Are individuals with a high IQ destined for success? We have a tendency to believe that having a high IQ test score is a sure-fire way to guarantee success in life. After all, some of the most successful people in different fields such as science, art, business and entertainment are extremely bright.

While today we often assume that those with extremely high IQs are naturally more successful, there also exists a competing stereotype that people with very high IQs are sometimes less likely to prosper in multiple life domains, that these highly intelligent individuals have poor social skill and that they might struggle with mental instability.
You probably know a few extremely smart people who are very successful, but you can also likely think of several people who are equally smart yet not as prosperous. If people have similar levels of intelligence, what leads to this disparity in outcomes?
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Does having a high IQ test score predict greater success in life?

Psychologists have long been interested in understanding how person’s IQ influences their ability to function in multiple life domain. They very first free IQ tests were developed as a means of identifying school children who needed extra academic help, but the tests quickly became a popular way of identifying individuals who had above average scores as well.

First let’s start by answering a basic question at What exactly do we mean by “high IQ test score”? On standardized tests off intelligence, such as the Stanford-Binet test, the average IQ score is 100 and anything over 140 is considered a high or genius level IQ.
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One of the best-known studies on intelligence tackled the question of whether high IQ might be linked to life success.

How Successful were Terman’s High IQ test Participants?

So how did the majority of Terman’s subjects fare in life?

  • When they were assessed in 1955 when the average yearly income was $5,000 the average income level for Terman’s subjects was an impressive $ 33,000;

  • Two-thirds had earned college degrees and a large number of the participants had gone on to earn graduate and professional degrees;

  • Many members of the group became doctors, lawyers, business executives, professors and scientists.

But not all of these high IQ test score subjects were so successful. Researcher Melita Oden, who had carried on the research after Terman’s death, decided to compared the most successful individuals (group A) to the 100 least successful (group C). While they essentially had the exact same IQs, only a few people form group C had become professionals, most earned just slightly above the average yearly income and they had higher rates of alcoholism and divorce than individuals from group A.

What could explain this disparity? If IQ predicts success, why did these individuals with similar intelligence scores fare so differently in life?

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