Smart people are boring

Starting this Thursday, the highly gifted Mensa Association is organizing its first international conference: gifted people from 20 nations meet in Cologne for "intelligent entertainment". Cafeteria member and psychologist Karin Joder, who has an IQ of over 130, diagnoses giftedness in her practice and coaches people with special skills. Here she explains what makes the smartest two percent of the population tick and why the gifted prefer to be among themselves.

sueddeutsche.de: Did you not know that you were gifted until the result of your IQ test, or did you already know as a child that you were smarter than most?

Karin Joder: No, I didn't know that as a child. I was often bored at school and felt that I was somehow different. But I didn't attribute that to my being gifted. I was more likely to think that something was wrong with me. That's why, as a child, I never dared to do much.

sueddeutsche.de: How did you react when you found out you had an IQ of over 130?

Joder: I was surprised - and relieved, because I now knew that everything was fine with me after all. Surprised because I didn't fit into my image of gifted people myself. I always imagined them to be like Einstein or Mozart, not like me.

sueddeutsche.de: Highly gifted people tend to be difficult in the population: They have behavioral problems, but gifted, according to the cliché.

Joder: According to current studies, only 15 percent of all gifted people are so-called underachievers. These are highly gifted people whose school performance is only average or below average. So 85 percent are not extremely noticeable.

sueddeutsche.de: Does that mean that the vast majority are coping well with their situation and are happy?

Joder: No. Many gifted people have the feeling of remaining below their possibilities for a lifetime and suffer from them. Even if they have not become 'behavioral'. You feel like an outsider.

sueddeutsche.de: Why? Because they consider themselves an elite?

Joder: The word elite has such a negative connotation these days that I wouldn't use it in that context. Most gifted people actually feel completely normal as long as they pursue their own interests and are constantly looking for new ideas and challenges. Many have friends who are also gifted. That's why I'm also a member of Mensa. There you meet a lot of like-minded people.

sueddeutsche.de: Is it boring for gifted people to hang out with "normal" people?