Musings on IQ and normality

Having recently read my chum Ian's opinions on a high IQ (look under "Interests" on his web site), and its obvious bearing on his formative1 years, I was later sifting through old emails and I turned up one I'd sent to my chum Val in 2009. Val's an intelligent woman, a bit younger than me. I've known her for over 30 years, and we'd been musing on some of the difficulties life throws up. Christa's death still loomed large in my life. Val was pondering how to strike up meaningful romantic relationships2 in her life.

She must have been desperate: she wanted my "insights" into the reasons for crass masculine behaviour... I accepted the challenge:

If I've learned anything over the years, it's that I am (a) no judge of character, (b) no predictor of behaviour and (c) not actually typical in my own attitudes, opinions, or behaviour. I don't say this to be big-headed; there have been times when I have almost longed to be "normal" though I have no clear idea what "normal" is. All I know is that I'm somewhat of a misfit, have to be aware of others' possible prejudices, and am unable to relax in groups of more than two or three other people.

Although it's famously well known that men do not understand women and do not know what they want, it's clear to me that very few people of whatever sex understand either themselves or other people. Growing up, I lived in mild anxiety of giving offence to my mother for infractions of what seemed to be unwritten rules that other people understood. I was, I can now understand, somewhat of a geek (though I didn't know the word back then). I realised I was intelligent (I generally scored in the top percentile on a variety of tests regardless of their applicability in the real world) and also realised that intelligence is not exactly welcomed in (for random example) the UK's state education system or middle-class suburbia. My interests and enthusiasms simply weren't shared, and were often denigrated (presumably as a way of establishing superiority) by my peers (who were, incidentally, typically 18 months older as I'd skipped a year early on as well as starting school while still four).

It's taken me a very long time to realise how many men are driven by their willies (and don't forget that there's insufficient blood in the average male to drive both the brain and the erect penis at the same time) to put it kindly. Whether they really are, or whether they think they should be because other chaps seem to be, has always been a mystery to me. Since Christa was my only sexual partner I have no other experience to draw on. I don't know if chaps — straight chaps, at least — talk to other chaps about the mysteries of sex / women though I've observed that gay chaps are quite willing to talk to me about the eye-opening (eye-watering) things they get up to...

Personally, there are many things I simply do not understand. For example, rape. Lies. Deliberate cruelty. Bullying. I simply couldn't understand how you could sleep with a woman if you didn't love her. While I could understand the physical pleasure it just seemed far too intimate an act to engage in mechanically in the absence of the emotional entanglement of love. Giving Christa pleasure (by whatever means) always gave me pleasure, and (forgive the pun) vice versa. Truthfulness and communication are (IMHO) utterly vital, yet chaps seem only too willing to lie and cheat in the pursuit of their transient pleasures.


Further thoughts (20 October 2015)

I've never forgotten the opening line of Gordon R Dickson's "Dorsai":

The boy was odd.

I, too, was a curious child — not least, because one of my earliest childhood nicknames was "Why?" — for many values of the term "curious". (Including, no doubt, the value "odd".) Inevitably, I didn't grok this while I was busy growing up — very few people have that degree of self-insight. I certainly lack that particular "gene"...

I first began...

... seriously reading about intelligence3 because I had noted huge (and [to me] completely mysterious) differences between people — their knowledge, their opinions, their politics, their degree of interest (or, in all too many cases, their apparent or strongly-expressed lack of interest) in the whole gallimaufry of things that interested me. I didn't understand the groups they clung to, (even the "pop" music groups, and sports teams, they clung to, for that matter). The only thing underpinning these differences seemed (to me) to depend on what went on between their ears. And I only knew what went on between my ears!

50 years ago, the fatal flaws — and that's putting it very kindly — in Cyril Burt's oft-cited study of twins and the heritability of IQ were either not yet known or had simply been brushed expediently aside. UK education policies were (as ever) being chopped and changed for political4 reasons, not more rational ones. Predictably, my ever-shifting set of focused enthusiasms long ago diverted me to other, more interesting,5 areas — girls were pretty interesting, for example — so I'd never heard of Professor Robert Plomin. Today's "The Life Scientific" trotted him out to re-open the venerable nature/nurture debate, on the grounds of his more solidly-performed large-scale twin studies, here in the UK. Plot spoiler: Nature wins. Again. Oops.


1  Surprisingly similar to mine, it seems.
2  Definitely not my personal area of specialist expertise :-)
3  Which, in 1964, inevitably kicked off with a couple of Hans Eysenck's popular science books (published by this auto-didact's favourite publisher, Pelican, naturally!) starting with "Know your own IQ".
4  It's a politically-explosive topic at the best of times. Perhaps psychologists aren't so silly, after all? Gotta keep those research grants coming in.
5  After all, if "intelligence" (whatever the heck that is) is largely a function of your individual genetic inheritance, there's not really a whole lot you can do about that, is there? Move along. Nothing more to see here...