kicked out or are you still allowed to play with the others as the inferior kid?

    I can see that Mensa serves as a refuge for students which are shunned for their interest in stuff and academic excellence. I myself solved that problem by being to myself mostly. But a club with such criteria smells so unethical to me. I don’t see the difference to whites only country clubs, or rich people only clubs. They may be legal, but I find the idea disgusting.

  13. 13
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Tyrant #12 – Once you qualify for membership in Mensa, you remain qualified for membership in Mensa.

    Out of curiosity, how do you feel about social organizations for single parents, or African-American fraternities and sororities, or groups for twins? Trust me when I say that intelligence brings little in the way of privilege in the US; I dare say it is quite the opposite.

  14. 14
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    I’m a lapsed member.

    There were some of the “oh look how smart I am” doofuses in the group, but for the most part it was just people with wide-ranging interests where you don’t get harassed for being bookish, “too smart”, “acting white”, and all the other downsides of getting good grades and liking to go intohistory and bio and the good things.

    Some of their SIGs are interesting … and it was kinda nice that they were as disinterested in sports as I am.

  15. 15
    Tyrant

    Gregory,

    Ok let me rationalize my discomforte some more :)

    Concerning the membership, I thought so as the alternative would be unfeasible.
    Here’s one problem I have with the whole thing: classifying people by this particular numerical measure, intelligence, already has a subtext of inferiority vs. superiority, since clearly some members of society are deemed mentally inadequate to join. Something like this is extremely conducive foster an in-group/out-group mentality.
    I don’t know how AA fraternities decide who may join, and I probably feel ambivalent about it – how many % AA do you have to be? As a European I know little about the african american community in the US, but I’ve heard that people are deemed trustworthy or not by their degree of blackness, and that this poses a problem. Clubs for single mothers are different imo since membership is based on a well defined a shared experience and is pragmatic, since the goal is to share experiences related to being a single mother, not classification of humans according to an arbitrary measure of superiority.

  16. 16
    hexidecima

    ladies and gentlemen, may I present sour grapes and/or the desire to feel superior to others by denigrating them.

  17. 17
    jon

    I guess it’s not the same kind of person who like to (inconsistently) use their own version of english.

  18. 18
    DaveUK

    CPP the fact that you are looking up MENSA crap immediately renders you a complete douche.

  19. 19
    Daniel Schealler

    Proffe, it’s just a club of like-minded individuals is all.

    Don’t yuk their yum, it’s a shitty thing to do.

    I wouldn’t join myself: I fill in my non-working, non-sleeping, non-household-chores time with books, videogames, movies, gym, socializing, and a teensy bit of television. Although I’m even thinking of trading off TV night (Monday night is Game of Thrones, but I can record it) to take up dancing lessons instead, because boy do I need the latter more than the former.

    I just don’t have time for anything else.

    But if someone else wants to join a smart kinds club? I wouldn’t knock it: It just that they’d rather hang out in a smart kid’s club than do one of the items I use to fill in my time. And that’s totally fine: There’s no use in trying to rank personal tastes.

    I’d probably join something like MENSA too if I moved to a new town and was looking to meet some like-minded people to fill in my spare time with. Although in my case it would probably be a skeptics group or an atheist group or something like that.

    What’s your beef with MENSA?

  20. 20
    Daniel Schealler

    Hmm, seem to have messed up that link. Sorry.

    Don’t yuk their yum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knro0i2JH44

  21. 21
    Tyrant

    Forming an elitist club with an IQ test as entrance criterion to keep “dumb” people out, I don’t think it is the equivalent of collecting stickers or unmanly whittling, really, not by a long shot.

  22. 22
    Daniel Schealler

    Of course. MENSA is a special interest club. Collecting stickers and unmanly whittling are not special interest clubs, they are hobbies.

    Hobbies are indeed very different to special interest clubs.

    Don’t see the relevance of that point to what I was saying still. But it’s accurate as far as it goes, so I guess we’re in agreement. Or something very close to it.

  23. 23
    lochaber

    I can understand the desire to associate with intelligent people one may share interests with.

    Although, I think I’d rather associate with people who are nice then people who are intelligent (in an either/or scenario).

    I also have found inclusive groups much more pleasant than exclusive groups.

    Mensa just reeks of arbitrary elitism. And it doesn’t really help that most the time I encounter a Mensa reference, it’s from somebody’s resume or list of credentials.

    As to the special interest groups or whatever, those groups exist outside of mensa. And there will be plenty of intelligent people in any of those groups, they just may not be as exclusive as the Mensa ones.

    If an individual values intelligence, there is a good chance they are capable of recognizing it’s presence in another individual without an official seal-of-approval.

    I’d rather hang out with nice, accepting folk who had some trouble with the SAT’s or something similar, as opposed to the group that feels that SAT scores are the most important evaluation of an individual’s worth.

    tl:dr; I think inclusivity is a much more desirable trait then exclusivity.

  24. 24
    grignon

    ” Trust me when I say that intelligence brings little in the way of privilege in the US; I dare say it is quite the opposite.”

    Privilege? As in deference or admiration? Absolutely true. And why should it?
    Intelligence makes normal things easier (like making a buck) and difficult things possible (like changing the world).
    If you’re not getting these results, you’re doing it wrong. Or…

  25. 25
    Gregory in Seattle

    First off, it is Mensa, not MENSA. It is not an acronym: the name comes from the Latin word for “table” and represents people from diverse backgrounds coming together as equals.

    Second, it may help to know a bit about the history of the group. It was founded in 1946 in England to be a group without political or religious affiliation open to all people regardless of race, religion, gender or social standing. This, already, was a very revolutionary idea for the time and place. The SOLE criteria for membership would be being in the 98th or 99th percentile of a standard intelligence test. The group would have three goals, in order of importance: to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members. Basically, it was intended to be a think-tank of intelligent, diverse people for the good of humankind.

    That highfalutin’ intention fell to the wayside pretty quickly, for two reasons: it was difficult to get a consensus of what “the good of humankind” meant (ask the same question of five Mensans and you will get at least a dozen opinions) and the nations who were to consult with the group were not interested in an organization they could not control and could not be relied on to give them the predetermined policies they wanted.

    The group continued, however, focusing on the research/education and social goals of its mission statement. Many gifted programs and advanced classes in schools in the Commonwealth, United States and other countries owe their existence to Mensan lobbying and occasionally funding, and Mensa has worked hard to expand the definition of “intelligence” to include things like creativity, fluidity, pattern solving and other areas that are culturally and educationally unbiased.

    Nowadays, though, it is mainly a social club, for people with a set of common perceptions and experiences, no different that most social clubs.

  26. 26
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Tyrant #21 – The original idea was not to keep “dumb” people out, but to bring together the brightest. And for what it is worth, most Mensa events are open to the public; you can go to a lot of stuff whether or not you are a member. If you are interested, the American Mensa annual gathering is in Fort Worth this year, July 3 to 7.

    @grignon #24 – My experience in school was that intelligence was something to be beaten out of people. Teachers disliked it, because the curriculum is targeted to the middle 50% and anyone outside that range meant extra work on top of an already overwhelming load. Other students disliked it: I (and many of the Mensans I know) faced a lot of bullying for being a “teacher’s pet” or “nerd” or “know-it-all.” And believe it or not, a lot of school administrators dislike it, too: if they want to keep the student, they must spend money (which they often do not have) to create some kind of gifted program or other classes to challenge them. This same attitude occurs in the workplace, too, with managers and co-workers resenting intelligent underlings. This is such a widespread phenomenon that it even has its own name: tall poppy syndrome. Being in Mensa gives people an opportunity to occasionally be a tall poppy in a field of tall poppies.

  27. 27
    DrugMonkey

    A 1250 on the old style SAT or GRE qualifies? AYFK? Yeah we have these “social interest clubs” in academic science….it’s called “everybody we work with and every friend we’ve made since college”.

  28. 28
    HFM

    I get MENSA as a social organization – it’s fun to hit the pub and have nerdy conversations, and not everyone gets that in their daily life. But bragging about it…

    This will sound awful, but if someone’s proud to have squeaked into the 98th percentile, they’re outing themselves as not-so-bright. A 1250 SAT is good – if you’re a 4th grader. When I was in high school (granted, magnet school), the debate was whether one should intentionally miss questions to score in the 1580-1590 range, so that colleges would think you were a “hard worker”, or whether one should just collect the 1600. (I did the latter, because I needed it for scholarships and couldn’t be bothered to take it twice.) And while I’m smart and never met a standardized test I didn’t like, I’m not on the level of the pretty-much-geniuses I’ve worked with, let alone the people they work with who make them feel stupid.

  29. 29
    David Warman

    I really do not understand the disdain you denigraters have. I never have. Mensa was a refuge from that for me.

    As to “elitism” – you have a probem with athletic cubs, especially those for specific sports?

    Sports Clubs:

    - select for people with common physical abilities.
    - these abilities are largely in-born then consciously trained
    - members share their interest in the clubs’ activities
    - members have or develop their own language for discussing their interests
    - members share their social lives with fellows too

    Mensa:

    - selects for people with common mental abilities.
    - these abilities are largely in-born then consciously trained
    - members share their interest in the clubs’ activities
    - members have or develop their own language for discussing their interests
    - members share their social lives with fellows too

    Where is the difference? Why should a strong muscle that happens to be inside your head be valued so differently than a strong muscle in your arms?

    And in my experience, the sports club members are far more ikely to belittle peope like me who will never have their physique than any Mensa member I know of belittle anybody who might not be so good at the WAIS, SAT, or whatever.. We are far more likely to offer help and mentoring than bullying. Which you are all guilty of already.

    Last note: ones’ resume is not the place to belittle your achievements, those that are relevant to your career. Especially if your career depends on a sharp mind. Listing Mensa is just as valid in that context as listing your graduation grade.

  30. 30
    MedMarine

    I was one of those really “smart” kids that tested at the top end of the IQ scale, and everyone (parents, teachers, peers, etc.) constantly reinforced how “smart” I was. All it did was make me think that being smart was enough to get whatever I wanted out of life, and it wasn’t until after I flunked out of college and spent a few years as a day laborer that I started figuring out that success in life usually takes a little more than a natural ability to spot and remember patterns.

    So now I’m training to be a doctor, I have no plans to ever join mensa or repeatedly congratulate my children for whatever ascribed factors they were born with as if they did something special.

  31. 31
    Daniel Schealler

    @Gregory in Seattle #25

    First off, it is Mensa, not MENSA. It is not an acronym: the name comes from the Latin word for “table” and represents people from diverse backgrounds coming together as equals.

    Damn. I don’t know where I picked up the idea that it was an acronym, but I’ve totally been doing that.

    Mea culpa. Thanks for the timely correction.

  32. 32
    Darth Marmalade

    I had no real desire to join Mensa until I heard someone described as an “ex-member of Mensa”. Something about that amuses me, so I’ve toyed with the idea of joining so I could let my membership lapse.

  33. 33
    Daniel Schealler

    Why should a strong muscle that happens to be inside your head be valued so differently than a strong muscle in your arms?

    I suspect (armchair philosophy alert) a few things are involved:

    1) In western culture, we intuitively distinguish a barrier between persons and bodies.

    2) In western culture, we intuitively ascribe mental properties to the person, not the body.

    3) In western culture, we are kind of inconsistent when it comes to what we value more – persons or bodies. Or rather: Each is valued differently in different contexts for different reasons.

    4) Human beings generally think along lines of a hierarchy, and tend not to like it when people we don’t like or respect try to place themselves above us.

    So if someone views Mensa’s claim to higher intellect as a statement that they are better people than those who are not members, and also disrespects (and does not identify with) that group, and the above 4 statements hold true for that person… Well, I can see how someone might be more threatened and resentful towards people who celebrate mental abilities whilst simultaneously quite laid back about those who celebrate physical abilities.

    Note that even if I’m right, I think pretty much ALL of this is problematic. But it makes sense, so I can understand why some people might treat them differently, despite disagreeing with the underlying basis of such a position.

  34. 34
    theetar

    What kind of fucken sadde freake joins Atheism plus? Is that acceptable here?

  35. 35
    lochaber

    I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but from my own perspective, Mensa just comes across as a bunch of snobbish wankers.

    As Gregory in Seattle stated above, the whole purpose of the group is to limit it to 2% (or less) of the population. They spout a lot of nonsense about equality and such, but I have trouble believing their sincerity about equality, when they are only willing to even consider including 2% of the population.

    On top of that, the people belonging to that group have to go and take their tests, and pay membership dues and such, all to get to be part of some exclusive group that tries to verify that they are part of the ~2% ‘smartest’ people in the world.

    So, yeah, these people are great at pattern recognition and puzzle solving, or something. Doesn’t at all mean they are good at applying those abilities, or of even being decent people.

    Personally, I tend to value intelligence in other people, but that’s not because I want all my friends/acquantiences to be really good at mental object rotation or whatever, I’ve just come to use (what I consider) intelligence as an indicator of intellectualism. I’ll admit it’s not terribly accurate. And I’d much rather hang with someone who takes significantly more time to find the path through a maze, yet is actually interested in learning about a given subject, and willing to own up to ignorance and mistakes; then that person who has an ace time on the maze test, but can’t be bothered to associate with mere plebes.

    I think it mostly comes down to a lot of us (non- Mensans) finding the group to just be elitist, self congratulatory, snobbish asshattery. I (on an intelluctual level, at least) understand that not all (possibly not even most…) of the members fit those descriptions, but the few times I’ve interacted with people who have brought up Mensa membership, fit this description to a tee.

    I had a hard time throughout school as well. And often, when talking with friends, we’ll lament the stupidity of our country (the U.S for me), and I’m all too fond of the George Carlin bit: “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”
    But, in my defense, I think I’ve come to classify stupidity more along the lines of someone who refuses to adjust their views to facts, or a refusal to learn from mistakes. Which I don’t think is at all related to weird little logic problems, mental object rotation, or whatever other pattern-recognition rubric you want to use to pretend you are better then some 5+billion people.

  36. 36
    Raging Bee

    As Gregory in Seattle stated above, the whole purpose of the group is to limit it to 2% (or less) of the population.

    Gregory stated a hell of a lot more than that — so why are you so eager to reduce all that down to something he didn’t actually say?

    They spout a lot of nonsense about equality and such, but I have trouble believing their sincerity about equality, when they are only willing to even consider including 2% of the population.

    So you’re saying it’s not possible to belong to any sort of exclusive club, or just hang out with people who share your interests, and sincerely advocate equality? How are these two things mutually exclusive? Do you even know what you’re talking about?

  37. 37
    skeptifem

    I thought about joining awhile back. I guess that I never really thought I was very smart (due to the soul destroying experience of growing up female in a patriarchy) so qualifying for mensa would have felt pretty good. I don’t want to shell out money to take an IQ test anymore though, nor do I value my intellect as highly as I used to. Being a good person is way more important.

  38. 38
    Oatmeal Jones

    What kind of fucken sadde freake joins MENSA?

    Let’s see: There’s Richard Lederer, distinguished author of over 20 books, radio and television personality; there’s Gene, self-made multimillionaire and expert antique car restorer, who owns one of the largest collections of vintage autos on the West Coast; there’s Bob, a multi-talented musician who (among many other things) conducts a 20 piece swing band in his spare time; and there’s Jim, a polymath entrepreneur who took a small hobby business out of a friend’s garage and, by himself, turned it into a million dollar corporation.

    Is this a cherry picked group of overachievers? No; these are a few of the people I have lunch with on Thursdays, at the Mensa San Diego lunch meeting. And I’ve never seen any sad freaks there, with or without the twee extra letters.

    What kind of sad freak spends so much time and effort commenting on the Internet about an organization about which he clearly knows nothing?

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