The myth of the gifted child: how high the IQ score should be

I recently read a very interesting article named The Junior Meritocracy in New York magazine (Feb 8, 2010). The article explained why the kindergarten admission tests required by many New York schools could be worthless. It also discussed IQ scores and proposed a better alternative screening method for future success.

Some interesting points and associated quotes are listed below; you can read the full article here.

  • IQ of 120 is high enough:

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes a similar point, noting that one’s IQ needn’t be super-high to succeed; it simply needs to be high enough. “Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120,” he writes, “having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage.” In Genius Revisited, Rena Subotnik, director of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Gifted Education Policy, undertook a similar study, with colleagues, looking at Hunter elementary-school alumni all grown up. Their mean IQs were 157. “They were lovely people,” she says, “and they were generally happy, productive, and satisfied with their lives. But there really wasn’t any wow factor in terms of stellar achievement.”

  • The marshmallow test, a compelling test, demonstrated self-discipline leads to better academic performance:

In the sixties, a Stanford psychologist named Walter Mischel rounded up 653 young children and gave them a choice: They could eat one marshmallow at that very moment, or they could wait for an unspecified period of time and eat two. Most chose two, but in the end, only one third of the sample had the self-discipline to wait the fifteen or so minutes for them. Mischel then had the inspired idea to follow up on his young subjects, checking in with them as they were finishing high school. He discovered that the children who’d waited for that second marshmallow had scored, on average, 210 points higher on the SAT.

  • A interesting conclusion that self-discipline and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification, instead of IQ score or other intelligence test score should be a predictor of future success:

Maybe our schools ought to be screening children for self-discipline and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification, rather than intelligence and academic achievement.

So, if you want your kids to be successful in future, the best chance to achieve it is the kids should be mildly talented while having self-discipline and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification. Are your kids mildly talented? Probably yes.


2 Comments to “The myth of the gifted child: how high the IQ score should be”

  1. By Raymon, April 5, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    is it considered delaying gratification if i delay all my specific wants and needs at the very moment? Like , if i wanted water, or if i wanted to take a shower right now, I should delay it?

  2. By TheChessDad, April 5, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

    Great question. I guess the answer is it depends. Should it be a “Need”, you might not need to delay it. Should it be just a “Want”, you’d better delay it. The big problem is how to know it’s a desire or need. For kids, it is a desire to be able to play video games as long as he/she wants. For adults, it is a desire to be able to have a HDTV showing 200 channels. But those are only desires, not “Needs”.

    I would think your examples: “water” and “taking a shower” are both “Needs”, therefore, you shouldn’t delay them.

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