Beware of megalomaniacs

© Paul Cooijmans

The self-styled "high(est) I.Q." claimants

This is a generic answer to questions that regularly reach me and can be summed up as: "Why is not Mr X. or Mrs Y. a member of your Giga (or Grail) Society? It is well known he/she has an I.Q. of (whatever astronomical number)".

The truth is there are people, well known in and sometimes outside high-I.Q. circles, who have based their reputation on certain high test scores they claim. They use those scores for publicity, mention them in interviews, have them listed in biographical reference works, put themselves on self-published lists of "highest I.Q. scores" with their own score on top as the god-king with the world's highest I.Q., and so on. The scores help them to become and stay famous, sell books, and make money.

But not all that people claim in public, no matter how convincingly, is true. Astronomical scores may be self-assumed; that is, the person says in a very convincing way, "I have this I.Q.", and "proves" it with forged or deliberately misinterpreted evidence. Such scores may be the result of fraud, for instance retesting under a false name, lying about one's score, or norming or renorming the test in question oneself after having taken it. They may have been fraudulently assigned or preposterously extrapolated by a friendly psychometrician who is riding along on the publicity thus generated, or the score may have been achieved after having bought or been given correct answers to the test. They may even be scores on a (partly) self-designed test. Some actually use "off the charts" ceiling scores on easy mainstream tests as corroborating evidence, relying on the general public's ignorance of the fact that many in the high-I.Q. community have similarly maxed out those tests.

All these things have actually occurred and are going on at this very moment. Good-natured as I am, I will not reveal the names to protect the guilty. I wish them well and do not intend to harm their business (yes, that sentence contains irony). But I have to provide an answer when asked "Why is ... not a member of ...?"

The good-for-nothing "doctors"

Sadly, the world of I.Q. societies and would-be test creators, despite all of its blessings, has come to include individuals who make unauthorized use of the doctor title for reasons of self-promotion, for instance to lend credence to their tests or self-founded groups, or to sell quack products via multilevel marketing pyramid schemes. This may concern unrecognized degrees from obscure quack "universities" where one can obtain a "doctor" title without actually doing original research and writing a dissertation, and without having done the Bachelor and Master levels first (one just pays a large amount of money and takes a simple course or submits a list of past real-life achievement). I know this is possible because several such "doctors" have advised me to do the same to be able to present myself and my work in a more professional and scientific manner, apparently not realizing that their words thus betrayed how they got their own degrees. So, be careful with "doctors", and hesitate not to ask them exactly where they got their doctorate from, and on exactly which topic they wrote their dissertation. Be not misled by evasive answers like "philosophy"; realize that "doctor of philosophy" is simply the meaning of "PhD", and does not imply having actually studied philosophy. Therefore, keep asking, and ask in which field they are a "doctor of philosophy", a "PhD", and from which university.

In dealing with such impostors, it is good to be aware that the use of "doctor", "Dr", or "Dr." in front of one's name is legally protected, and therefore an offense is being committed that may be reported to the authorities. The use of "PhD" or "Ph.D." behind one's name though is not protected.