Extracts from and comments on The Outsiders

This article in an issue of the journal of the high-intelligence Prometheus Society describes research on how difficult people with high IQs find integrating happily with society:

The single greatest adjustment problem faced by the gifted, however, is their tendency to become isolated from the rest of humanity. This problem is especially acute among the exceptionally gifted…

… The implication is that there is a limit beyond which genuine communication between different levels of intelligence becomes impossible. To say that a child or an adult is intellectually isolated from his contemporaries is to say that everyone in his environment has an IQ at least 30 points different from his own.

The point is that the danger lies in having an exceptional IQ in an environment completely lacking in intellectual peers. It’s the isolation that does the damage, not the IQ itself.

One way the gifted adjust to adult life:

And although they may superficially appear to have made a good adjustment to their work and friends, neither work nor friends can completely engage their attention. They hunger for more intellectual challenge and more real companionship than their social environment can supply. So they resort to leading a double life. They compartmentalize their life into a public sphere and a private sphere. In public they go through the motions of fulfilling their social roles, whatever they are, but in private they pursue goals of their own. They are often omnivorous readers, and sometimes unusually expert amateurs in specialized subjects. The double life strategy might even be called the genius ploy, as many geniuses in history have worked at menial tasks in order to free themselves for more important work.

The article then shifts gears:

The genius (as regards intellectual ability) not only has an IQ of say 50 points more than the average person, but in virtue of this difference acquires seemingly new aspects (potentialities) or characteristics…

Wechsler is saying quite plainly that those with IQs above 150 are different in kind from those below that level. He is saying that they are a different kind of mind, a different kind of human being…

… objective self-knowledge for the exceptionally gifted is nearly impossible to obtain. What he most needs to know is not how he differs from ordinary people–he is acutely aware of that–but how he is both like and unlike those of his own kind.

The writer seems to say that when an intelligence is far enough removed from the mean, it’s not only different from ‘ordinary people’, but is also unique among its peers.

The article is supposed to be among the best-known from the society’s journal. It was first published in 1987, thirty-two years ago. I wonder what the current studies of super-high IQ individuals show about the nature of such intelligence, and the coping mechanisms.

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