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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Mar 20, 2024

I have data from two big Internet surveys, Less Wrong 2014 and Clearer Thinking 2023. Both asked questions about IQ:

  • The average LessWronger reported their IQ as 138.

  • The average ClearerThinking user reported their IQ as 130.

These are implausibly high. Only 1/200 people has an IQ of 138 or higher. 1/50 people have IQ 130, but the ClearerThinking survey used crowdworkers (eg Mechanical Turk) who should be totally average.

Okay, fine, so people lie about their IQ (or foolishly trust fake Internet IQ tests). Big deal, right? But these don’t look like lies. Both surveys asked for SAT scores, which are known to correspond to IQ. The LessWrong average was 1446, corresponding to IQ 140. The ClearerThinking average was 1350, corresponding to IQ 134. People seem less likely to lie about their SATs, and least likely of all to optimize their lies for getting IQ/SAT correspondences right.

And the Less Wrong survey asked people what test they based their estimates off of. Some people said fake Internet IQ tests. But other people named respected tests like the WAIS, WISC, and Stanford-Binet, or testing sessions by Mensa (yes, I know you all hate Mensa, but their IQ tests are considered pretty accurate). The subset of about 150 people who named unimpeachable tests had slightly higher IQ (average 140) than everyone else.

Thanks to Spencer Greenberg of ClearerThinking, I think I’m finally starting to make progress in explaining what’s going on.