Are you smart?

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How smart are you?  How do you know? If you think of yourself as smart it is probably because you have done well on your exams in school, maybe you have even filled out an IQ test and have applied to Mensa.

The problem with tests of course is that they can only measure what you know about specific questions. What happens when we ask the wrong questions! How do we know what questions to ask? Ask the wrong question and you cannot measure much of anything.

Photo Credit: _DJ_ via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: _DJ_ via Compfight cc

Here is a great quiz I shared with a group travelling overseas. The quiz helps point out our cultural assumptions about intelligence.

Anyone out there a cross cultural genius? These questions have been taken from a selection of Western and Australian-Aboriginal intelligence tests.


The Western Test of Intelligence

1. What number comes next in the following sequence: 1 2 5 6 9 10 ___________

2. How many weeks are in a year? ___________

3. Filthy is to disease as clean is to __________

4. Three of the following may classified with pool. What are they? (circle your answers)

  • lagoon
  • swamp
  • lake
  • marsh
  • pond

5. Which items may be classified with clock? (circle your answers)

  • ruler
  • thermometer
  • rainguage
  • tachometer

6. If BAD is written 214, how would you write DIG in the same secret writing? ______

7. If Mary’s aunt is my mother, what relation is Mary’s father to my sister? _______

8. Why does the state require people to get a license in order to get married?

9. What is the thing to do if you find an envelope in the street that is sealed, addressed and has a new stamp?

10. Why should you keep away from bad company?


The Australian-Aboriginal Test of Intelligence

These items relate to the culture of the Edward River Community in Far North Queensland [Source unknown]

1. What number comes next in the sequence, one, two, three, __________?

2. How many lunar months are in a year?

3. As wallaby is to animal so cigarette is to __________

4. Three of the following items may be classified with salt-water crocodile. Which are they? (circle your answers)

  • marine turtle
  • brolga
  • frilled lizard
  • black snake

5. Which items may be classified with sugar? (circle your answers)

  • honey
  • witchetty grub
  • flour
  • water-lillies

6. We eat food and we __________ water.

7. Sam, Ben and Harry are sitting together. Sam faces Ben and Ben gives him a cigarette. Harry sits quietly with his back to both Ben and Sam and contributes nothing to the animated conversation going on between Sam and Ben. One of the men is Ben’s brother, the other is Ben’s sister’s child. Who is the nephew? (circle your answer)

  1. Sam
  2. Harry
  3. Ben

8. Suppose your brother in his mid-forties dies unexpectedly. Would you attribute his death to (circle your answer):

  1. God
  2. Fate
  3. Germs
  4. No-one
  5. Someone
  6. Your brother himself

9. You are out in the bush with your wife and young children and you are all hungry. You have a rifle and bullets. You see three animals all within range – a young emu, a large kangaroo and a small female wallaby. Which should you shoot for food? (circle your answer)

  1. Young emu
  2. Large kangaroo
  3. Small female wallaby

10. Why should you be careful of your cousins?

The answers are past the click …


The Western Test of Intelligence

Scoring Sheet: Western Test of Intelligence

1. Answer is 13. Add 1 to the first number, then add 3, ,then 1, then 3, etc.

2. Fifty-two

3. Health – If you believe that germs cause illness and if you believe that absences of “filth” signifies the absence of germs.

4. Lagoon, lake, pond

5. All of these. They are all measuring devices.

6. 497. Solution of this problem requires ability to count and sort some of concept of codes.

7. Uncle. Assumes conceptualization of European/Western familial relationships.

8. For social control? To see that people do not commit bigamy? To see that closely related kinsfolk do not marry? For statistical purposes? To ensure that people who are under age do not marry?

9. Mail it. A more practical line of action might be: open it to see if it contains anything of value, carefully remove the stamp for your own use and be $0.50 richer. In a highly acquisitive society principles of “honesty” and respect for unprotected property have to be supported or society could easily break down. Note the question asks “What is the thing to do….” not “What would you do….” Again, the “correct” answer has a moral basis.

10. Because they may influence your own behavior and get you into trouble. However, this only correct if you believe that bad people influence good people and not vice versa, that people who behave badly should be isolated in the community. Again, the “correct” answer has a moral basis.

Scoring Sheet: Original Australian-Aboriginal Test of Intelligence

1. One, two, three, many….the kuuk thaayorre system of counting only goes to three…thana, kuthir, pinalam, mong, mong, mong, etc. The word mong is best translated as “many” since it can mean any number between 4 and 9 or 10 after which yuur mong (many figures) would be more appropriate.

2. Those who say thirteen are right in European terms but irrelevant in
Edward River terms. The speakers of kuuk thaayorre clearly recognise lunar menstruation and possess a notion of the lunar month as calculated as the time between one phase of the moon and the next appearance of that particular phase. However, apart from having no specific word to designate thirteen and thirteen only – yurr mong or “very many”, is the right answer – the annual cycle is crouched in terms of environmental rhythms rather than in terms of fixed, invariant divisions of time. The “year” then is the time between the onset of one wet season and the onset of the next wet season – and wet seasons may be early or late, so who can be precise?

3. The right answer is “tree”. This stems from the kuuk thaayorre speakers early experience with tobacco which was “stick” tobacco, hence it is classified with tree.

4. Crocodiles, turtles, birds and frill necked lizards are all classified as minh (which broadly might be translated as animals). Snakes along with eels are classified as yak which may be broadly translated as snake-like creatures.

5. All the items are classified with sugar as belong to the class of objects known as may. Broadly translated, may means vegetable food. Even witchetty grubs that are found in the roots of trees fall under this rubric – so does honey which is also associated with trees and hence fruit. The kuuk thaayorre language had no problem fitting flour into the may category since it obviously resembled some of their own processed vegetable foods (e.g., yams like Dioscoria sativa elongata). The word may can also mean sweet and hence sugar, which of course does not resemble anything in their traditional culinary.

6. “Eat” is the right word – well sort of, anyway. Where we make a distinction between “eating” and “drinking”, kuuk thaayorre does not and they use the same verb to describe both functions and why not?

7. The clues are easy for kuuk thaayorre. An avoidance taboo operates between mother’s brother and sister’s son and politeness requires that sister’s son should never directly face mother’s brother nor talk to him directly in company. Sam and Ben are obviously brothers because of their unrestrained interaction while Harry, with his back turned to both his uncles is obviously the respectful nephew.

8. Among the kuuk thaayorre God has been equated with a mythological character and he is definitely non-malevolent. Both fate and germs are concepts foreign to the kuuk thaayorre belief system. No-one dies without reason and suicide is unknown to them, so the right answer is SOMEONE – which is the case in this sorcery riddled society.

9. The small female wallaby is the right answer. Emu is a food that may be consumed only by very old people. Kangaroos (especially large ones) may not be eaten by parents or their children. The children will get sick otherwise. Everyone knows that….don’t they?

10. Because some of them have to be avoided like the plague. For example, a male must avoid his father’s sister’s daughter, or anyone classified with her. Such relations are called poison cousins in Aboriginal English.

How did you do? Are you intelligent?

Mark Crocker

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