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Mensa is the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world. The name comes from the Latin word for 'table'. The organization's founders selected this name to indicate their vision of the group as an Arthurian intellectual roundtable that would serve and foster a cognitive elite, or as one of the co-founders called it, 'an aristocracy of the intellect'.[1] Instead, the organization primarily became a hobbyist social club for puzzle solvers rather than the home of a politically and socially influential cognitive crème de la crème, to its founder's disappointment.[2][3] However, the organization has since attracted a decent number of eminent members throughout its history, including the noted polymath Richard Buckminster Fuller, who was world president of the organization from 1974 to 1983.[4]

Mensa is open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised and approved IQ or other cognitive test. This percentile cut-off means that, ostensibly, a Mensa member must possess an IQ of 130 on a standardized IQ test assuming a perfectly normal distribution of IQ (in actual fact the given IQ score permitted can vary, any score corresponding to the 98th percentile or higher for an accepted test is allowed, which can often lead to confusion).[5] In reality, due to a combination of statistical regression to the mean, imperfect correlations between admission tests, the selection process allowing multiple tests and high performance on merely one test for admission, and greater selection pressures for higher-than-average ability on specific subsets of IQ due to the nature of tests offered, the 'true IQ' of Mensans is often quite a bit lower than this.[6] These selectivity issues are not specific to Mensa but are germane to high-IQ societies as a whole.[7]

The organization has absolutely nothing to do with incels despite claims to the contrary.[8]

Criticism of Mensa as a representative high-IQ sample[edit | edit source]

Several online 'deboonker'[9] types have made Mensa a specific focus of their ire. This is because researchers often use Mensa samples to make generalized arguments about high-IQ individuals as a whole via research that purports to demonstrate adverse outcomes in the high-IQ population.[10] It is frequently argued by these skeptics that Mensa is not a representative sample of the high-IQ population at large. Rather, these critics of research conducted on Mensans propose that the nature of the organization attracts a lot of neurotics, often those with narcissistic traits. Anecdotally, it has also been claimed that Mensans are disproportionately likely to be on the autism spectrum.[11] The tendency for intelligence and psychological researchers to use Mensa members as a convenient stand-in sample for cognitively gifted people in general has been dubbed the "Mensa fallacy".[12]

Brief history[edit | edit source]

From the beginning of the organization, observers have claimed that the group has tended to attract a certain amount of socially maladjusted people who underperform in life relative to their tested IQs, including the co-founder Roland Berill, who claimed that scoring at the 99th percentile of an IQ test administered by the other co-founder, Lancelot Ware, was the 'only time anyone had ever pronounced [Berill] to be good at anything'.[13] Berill was a wealthy dandy and eccentric obsessed with palmistry, phrenology, physiognomy and men's fashion reform who provided much of the initial seed capital for the organization, while Ware was an academically and professionally high-functioning barrister and biochemist who later left Mensa after he fell-out with Berill.[14]

Berrill died in 1962, unmarried and childless.[15]

Ware later rejoined the organization, influencing its present organizational structure and guiding its global expansion. In 1982 Ware was officially declared the sole "Fons et Origo" (source, or in this context, founder, and origin) of Mensa.

References[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]