Does Mensa Matter?


Mensa is an organization for people with IQs above the 98th percentile. That translates to IQs above 132 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test (wikipedia). (It is, to borrow from John Bender, sorta social — demented and sad, but social.)

Lawyer is a typical occupation for people with an IQ in the 130s. According to the Michigan Bar Journal, “the mean, that is the mathematical average, IQ of attorneys hovers around 127.” I would bet that more than a fourth of the lawyers (and one of the judges . . . maybe) down at the criminal courthouse have IQs of 132 or above. Most of them don’t belong to Mensa.

Yet every positive article about Kelly Siegler and her bid for DA seems to mention her Mensa membership. Why is that?


0 responses to “Does Mensa Matter?”

  1. The qualifying score for Mensa on the LSAT is 167. It’s not a bad score, but I’m sure anyone who’s been to law school has met their fair share of people who have already qualified for Mensa membership.

    So no, Mensa is nothing special.

  2. I was trying to think of a way to find out where my lawyer readers fit in. That’s great, Shane. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that the LSAT could qualify one for Mensa.

    So how about it, lawyer readers: was your LSAT over 167 (out of 180) or under?

  3. Having little to do but eschew sleep and ponder this question, I poured a glass of scotch and wrinkled my brow in an attempt to bring all of my intellect to bear. I stared intently at the Mensa logo and sipped my drink. I noticed the abstract table that both symbolizes flatheads and calls out to them like the Bat-Signal calls out to . . . uh . . . someone. No, that was too easy.

    I needed some fresh air. Fortunately, I strolled around the sofa and found some near the scotch. Turning back to the problem, I realized that the logo resembled an abstract stick-figure – a member I suppose – doing the “Chicken Dance.” Cool, and strangely Texan, but still not intellectual enough for Mensa.

    But then I squinted and the logo’s detail took on new meaning. I realized the abstract globe actually looked more like the abstract aerial view of a basket. Poised as it was above some weirdly bold pitchfork, I realized that the Mensa logo actually symbolizes the world going to Hell in a handbasket.

    Now I can rest.

    By the way, did anyone else notice that Mensa looks a little too much like mens’a, the rarely used, contracted form of mens rea?

    Gotta sleep . . .

  4. There are many standardized exam results that qualify you for Mensa membership. Scoring in the top 2% of just one of them qaulifies you.

    That means that if the Mensa claims of membership being in the top 2% is false.

    So maybe the press about whats-her-name being a Mensa member is a way of saying that she frequently misrepresents herself?

  5. Back in high school, I joined Mensa. I was very impressed with myself and I fit right in. After a while, I discovered that I really didn’t like hanging around with people who begin every conversation with “Hi, my name is John and my IQ is 144, what’s yours?” So I quit.

    Also, remember that Mensa is a purely social organization – not a think tank, not a philosophical debate society, just a social club.

    At Mensa meetings the conversation is not noticeably different than in any bar or other social setting – except that the members are much more impressed with themselves.

  6. Thanks for all the comments. Leviathan, clearly yours is a civilized existence. I often find that a glass of scotch helps to bring all of one’s intellect to bear.

    Gary, do you think someone scoring in the top 2% on the LSAT is probably in the top 2% of the general population?

    Anon, BTDT. Bender’s description is fair, isn’t it?

  7. Mark, 95th percentile on the LSAT is good enough for Mensa, because they consider the 95th percentile of LSAT takers to be approximately the 98th percentile of the population at large.

    More here.

  8. Mark wrote: “do you think someone scoring in the top 2% on the LSAT is probably in the top 2% of the general population?”

    No. The premise of an IQ test is that you don’t know what’s coming. Indeed, if one takes too many of them, particularly in a short amount of time, they are deemed less useful due to a “practice effect” that “artificially” raises the score. Some people practice really hard for the LSAT. (I wasn’t one of them.)

    Practicing and studying for a standardized test is gaming the system. (The sample on which the norms were based did not practice.) This goes for a test like the SAT as well, where better-off families effectively buy higher scores. Plus, there are other nuances to the measurement of IQ–such as the Flynn Effect–that have implications for interpreting standardized test scores that, frankly, I doubt even the officials of Mensa organizations know about or understand.

    I think there are many more self-professed geniuses than there are positions for the opening. A person’s membership in Mensa says 1000 times more about that person’s social outlook (and probably self-esteem) than it does their intelligence. In short, I don’t think Kelly Siegler’s a genius. Far from it.

  9. Kelly Siegler is a member of a more rarefied group than even her supporters know.

    Of the 132 million earthlings who qualify for Mensa based on their superior IQs, fewer than one tenth of a percent of them find it necessary to flaunt it by actually applying.

  10. Someone has entirely too much free time on their hands.

    For the record, LSAT of 169. ACT of 34. SAT of 1390. Does that qualify? (Remember, I’m still young enough to remember this stuff.)

    But I’m just a humble small business owner trying to, as Stuart Kinard said, protect those who have fallen short of perfection from the wrath of those who believe they have attained it.

  11. Shane, got it.

    PJ, the Flynn Effect is of great interest to lawyers defending capital cases.

    Dad, what percent of Mensa members find it necessary to flaunt it by letting the press know.

    Matlock, you’re definitely qualified, no matter how many times you had to take those tests. You should join Mensa and put it on your r?©sum?©. You’ll be a shoo-in for elected office.

  12. I am very saddened to read the comments made regarding Mensa membership. Like any other fraternal organization, Mensa has certain requirements for acceptance. Yes, the requirement is an above average IQ, and yes, having that type of requirement does alienate some. However, I do not see how or why that is frowned upon by the comments presented above. As with any organization, members tend to seek out like-minded individuals whether it be common hobbies, affiliations, interests, etc. Mensa is no different; it merely determines membership qualification based on a person’s aspect that, if not achieved, results in an insecure fight or flight reaction. I do not know of anyone who has posted the comments above, but I question how they came to this page and felt the need to voice their disapproval for the organization…I presume it being the result of not scoring high enough for membership and discounting such as a means for justification to continue enabling one’s ego that has proved short of one’s expectations.

    For the record, I took the LSAT and scored well below 167. I did, however, take the Mensa entrance exam and qualified. Maybe it was out of self-indulgence; maybe it was because I seek to find camaraderie with others on a similar intellectual platform. Either way, there is no reason to oppose such a society…unless your ego was bruised because you realized you are not quite as intelligent as you thought and/or held yourself out to be…

  13. Naturally studying and practicing for a test will improve your score. This doesn’t mean the improved scores are invalid. If studying doesn’t make you more intelligent, then why do we make kids study so hard? Sadism?

    I have not applied to Mensa myself but I’ve considered it to put on my Attorney website. When some clients see Mensa under your name they will say to themselves, “Wow this guy is a genius.” If the average Joe has to choose between two lawyers, and he sees evidence that one is a genius, he might decide to go with the perceived genius.

    • It may make you more knowledgeable; it may make you better at testing; studying most emphatically does not make you more intelligent.

      The clients are wrong. “Mensa” doesn’t mean “genius.” The generally acceptable cut-off for “genius” is an IQ of 160. The minimum IQ for Mensa is 132. There is a world of difference. I would call 132 “bright enough to know how bright one isn’t.”

      If you’re a genius, don’t waste your time with Mensa; join the Prometheus Society.

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