Archive for January, 2011

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been looking at some of Tony Buzan’s books, and in one entitled “Use Your Head” (from the 1970s), he invites the reader to make a list of all the possible problems they can think of to do with study and reading. On the next page, he lists out common themes that students on his seminars have written down. It covers things like motivation, analysis, organization, and literary style.

I compiled my own list, based both on my own life experiences, plus my observations of students on my own courses. I bet Tony Buzan has never seen, and would never expect, a list like mine! This is my unedited list, so some items may be very similar or cross over with others:

  1. No opportunity to do the course.
  2. Excluded from enrolling because of past course failures.
  3. The course was too expensive.
  4. No time, or insufficient time, to study.
  5. No private, uninterrupted place to study.
  6. No space to leave study materials set up (wastes valuable study time and is offputting to get everything out and then clear up again).
  7. Insufficient prior understanding or knowledge of subject matter to evaluate relative importances.
  8. Told by another that the subject was not important.
  9. Told by another that the subject was bad.
  10. Tiredness, hunger, illness etc.
  11. Only studying the subject because someone else said you should/had to.
  12. The curriculum is unnecessarily long.
  13. Material being presented piecemeal, i.e. no big picture being offered to the “systems thinker” student.
  14. Materials insufficiently deep or detailed.
  15. No course or material available on the subject area of interest.
  16. Materials either written for the popular market, or written for experts and being full of specialist terms and abstruse mathematical calculations, with nothing available to bridge the missing levels in between.
  17. Encoding of text to conceptual understanding.
  18. Ownership of the data.
  19. Invalidation of one’s abilities by self and others.
  20. Altered importances (i.e. aspects of the subject being given inappropriate weight, or lack thereof).
  21. Subject presented as a collection of facts, but no unifying theory.
  22. Dyscalculia.
  23. Vital data omitted.
  24. False/incorrectly included data.
  25. Time pressures – feeling unduly distracted by deadlines.
  26. Too uncritical/passive as a student.
  27. Bridging the gap between theory and application.
  28. Distractions.
  29. Interruptions.
  30. Pedantic course requirements (e.g. being tested verbatim).
  31. Put off by too many harsh flunks.
  32. Told that one’s understanding was incorrect or incomplete or plain wrong, when it was perfectly OK.
  33. No materials or curriculum in one’s possession.
  34. No such course existing.
  35. Course was poorly compiled or followed an inappropriate learning curve.
  36. Insufficient curricular flexibility to allow exploration of interesting or related topics.
  37. Exam performance rated over real learning.
  38. Basic data drilled ad nauseam when student had long since grasped the concept.
  39. Knowing the data, but being unable to find the reference where one read it again to cite it or show to another.
  40. Missing or inadequate knowledge of language/nomenclature.
  41. Rules presented in abstract form, instead of linked to the observations that led to their discovery.
  42. Insufficient personal reality on the subject matter.

I am thinking about compiling a study manual based on my knowledge and experience of study techniques and getting students unstuck from the difficulties they may be having, which may help with most if not all of the above.

I do not believe that Buzan’s study books, or any study guide available in bookstores, addresses what I am aiming to address. They do not present a methodical, systematic approach to really getting and understanding the material as you go along. They cover instead things like note-taking, revision and mnemonics, but miss the fact that one cannot take notes, revise or memorize what has been misunderstood (or missed altogether) by the student.

Some of Buzan’s suggestions may be helpful. In particular, I like the idea of “Mind Mapping”, which fits brilliantly into my study tech model under the general heading of demonstration and sketching.

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In the closing paragraphs of my earlier post about Phenomenal Memory and Magic Pill, I wondered what one particular instructor (a qualified psychologist) thought about Ruslan/Ines and Magic Pill.

I may have found the answer to my own question, in the instructor’s own blog.

Before reading further, please bear in mind that the person who wrote this is a trained psychologist who has studied the subject for most of his life. Now, I am all for being open to new data, new subject areas and new experiences, and my own explorations into the mind have extended far beyond the scope of my original training in study debug and basic counselling. However, do you not find some of the following claims just a little…well, unusual?

The best self-help technology ever

I am aware of some good self help knoweldge… NLP, Psychocybernetics, meditation, Chi-Gong, hypnosis… all great ways to solve mental problems of any kind.
I have read and studied a myriad of self help techniques but I think I have found the ultimate one.
Even if to be honest, I don’t have any idea of what it is but I know it works and I am about to find out more about it soon.
The best self-help technology ever, the ultimate self-help, and he knows it works… but he doesn’t have any idea of what it is?
And let me tell you… One thing Ruslan isn’t is a liar. If he say’s it’s a magic pill then it is the closes to a magic pill you can get!
So it is true, then, because Ruslan says so?
This person apparently did a Magic Pill session, but has been totally coy about what the technique actually entailed, and just kept repeating things along the lines of “If your problem is worth $1000 to get rid of, then do it, otherwise, leave Ruslan’s time free for those who do.”
Ruslan apparently operates some kind of bidding system whereby potential clients must bid at least $1000 (or up to $100,000 being mentioned for private sessions) to get a Magic Pill session. Ruslan claims that if people know in advance what the technique is, it may influence/spoil the results, but yet again my BS detector is beeping loudly. I have not come across anywhere else a system of therapy or self-help where prospective users are not allowed to read the literature, research online or ask questions at a prior consultation session to find out first what they are letting themselves in for. Again, I ask why a psychologist is condoning such a practice?
If the secrecy and mystique surrounding Ruslan’s practice is decidedly iffy, then perhaps even more so is the fact that a trained professional supports this first without knowing what it is, and secondly won’t offer a professional’s evaluation/opinion even when asked outright by commenters. Magic Pill shows signs of becoming a cult, and this PMemory instructor has been suckered right in.

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On my online travels, I came across the website of this man who apparently had a career as a stage and TV magician before choosing to promote himself as “the man with the perfect IQ”.

I will leave it up to individual readers what they think of the tag “Mega Genius”.

However, I will say that from my own observations, people entering High IQ Land for the first time with illusions of genius just because of a score on a test are usually put straight on that perspective pretty quickly by other members. Contrary to popular belief, members of high IQ societies are usually quite intolerant of those who join just to assert themselves as a genius.

The label “genius” is usually understood to apply to qualities in addition to raw intelligence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genius.  The use of “genius” to describe a level of intellectual functioning, as expressed in terms of IQ, is generally considered old fashioned nowadays by psychometricians. The terms that tend to be used in modern psychometric literature in respect of high intellectual ability is “very superior” or “very high functioning”.

Diamond has a section on his site entitled “Intelligence certification”, where he claims:

In 1985, Robert M. Brook, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Diplomate, Neuropsychology, at the Assessment & Psychological Consultation Center, in Santa Monica, California, officially evaluated Jim Diamond’s level of intellectual functioning.  As documented by Dr. Brook, ‘The evaluation session extended for two hours of face-to-face contact and no rest breaks were taken,’ as Diamond did not need any.

Dr. Brook concluded that Jim Diamond had the highest certified level of intellectual performance possible on the ‘Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Revised,’ the world’s most accurate intelligence test for an adult.  Diamond’s intelligence equaled, or exceeded, the uppermost limit of the highest category of the IQ scale, ‘Very Superior’ functioning, which is the highest that any standard ‘face-to-face’ IQ test can accurately measure.

Diamond’s intellectual performance equates to an IQ score that approximates 200 on the Cattell IQ test (which is as high as that test can accurately measure), and perfect scores of 2400 on the SAT Reasoning Test (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test) and 36 on the American College Test (ACT).

The WAIS-R has a maximum possible reportable IQ score of 150, although it may have been possible to infer theoretical scores up to about 190 by using a set of calculations based on raw scores for individual tasks extending beyond the official scale for each section of the test. Furthermore, there are two types of Cattell IQ test, the Cattell Verbal and the Cattell Culture Fair, which measure different things and are scored according to different scales. According to the website of British Mensa, “..an adult can achieve a maximum score of 161 on the Cattell III B (verbal) test”. The Cattell Culture Fair has a ceiling score of 183. So, how Diamond’s performance on the WAIS-R can approximate “200 on the Cattell IQ test”, or on any test for that matter, he does not elaborate.

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Revised” is renowned as the world’s most accurate and valid intelligence test of the twenty-first century. It is a grueling one-on-one examination, consisting of extensive and prolonged face-to-face mental interrogation of the subject by an eminently trained psychometrist.  This highly specialized IQ-test administrator not only judges every answer given by the subject for accuracy, conciseness and completeness, but also times every answer with a stopwatch.

The previous paragraph contains a couple of inaccuracies.

Firstly, the Wechsler test has been revised two more times since the publication of the WAIS-R version. The content of the test has been refined, and the norms have been updated.  So yes, in the 1980s the WAIS-R was probably for sure the best test going. But the gold standard test of the 21st Century (if indeed the Wechsler is still considered such), would have to be the WAIS-IV, which the publisher’s website seems to imply is substantially different.

Secondly, not all Wechsler sub-tests are timed. Of those that are timed, mostly this is for the purposes of administrative convenience, and still allows most candidates plenty of time in which to respond and receive full credit for their response without feeling unduly pressurized. The only parts of the test where absolutely every second counts are the sections specifically designed to measure processing speed, and a couple of other tasks where time bonus points are awarded.

Diamond has held memberships in numerous high-IQ societies, including Mensa (which requires an IQ of approximately 130), the International Legion of Intelligence (which is twice as restrictive as Mensa), and the Triple Nine Society (which is 20 times as restrictive as Mensa).

Jim Diamond is the only person to have resigned from every major high-IQ society in the world, because none was able to provide him with a sufficient degree of intellectual stimulation.

If I wanted intellectual stimulation, I could think of plenty of better places to get it than a high IQ society (many of which are simply an online discussion forum with a closed membership). Nevertheless, I can think of many more valuable reasons to belong: for instance, a sense of community with other high IQ people, or opportunities to network and publish.

In addition, in 2010, he respectfully resigned from the following four high-IQ organizations in which he had been awarded honorary memberships: Ingenium High IQ Society, UNIQ Society, LOGIQ Society, and Coeus Society. He has chosen to rejoin the Triple Nine Society (20 times as restrictive as Mensa), and is currently a member.

So, Triple Nine is now able to offer the “intellectual stimulation” Diamond so craves?  As regards what happened with the other societies, I saw this page: http://www.megagenius.com/Email_to_Martin_Tobias_Lithner.htm I am sure there are two sides to every story, and I have tried to encourage Mr Lithner to respond. (I cannot help but feel that it would just have been simpler for Diamond to just send Lithner a copy of that WAIS-R score report of which he is so proud, rather than write a long email, post the email publicly on his site, and involve his legal representative and other administrative staff at his company.)

Some years ago a select group of faculty members from Stanford University and the University of California conducted an in-depth study of the apparent IQ’s of some of the most eminent men and women from the past.

According to the findings, published in Genetic Studies of Genius, by Catherine Morris Cox, Ph.D., Mega Genius’® certified IQ far exceeds those of Nicholas Copernicus, Sir Francis Drake, Michael Faraday, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Rembrandt van Rijn, Martin Luther, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Franz Joseph Haydn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Sir Isaac Newton, Benedict de Spinoza, Ludwig van Beethoven, Charles Robert Darwin, Immanuel Kant, Leonardo da Vinci, Peter Paul Rubens, Francis Bacon, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo Galilei, Daniel Webster, and Thomas Jefferson, to name only a few.

The operative word here is “apparent”. IQ did not even exist as a concept until the early twentieth century, and the persons on the “roll call” above certainly would not have sat a formal IQ test.

A fascinating characteristic of intelligence is that the lower a person’s IQ, the more he disagrees with others, regardless of their intellect. Conversely, the higher a person’s IQ, the more he permits others to believe as they choose, and agrees with those whose intellects approximate his own.

Bold statements. Perhaps Mega Genius could expostulate on why members of high IQ societies cannot seem to agree on anything?

Accordingly, geniuses tend to see things similarly and the highest-caliber geniuses view things essentially identically.  At least until we come to Mega Genius®, who sees our world in a manner unique to himself– from far beyond the top of the IQ scale.

Move over, Einstein!


Next, follow the red-circled treasure box for a rare and revealing one-time interview with “the man with the perfect IQ™,” in which he discusses the most extraordinary discovery of the twenty-first century:  Level I of “The Mega Genius® Lectures” — “The Genius Formula ™.”

I corresponded elsewhere with someone who said he had bought the first set of lectures.  This post originally contained the customer’s review of the lectures.  This portion of the post has been removed at the request of the author.

Mega Genius claims to be an “internationally-acclaimed expert consultant on intelligence”.  That being the case, I wouldn’t mind seeing some independently-recorded test scores, administered to a significant number of subjects before and after studying Diamond’s lectures.

You can also “review his incomparable qualifications” on his site here: http://www.mega-genius.com/his_qualifications.htm Perhaps I am missing seeing what else he possesses by means of qualification in this area, apart from that one test?

Diamond claims to have recorded lectures covering every significant area of mankind’s activity on this planet, and claims to be the only person to have undertaken such an endeavour. Actually, I know of at least one philosopher who has done such a thing in living memory, and having read some of the other free content on the site, I am fairly sure I can see where Diamond has gotten a lot of his data from.

[Update (March 2011): Interestingly, since I first started musing on the origins of his data, most of the articles on his site have been removed.]

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Many exceptional people talk of “impostor syndrome”: the feeling that they might not really be all they are cracked up to be, and that sooner or later they will be “found out”.

There might have been occasional moments now and again when I have felt like that. Who hasn’t felt like that from time to time? However, in my personal experience, more often than not, I have felt as if I am going through life having to convince people that I am the real deal.

If I had a pound coin for every job I had applied for or agency I went to visit who couldn’t understand, for whatever reason, that I really could do all the things I claimed I could do, then I’m sure I could comfortably take my entire office department out to dinner. In an expensive hotel.

Time and time again, when I somehow managed to slip in the back door or circumvent the usual admissions or recruitment process, I was inevitably met with shock and surprise from bosses and colleagues at the skills they suddenly realised I possessed, or how quickly I was able to pick them up.

Most of the jobs I have been offered came up because I got sent there as a temp for a few days and ended up being offered the position permanently. When organizations can try before they buy, they are often willing to turn a blind eye to lack of paper qualifications or years of notched up experience, because I can quickly prove my ability to DO.

Such proof cannot be demonstrated, obviously, when the job is not offered, the study place is not offered, the funding isn’t made available for the proposal, the necessary contacts do not make themselves available, etc. etc.

I can just imagine a few self-styled agony aunts or “life coaches” at this juncture nodding sagely and telling themselves the difficulty must be in how I sell or present myself. No, it’s even simpler than that: it’s a vicious circle which can be summed up as follows:

(1) Employer or admissions tutor thinks the person can not, because to date he/she has not.

(2) Person has not, because the opportunity wasn’t afforded him/her.

(3) The opportunity wasn’t offered, because organizations and colleges thought the person could not.

And so it goes around.

Where it is the other party in question who holds the cards, it can be very difficult for the person trying to prove him or herself to break the cycle. For instance, when applying for a job, it is the company who have the say in whether they offer me the position or not. It is not somehow down to me to force them to offer it. If the interviewer has already decided that she favours another candidate, even if I do everything those “Successful Jobhunting” guidebooks do and follow up with a polite letter or phone call asking if there is anything I can do to entice the interviewer to change her mind, then the ultimate decision is still down to her and not me. Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be astonished at how many people seem to think that not getting that desperately-needed break had EVERYTHING to do with the candidate.

So, I have been forced to investigate ways in which to become more clued up about how to get breaks through the back door. I may be just about to pull off one such coup very shortly, if all goes according to plan. Watch this space.

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