Having studied the biographies of Mensans and VIPs for some years now, I am
finally prepared to draw some gloomy conclusions.
Most of us probably had a feeling while we were growing up that there was
something wrong with us. We didn’t quite seem to fit in. We were bored, we were
restless. We were constantly told that we were “weird,” “some kind of a nut,” etc.
But somewhere along the line we began to suspect that what was actually “wrong”
with us was that we were so much more intelligent than everyone else that most
people simply could not understand us. Being admitted to Mensa confirmed our
suspicions and verified that we really were brighter than 98% of the population. Most
of us, I’m sure, were very happy when informed that we had been accepted into
Mensa. We naively thought that now everyone would love and admire us. No longer
would anyone say that we were the stupid ones. Correct? No way! A person with a
high IQ is a deviate – just as much as a retardate or a transvestite.
In business relationships where power and status are important, being intellectually
superior is definitely an advantage. But in intimate relations it is an unmitigated
disaster. According to personal communication theorists, the only way to attain
deeply satisfying intimacy is by being completely open, completely honest,
completely trusting, and by having a positive regard for the other person. The
problem is that this level of intimacy is only possible between equal partners. And
where does a Mensan find an equal partner?
It is easy to have a positive regard for almost anyone – children retardates, illiterates,
or transvestites. We can appreciate their appearance, their talent, their warmth and
charm. We can genuinely “love” them – in a certain sense of the word. But to
completely trust another person means that we must also perceive them as our equal
in competence. And for the over-competent, there’s the rub. Unless the other
person is also an M, with the same level of education, we know that, under most
circumstances, he or she is not as competent as we are, and therefore not
completely trustworthy. And since we cannot trust that person’s judgment, we
therefore cannot be as open and honest as we would like to be. Our love for the
person of average intelligence is therefore like that of a parent for his child or of a
teacher for his retarded student. We must withhold certain feelings and thoughts
simply because we know from experience that the other person is not capable of
understand them or reacting to them wisely.
The Mensan in the normal world is like an adult in a world of children. No matter how
much he may love the children, he longs for the companionship of another adult.
Now, for a person who has devoted many years to the study of certain subjects, it is
very easy to detect whether another person also understands them. If we perceive
that the other person does not understand a subject, then there is no point in
pretending to discuss it with him as an equal. To do so would be dishonest. But
when the other person has some smattering of knowledge about the subject, he is
highly resentful toward anyone who makes him feel stupid. If a normal person is
generally capable, and is accustomed to having his opinions respected, it is a rude
shock to find himself in the presence of a person who suddenly makes him feel
inferior. And Mensans generally do know more about more subjects.
So there lies the dilemma. If we reveal our true feelings, then the normal person
becomes resentful. But if we attempt to conceal our feelings, then the normal person
says we are aloof, supercilious, and uncommunicative.
For over a year The Isolated M has carried a discussion of love and marriage
among Ms and Non-Ms. Mr. Harper Fowley very kindly supplied me with all of the
relevant back issues. And the figures appear to support our analysis of the problem.
In the general American population, the divorce rate is one out of three marriages.
But in Mensa 63% of the members have been separated or divorced at least once.
In the U.S. population, 30% of all adults are unmarried, but in Mensa, 51% are
presently unmarried. Marriages between Ms do appear to be the most stable – for
Mensans. Union between M men and non-M women is the least objectionable type
of mixed marriage. But vows between M women and non-M men are virtually
intolerable. This is because our cultural pattern calls for women to marry “up” and
men to marry “down.” So a male M may be satisfied with a wife who is dutiful but
dumb, whereas a woman cannot abide a husband who is less intelligent then she is,
because she cannot regard him as “manly” or trust his decisions.
For male Ms, there are additional complications. Education without intelligence is
wasted, while intelligence without education can be a menace. But only 10% of
American women are even college graduates. This is because they are afraid of
becoming over-educated and thus pricing themselves out of the marriage market.
They generally go to college just to find a husband, so if they end up with a degree
instead, they are certified rejects. And usually there is a good reason: either
appearance, neuroses, or lack of desire for marriage.
Now, the probability of a chance meeting of any two Mensa-qualified people is only
two out of a hundred. Since about 50% of Mensans are married, the chances of
meeting a single M of either sex are 1%. Only 31% of Mensans are female. This is
not just due to bashfulness in taking the test. Research shows that the overage
female IQ undergoes a steady decline after elementary school, while the male IQ
increases. At any rate, the odds of a female M being at a Mensa function are less
than one out of three. But single women – even Mensans – often decline to go to a
party alone. So, very few of the single women who do belong to Mensa will attend. If
we eliminate half of the single female Ms for non-attendance, this leaves us with
about .15 of 1% of the population. From this, we must eliminate half, who would
surely be in the wrong age range. Now, from this .075 of 1% of the population we
must find someone whose appearance strikes our fancy, whose personality is
compatible with ours, and who is at least tolerably well educated. But we tend to be
hypercritical in taste; and Mensans have complex and sharply defined personalities,
and the more a person has to say, the more opportunities there are for others to
disagree with him. This creates a fertile field for personality clashes, even if both
parties are models of emotional maturity. But statistics show that women are
considerably more neurotic than men. And highly intelligent and educated women
are the most neurotic of all, because of the frustrations and anti-intellectual
prejudices they have had to endure.
Because of our social isolation, most of us have not developed the skills of intimate
communication. So even if we finally found a partner to whom we could relate on an
intimate level, we wouldn’t know how. Or we have built up so many layers of
protective inhibition that we can’t do it even if we try.
Mensans have a tendency to be VIPs – a trait that puts a strain on any marriage. It
introduces the eternal triangle of a man, his wife, and his job. The more important
the man, the more his career takes him away from the family, leading to jealousy and
loneliness on the part of the wife. If it is the wife who has the career, or if they both
are VIPs, the problem is compounded.
In many cases we also have sought out careers that are highly creative and involve
intense intellectualizing: art, science, writing, etc. – and this deeply absorbing but
solitary work separates us even more from those we love. Though we may be
physically present, our mind is frequently light years away.
For the single female M the prospect of connubial bliss would seem to be reasonably
hopeful, if she has a good therapist and some college and if she will just stop waiting
for Prince Charming to materialize in her bed like an incubus and will instead attend
But for the other 70% of us who are still looking for that magical lady who will finally
understand and appreciate us, the odds of a VIP-male M, with advanced degrees,
meeting an educated and compatible female M are slightly less than those of
winning the Irish Sweepstakes.
The only workable solution for male Ms would seem to be finding a somewhat
masochistic, non-intellectual wife who desires a dominant-subservient relationship.
She must be one who is content to live in our reflected glory, and who simply regards
our indulgent silences and our Mensa membership with awed respect. She must be
one who does not feel insulted and resentful when we frequently prefer to be with our
snooty, high-brow friends. What data I have been able to gather indicate that these
traditional, domestic-type women are the least likely to walk out of a VIP marriage.
And if you can find such a woman, who also happens to be socially presentable, you
may count yourself the most fortunate of men.
Of course, you will have very little in common, and you will have to lie to her much of
the time about how you feel and what you really think, so you will never be able to
attain a deeply satisfying degree of intimacy. But, after all, we who got the extra
helpings of brain cells must expect to pay the price.
(Mensa statistics are from The Isolated M. Other statistics are from The
Psychology of Human Differences by Leona E. Tyler and from the U.S. Department
Can a Mensan Ever Find Love in a Normal World?
[This is an article that appeared in the international Mensa Bulletin,
July/August, 1978. I was hoping that some brilliant psychologist,
somewhere in the world, might find a flaw in my argument. Alas,
Many of the responses to my article, “Can a Mensan Ever Find Love in a Normal
World” (July/August, 1978, Bulletin), demanded “proof” of the assertions from which I
drew my inferences. This I am happy to provide. The following quotations are from
The Psychology of Human Differences, which is a summary of all the research that
had been done, in all parts of the world, up to the date of publication in 1965.
First, I said that most of us probably felt isolated and misunderstood when growing
up, leading to problems of personality adjustment.
The tendency for good personality adjustment to accompany high intelligence was
not as apparent for the extremely high individuals as for the moderately high.
Problems created included
Preferring self-direction to direction by others, difficulty in getting along with
teachers and classmates who are inferior to them intellectually, and problems
created by isolation (the impossibility of finding friends with their own interests and
goals). (Dr. Leona Tyler, The Psychology of Human Differences, Third Edition,
1965, p. 408)
In studies of highly creative people,
They were often considered by classmates and teachers to have wild or fantastic
ideas... (Ibid., p.413)
One interesting fact has turned up again and again in these and other studies.
There is only a very low relationship between these creative abilities and
intelligence as ordinarily measured. (Ibid.)
Creative persons also tended to score low on tests of conformity although they
were not necessarily nonconformists in their behavior. Some of the results
suggested that creative persons experience more psychological difficulties, more
conflicts between motives and values, than average persons do, but that they have
enough ego strength to manage this turbulence. (Ibid, p. 415)
But while the creative worker may show some symptoms of mental ill health, he is
distinguished also by a powerful ego adequate to control conflicting drives and
impose order on chaotic experience. The one thing a creative person will not
settle for is an easy way out of the struggles of life – security through conformity.
(Ibid., p 416)
So the highest scores on both IQ and creativity scales are correlated with social
alienation. And IQ and creativity are not, themselves, correlated. But for
professional eminence, both a high degree of intelligence and creativity are
required. Therefore, the VIP in a creative field is almost certain to feel like a
Stranger in a Strange Land. In studies of the most outstanding scientists it was
found that very often
Some event occurred during childhood that led to a feeling of apartness –
something like the death of one parent, a serious illness, or a physical handicap.
The projective-test protocols and the interview data suggested that these were not
particularly well-adjusted groups, in our ordinary sense of the term. There
appeared to be a considerable amount of basic insecurity, with work itself serving
as an adjustment technique in many cases. (Ibid., p. 409)
Eiduson (1962) made a similar intensive study of 40 living research scientists. As
in (the previous study) almost all had undergone periods of isolation, either
through illness or through physical or psychological circumstances. Most of them
had turned away from their families during adolescence more decisively than most
young persons do. (Ibid., p. 410)
Studies of outstanding creative artists in non-scientific fields showed a similar
Then I said that women were more neurotic than men, and high-IQ women were the
most neurotic of all.
On various inventories of “neuroticism” or maladjustment, there is a tendency for
women’s averages to be closer to the maladjusted end of the scale than men’s.
On the Bernreuter Personality Inventory, for example, the norms show that women
are more neurotic, less self-sufficient, more introverted, less dominant, less self-
confident and more socially dependent than men... When college students were
interviewed by two experienced counselors, it was found that the excess of neurotic
trends in women appeared even more markedly in the clinical diagnosis than in
the test scores. (Ibid., p. 257)
Almost twice as many of the women in the high group as in the total group were
seriously maladjusted. Although the number of cases comprising this percentage
is small, it does seem to point to the possibility that the girls with unusually high
IQs may have more adjustment difficulties than do the boys. (Ibid., p. 408)
Follow up studies showed that
71 percent of the gifted men were in professional or higher business fields. There
was a marked sex difference in this area, however, occupational level and income
were both much lower for the women than for the men in the group. (Ibid., p. 402)
(There are) two indisputable facts. The first is the preponderance of males among
eminent persons. The second is the surplus of males in institutions for the feeble-
minded. Essentially, the theory holds that males are more likely to run to
extremes; females tend toward mediocrity. (Ibid., p. 248)
I said that women generally go to college for the purpose of finding a husband rather
than out of intellectual curiosity or ambition.
In the Strong Vocational Interest Test, men have six main types of interests, but for
One type of interest pattern predominates so strongly over the others that very
often it is the only thing that shows up. This interest factor, which appears to
characterize as many as 90 percent of graduating senior girls in high school...
represents what housewives, office workers, stenographers and nurses have in
(These) typical feminine interests... represent the general attitude and outlook of
the woman who does not want a career for its own sake, but who is satisfied to
pursue any pleasant congenial activity that offers itself until marriage. The
comparative rarity of specialization of interests in women might well be one of the
reasons for the dearth of high-level professional achievement which has been
mentioned earlier. (Ibid., p. 252)
It has been apparent for a long time to vocational counselors dealing with young
people that girls do not put as much emphasis on professional or occupational
success as do boys. Left to their own devices, a large proportion of boys are likely
to make vocational choices in the professional areas, whether or not their level of
intelligence and academic success warrants such a choice. With girls the problem
for the counselors is often the opposite: how to encourage them to aspire to the
positions their abilities would make possible. (Ibid., p. 254)
Women’s attitudes toward intellectual achievement are quite different from male
It is almost a universal finding that females are more dependent upon people than
males are. (Ibid., p. 259)
Masculine thinking anticipates rewards and punishments determined more as a
result of the adequacy or inadequacy of self while feminine thinking anticipates
rewards and punishments determined more as a result of the friendship or hostility
of the environment.
Masculine thinking is associated more with desire for personal achievement;
feminine thinking is associated more with desire for social love and friendship.
(Ibid., p. 260)
The females express themselves as more... timid, more fastidious and
aesthetically sensitive, severer moralists... However, in disgust, in aesthetic
judgment, and in moral censure, the evidence is rather for the influence of fashion
and of feeling than of principle or reason. (Ibid., p. 261)
Beloff... discovered that conforming women were lower than nonconforming women
on neuroticism, the reverse was true for men. (Ibid., p. 265)
These other-directed, conformist attitudes of normal women are probably the main
reason they rarely achieve professional eminence. Unfortunately, it also makes them
incompatible with the non-conformist thinking of a highly creative, over-achieving
According to the 1977 Statistical Abstracts, published by the U.S. Bureau of
Commerce, only one out of four women in college actually graduated during the
1940s and 1950s. By 1974 the number had increased to 43%. That leaves us with
a present population in which 18.6% of all males over 25 years of age have at least
four years of college. But only 11.3% of the females have an equal amount of
education. That the increase in bachelor’s degrees is more indicative of social
factors than intellectual ambition is supported by the fact that, even in 1974, only 13%
of the professional degrees (Physicians, Dentists, Lawyers, Engineers, Ph.D.s) were
awarded to women. (Statistical Abstracts, 1977, p. 137)
I said that the result of all the preceding factors is that male Mensans have an even
more difficult problem in finding a compatible mate than female Mensans. A male
VIP in a creative field is fairly certain to alienate most people, particularly women, no
matter what he does. Original ideas are always shocking to the uninitiated; that is a
basic principle of information theory. So he is forced into a double-bind: if he says
what he thinks, most women will misunderstand and probably be outraged; if he
does not say what he thinks, he is accused of being a supercilious snob.
To prove that males have a more severe problem than females, I made a survey of
the last 12 issues of the Bulletin, counting the number of advertisements in the
classified “Personals” column. Sixty-two percent were from males seeking
marriage, or a permanent relationship, with a highly intelligent woman. This is closer
to a balance between the sexes than the 69-31 ratio of Mensa membership would
lead one to expect. But when the average age is taken into account, the men
(seeking younger mates) have a median age of 37, and the women (seeking older
men), a median age of 43. The fact that men do not live as long as women would
explain this difference. A young FM who attends Mensa functions is outnumbered by
men better than three to one. But as she gets into her forties, the number of older
men begins to decrease precipitously. So she must resort to more assertive
measures – such as placing an ad.
There is one point among the responses that is well taken, namely, that Mensa
membership may not be representative of everyone who would be qualified. So
those who are most troubled with the problems mentioned are the ones who would
be most likely to join and to attend the meetings.
Some said that IQ and education should not be a consideration in seeking a mate.
What does it matter if one partner can read French or solve a puzzle faster than the
The reason it matters is because what we are really talking about is compatibility of
interests and values. Similarity of IQ and education does not guarantee
compatibility. But a wide discrepancy between them does guarantee a lack of
There were many who suggested that I am simply an unusually obnoxious schmuck
with a problem no one else has. The difficulty with this hypothesis, like all ad-
homonym responses, is that it ignores the evidence and merely changes the subject.
Others objected that the whole argument is a rationalization for male chauvinism.
But what satisfaction could a man obtain by knowing that, if he is intellectually
superior, it also condemns him to a life of loneliness? Beside, those few women
who are in Mensa should obtain some satisfaction in knowing that they are far more
extraordinary than they thought.
[Editor’s note: “Lee Carter” is the pen name of a member of Mensa.]
Lee Carter Replies
There are two important sociological changes that have occurred in the last few
years that have improved the romantic prospects for Mensans. The first seismic
change is that for the first time in history more women than men are not just attending
college, but actually graduating and entering the workforce! This substantially
increases the pool of educated women in America -- although the ratio of men to
women in Mensa has not changed, nor has the attendance of single young women at
The other major change in society is the availability of social networking groups on
the Internet. Now it is possible for people of similar interests to find each other, no
matter where they may be -- although geographical incompatibility may decrease the
chance of their actually beginning a relationship.
It is interesting to note that I am not the only one to discover the basic incompatibility
between highly intelligent men and physically attractive women. Beauty and the
Geek has begun its third season this fall as a game show in which brilliant young
men are arbitrarily matched with beautiful young women in a contest to win a
substantial amount of money. Cameras follow the couples as they try to coordinate
their efforts. The humor of the show lies in their personality clashes. To date, there
has never been a report of two of the contestants getting married afterwards.