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An Interview with Björn Liljeqvist on Highly Intelligent Cognitive Misers, Composite Scores and Sub-Tests, and Sex and Gender Factors (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/05/01


Björn Liljeqvist was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1975. He joined Mensa in 1991 and is currently the international chairman of that organisation. Privately, Björn lectures on advanced learning strategies to university students. A topic he’s written two books on in his native country. He has a background in embedded systems engineering with a Master’s degree from Chalmers University of Technology. He is married to Camilla, with whom he has one daughter. He discusses: highly intelligent cognitive misers; composite scores and sub-test scores; and sex and gender factors.

Keywords: Björn Liljeqvist, chairman, cognitive miser, gender, Mensa International, sex, Sweden.

An Interview with Björn Liljeqvist on Highly Intelligent Cognitive Misers, Composite Scores and Sub-Tests, and Sex and Gender Factors: Chairman, Mensa International (Part Three)[1],[2]*

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Interview conducted on March 4, 2020.*

*Note from Liljeqvist, as to avoid confusion between individual statements and the stances of Mensa International: “Opinions are my own and not those of Mensa, except if otherwise stated.”*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What happens when you have the highly intelligent, even the very highly intelligent, 3-sigma and up, who do not have that fostering? They’ve been identified. They have not been nurtured or fostered in terms of their talents. So, they develop certain negative qualities. They haven’t realized other positive qualities in other people. They are the bad-rude person mentioned earlier. Also, they are a cognitive miser. They may not be a fully rational person in their lives.

Liljeqvist: This is an excellent question because it would be really, really interesting to collect data from 1,000 people or 10,000 people who are really at that top 1-in-a-1,000 or 1-in-10,000 to really get that data. Because we don’t really know. Take this, an intelligent person who realizes that some things are not right, who realizes that I am bored. The moment that you come across information or knowledge. You will be drawn to like it, like a horse to water. I would guess, but this is only a guess, that a lot of those people might turn out to be fine, eventually. But they might have to do the work themselves. Which means, I am not sure it is okay to say, “Everyone is at the mercy of their upbringing. If you do not get this nurturing, then you will turn out to be bad.” That I do think, you could spare people a lot of soul searching by helping them a little bit in the beginning. Take myself, for example, I used a lot of my intelligence [Laughing] back in school to avoid hard work because I could improvise last minute. I got good grades without putting in a lot of effort.

I thought that was a good thing. Until, it no longer worked, which prompted me to look into better ways of studying, which is something I eventually found a lot of valuable material there and learned how to learn in an efficient way. However, of course, if someone had taught me that, then I wouldn’t have wasted time on it. I would have been able to reach a little further. Not that I think it is necessarily that much of a deal, but the people who turn out to be rude and evil; I don’t think it is just that simple. That you have an intelligent person who did not get the right stimulation. Because even those people, they will use their intelligence to correct their own mistakes. What about all the other qualities of a person? You have the Big Five: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and so on. I don’t think agreeableness correlates with intelligence at all. Although, possibly, an intelligent person might feel faking a bit of agreeableness might be helpful if they want to. But I think the answer as to why certain people become bad or difficult people probably does not lie in their IQ, or even in their access too. I think you would need environmental factors that go way beyond the normal variation in order to find that, if you know what I mean. We know from other twin studies and things like that. For the environment to really have a big impact on someone over time, as they grow up, and if you look into mature age, the environmental differences have to be fairly big, bigger than what you normally see between families of the typical style in a country.

2. Jacobsen: Also, you have access to leading intelligence researchers, nationally and internationally, through Mensa. I would assume some conversations may arise or writings are published through Mensa on sex and gender, and IQ. What is the current status of this conversation, this longstanding conversation, around not only IQ as a composite metric but also the sub-tests that go into good, solid, valid and reliable intelligence tests, like the WAIS?

Liljeqvist: That is an excellent question. It is also something. Now that you mention it, I am reminded that this is something where Mensa International could do more to keep this conversation alive. Common wisdom has been, “We have the similar average between the genders or between the sexes, but the standard deviation is higher for the men. So, you have more men in the higher ranges and more men in the lower ranges.” We know from statistics. The percentage or the ratio of female to male members pretty much mirrors what you would expect from those, not perfectly, but, more or less at least, from what you would expect in the different distributions between the sexes on IQ tests. Are those tests well-made or are they biased either way? I will tell you. I am the Chairman of Mensa – fine, but I am a layman and not an intelligence researcher. I have a master’s degree in Engineering. I have studied many things in university, but I am not an expert on intelligence tests beyond the basic level. But if there was a bias against a sex, that would probably show up. Now, I am waiting for someone to come and correct me, but I think it would show up on the average. You would not see low IQ males predominantly if it was biased in favour of males. It is a pattern with higher standard deviations. It is a pattern that we see in other things.

Jacobsen: I have seen this as well. The level of variance is much greater with men/males.

Liljeqvist: One explanation is that if you have only 1 X chromosome. It means that the characteristics on that chromosome will have a higher impact. Whereas, if you have two, you will have more of an averaging out effect. Meaning that, you will get higher variance among the males. We see this with men in so many other things, like height and other characteristics. If we did not see it in IQ, I think we would have to really look into it. Why would that be the case?

3. Jacobsen: Would some differences show up in the asynchrony of development? So, for instance, apart from sex and gender differences. As an aside, there are a lot of similarities, certainly, too. You were mentioning the highly gifted child who, at the same time, can be, and often will be, at the emotional level of the 3-year-old, for example. So, they’re able to think more richly while having an emotional understanding of their chronological age group. I am looking at two points of contact. One would be different developmental curves while coming to the same point on average. Another would be once adults. You still have that average, but particular mental skills might be much different between men and women.

Liljeqvist: Yes, that could be. It would be interesting to know whether the unbalance or disparity at the highest percent, upper levels: How much is that due to outliers, extreme outliers? It is a question that I would like to see looked into. Where you see people with a very unique talent for something, but, otherwise, not being super capable across the board – so to speak, I think most of those people tend to be male. But a lot of explanations have floated. For example, later maturity in the male sex leads to a higher degree of specialization between the hemispheres, which would show up in some things like very, very specialized interests. To be an ultra-nerd is, often, seen as being a very male thing.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Liljeqvist: I think it is okay to ask the questions and come up with possible hypotheses, but seeing as there are, as well, cultural differences in how the genders are supposed to or expected to behave. I would hesitate to pronounce anything in too determined a way.

4. Jacobsen: Also, there’s a very long history. Even in democratic societies, women couldn’t vote. Women couldn’t own property. Eventually, when it came into play in the United States, only married women could own property; only married white women could own property. Certainly, there’s obviously legal and policy factors in a society that will have social and political, and educational, consequences as well.

Liljeqvist: It does. Although, it is interesting to know, as far as I know. For as long as women or girls have had access to education, they seem to have outperformed men or boys.

Jacobsen: Yes! We are seeing something unprecedented now, on the international scale.

Liljeqvist: Rather the other way around, that has been the case going way back. At any point they had equal access, they were not inferior to the boys, but they were superior to the boys in school. It is something I have read. So, why you have a larger percentage of males at the top levels as well as the bottom levels of IQ, while still having girls and women outperforming them? The universities are becoming more and more, increasingly, female. I think most educations, university educations, are becoming predominantly female, except for a lot of the engineering fields. In fairness, I don’t think the argument that that would be because of discrimination really holds up to scrutiny because, if that was the case, then look at the fields like law and medicine.

Jacobsen: Psychology is a great one too.

Liljeqvist: Yes, but look at the ones that used to be strong, male bastions of power.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Chairman, Mensa International.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 1, 2020:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2020:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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