IQ & Success Correlation: Are People With High IQ Successful?

Discover whether the IQ and success correlation really exists, as well as what other factors can affect your life and career path.

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In psychology, high IQ comes with numerous benefits, such as developed reasoning, excellent memory and processing speed, and a slower decline of cognitive abilities. However, something that captivates the general population’s interest, possibly the most, is how strong the IQ and success correlation is.

To determine whether IQ affects and predicts success and, if so, to what extent, our team of experts delved deeper into the topics of IQ and success, untangling the relationships between the two.

Here is what they discovered.

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Key takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • A correlation between IQ and success exists, as many studies have confirmed that higher IQ often leads to higher education and income, as well as better health and longevity.
  • Some other important factors, such as self-confidence, social class, hard work, and luck, play a significant role as well.
  • People with high IQs are more likely to be successful on average, but IQ does not predict individual success.
  • IQ tests have certain limitations, as they are too culturally dependent and don’t measure emotional and social intelligence.

What Is IQ?

What Is IQ?

What Is IQ?

IQ is a score derived from an IQ test that measures how developed your cognitive abilities are through tasks that test working memory, pattern recognition, problem-solving abilities, and logical reasoning.

When French psychologist Alfred Binet developed the first IQ test in 1905, his goal was to determine which children needed additional help in school. However, his test captured psychologists’ attention, and soon they started administering it to adults as well.

Nowadays, IQ tests have many purposes aside from the original one. For instance, they are often used for assessing job candidates, school placement, gaining entrance into high-IQ societies, and conducting research on intelligence.

An average IQ is any score in the 85–115 range, with 100 being the true average. Scores above 115 are considered high IQ and associated with giftedness, while low IQ refers to results under 85, which may indicate an intellectual disability.

How Is IQ Measured?

IQ is measured by comparing the test-taker's performance on an IQ test to that of their peers in the same age group. The performance is then expressed in percentiles and transformed into an IQ score.

For example, if you perform better than 95% of your peers, your result will place you in the 95th percentile. Once that’s transferred onto the intelligence scale, it becomes an IQ score of 125.

Typically, the most accurate results can be measured on standardized, professionally administered IQ tests. Since Binet’s time, many types have been developed, but the following are the most commonly used ones:

  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. The original IQ test has been in use since 1916 but has significantly changed since. Instead of the outdated concept of mental age, which it relied on at first, it now uses the same strategy of comparing performance as other IQ tests.
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. WAIS is currently the most popular IQ test, used only for measuring adults’ and adolescents’ intelligence. For children, Wechsler developed a separate test called the Wechsler Child Intelligence Scale.
  • Raven’s Progressive Matrices. One of the most famous IQ tests is Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which uses exclusively non-verbal tasks to control for potential cultural interference.
  • Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test. Similarly to Raven’s Progressive Matrices, Cattlel’s test eliminates cultural influences to maintain fairness in testing intelligence across various countries.

IQ & Success Correlation: Is There a Connection?

IQ & Success Correlation: Is There a Connection?

IQ & Success Correlation: Is There a Connection?

The connection between IQ and success is complicated at best. Although high IQ is often considered the most significant predictor of success, it’s impossible to accurately determine future achievement solely based on it.

Namely, success is difficult to define in the first place, as it is a very subjective concept. Some people consider a high-paying job the pinnacle of success, while others prioritize job satisfaction or some other factor.

In addition, it’s challenging to decide how much of someone’s success should be attributed to IQ and how much depends on their personality traits, hard work, or simply luck.

That being said, we can’t deny that people with high IQs have characteristics that make them more likely to succeed. For instance, they tend to take calculated risks, make good decisions, and think outside the box when solving problems.

While the correlation between high IQ and success isn’t entirely clear, it’s certain that high IQ predicts academic achievement. Once again, various factors are at play here, too, but high-IQ students usually perform better on tests and tend to feel more confident in their knowledge and abilities.

Correlation Between IQ and Income

The correlation between IQ and income isn’t straightforward either, but there is some evidence that the two are positively connected. In fact, research suggests that each additional IQ point increases yearly income by between $202 and $616.

However, IQ isn’t the only factor that may be responsible for this difference. Once again, personality traits, circumstances, social class, and luck play crucial roles.

Ultimately, a high IQ generally results in higher income, but that means little when forecasting individual income. Even if there is a statistically higher chance for high-IQ people to be wealthy, the outcome will depend on the individual’s specific circumstances.

IQ Test Limitations

IQ tests have limitations, such as not accounting for certain types of intelligence as well as being too susceptible to cultural influences.

Although IQ tests accurately measure general intelligence and its components, they don’t recognize Gardner’s multiple intelligences or emotional intelligence. In other words, even if someone has highly developed musical or intrapersonal intelligence, that won’t be reflected in their IQ score.

In addition, even the tests that attempt to control for cultural influences can’t entirely avoid their impact. After all, they still prioritize problem-solving strategies practiced in schools in developed countries, which may be unfamiliar to people from cultures outside of this realm.

Aside from these limitations, the following factors can alter IQ scores temporarily.

#1. Prior Practice

If you take IQ tests frequently enough, eventually, you will crack the code and learn tips and tricks for solving them. That can be useful if you’re chasing after a specific score for some reason, but the result most likely won’t represent your actual intelligence.

#2. Physical and Mental Health

No matter what test you’re taking, your performance will largely depend on your physical and mental condition on that day. If you’re healthy and feeling relaxed and confident, you’re far more likely to perform well than when you’re not in the best physical or mental shape.

The same applies to IQ tests. The better your condition, the better your odds of performing to the best of your abilities. As a result, your intelligence may fluctuate by a few points depending on when you take the test.

#3. Focus

Ideally, you should only take IQ tests when you are fully focused and able to retain that state for the whole duration of the test. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible—various factors can affect your concentration at any time and lead to lower scores that may not accurately represent your intelligence.

4 Other Factors That Affect Success

A person looking at graphs

A person looking at graphs

Four other factors that affect success aside from IQ include self-confidence, social class, hard work, and luck.

Below, we explore each of them in more detail.

#1. Self-Confidence

When you are confident in yourself, you’re less afraid of taking risks and seizing opportunities because you believe in your ability to make the best of them. Instead of focusing on the aspects where you’re lacking, you recognize your strengths and maintain a positive outlook on life.

Not only that, but self-confidence makes others believe in you, too. As a result, you’re more likely to get the support you need, which makes your path towards success much easier than if you were entirely alone.

#2. Social Class

Although everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story, the reality is that the better your social standing, the more likely you are to succeed. People in the middle, upper middle, and upper classes usually have more versatile educational opportunities, which result in higher aspirations and better career paths.

On the other hand, people who live in poverty often don’t have access to the best schools and may not have the resources necessary to get a higher education. As a result, many high-paying positions are unavailable to them, and they may be unable to pursue a career they want.

#3. Hard Work

No matter how intelligent you are, you’re unlikely to get very far without hard work. Consider academic success, for instance—people with high IQs may have an easier time grasping different concepts, but they still have to learn them. They don’t automatically know everything because of their IQ score.

Even beyond school, the situation is similar. No matter what path you’re pursuing, you’ll have to work hard to improve and achieve the desired results. Your IQ may help or hinder you, but it’s not enough to guarantee success on its own.

#4. Luck

Although some successful people claim that only skill matters, the role of luck in success shouldn’t be underestimated.

Sometimes, things fall into place just the right way, even if you don’t quite understand why, and other times, the opposite happens. That may not have anything to do with your efforts or abilities—it’s simply a matter of luck.

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Final Thoughts

Although a correlation between IQ and success exists, it’s not enough to possess above-average intelligence to succeed. A high IQ does help, but it can’t do much without the support of hard work, a confident personality, and a sprinkle of luck.

In other words, don’t rely exclusively on your high IQ to carry you through life, and don’t limit yourself if your IQ is not that high. Success is a complex concept, and a single factor can’t entirely predict or determine it.

IQ & Success Correlation FAQ

#1. How much does IQ correlate with success?

IQ correlates with success to a degree, but it’s hardly enough to predict an individual’s success with great accuracy. There are too many variables to consider, such as social standing, hard work, personality traits, and sometimes just sheer luck.

#2. Will people with higher IQs be more successful?

People with higher IQs will be more successful if they put time and effort into whatever goal they are pursuing. Although high IQ is a predictor of success, it’s not a guarantee, so IQ alone doesn’t amount to much.

#3. What are the characteristics of high-IQ people?

The characteristics of high-IQ people include good memory, curiosity, creativity, excellent intuition, developed problem-solving and decision-making skills, self-awareness, perfectionism, the ability to see the bigger picture, and so much more.

#4. Can a person with an average IQ be successful?

A person with an average IQ can be successful since IQ isn’t the only factor that determines success. As long as you pursue a career that suits your talents and preferences, your IQ won’t play a crucial role in your achievements.

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