Trump makes an IQ jab at Tillerson.

Between dismantling access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act, undercutting federal protections for LGBTQ people, and failing to talk about gun reform after the Las Vegas shootings, President Donald Trump has found time to start a frenemy feud with his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Tillerson called the president a moron, and Trump is pissed.

In an interview with Forbes, Trump said with Forbes, Trump said that,, regardless of whether he was called a moron — didn’t deny that he did that, and subsequently a State Department spokesperson said that he didn’t call Trump a moron. — — at first Tillerson didn’t, but then a State Department denied it on his behalf — he could best the former ExxonMobil CEO in an IQ test.

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”

Unfortunately for Trump, IQ tests don’t really tell you who is more of a moron. Invented in the 1900s to test how quickly children learned in school, the perception of how efficient IQ tests are has drastically changed over the past decade: More and more scientist understand that human intelligence is composed of multiple independent components and that measuring intelligence by something like a standardized IQ tests promotes misleading ideas about what being intelligent means.

“When we looked at the data, the bottom line is the whole concept of IQ — or of you having a higher IQ than me — is a myth,” Adrian Owen, Ph.D., told the Toronto Star. “There is no such thing as a single measure of IQ or a measure of general intelligence.”

Owen, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario, was the senior investigator on a 2012 study published in Cell in which he and his team analyzed the intelligence test results of 100,000 participants. They had each participant complete 12 different cognitive tests, probing their memory, reasoning, and planning skills. They determined that there’s not just one test that can accurately judge a person’s intelligence, and that to really understand how smart someone is you would simultaneously have to just them on their short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal responses.

IQ tests can accurately judge some things, like abstract reasoning and how much a person can memorize. But studies have also found that children who do better on IQ tests are usually just more motivated to do well, rather than more naturally intelligent. Numerous studies have also found that the test measures one’s social class background more than anything — it’s not raw intelligence that it measures, but how one has been taught to approach problems. Belief in the power of IQ tests also ignores research that proves that you can get better at IQ tests over time.

“IQ tests measure an important domain of cognitive functioning and they are moderately good at predicting academic and work success,” Keith Stanovich, Ph.D., a professor of human and developed and applied psychology said in an interview with Yale University. “But they are incomplete. They fall short of the full panoply of skills that would come under the rubric of good thinking.”

So even though Mensa is grabbing onto the coattails of the moment and has offered to host a IQ test-off between Tillerson and Trump, we wouldn’t really be able to tell who is the more intelligent one after it was over. Guess we’ll never know if Trump is smart or not.

Despite all the controversy, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders brought the feud to an end in a agonizingly boring finale when she announced on Tuesday that the president was just making a joke.


If you liked this article, check out this video on how genes related to higher education are becoming more scarce.

Photos via Getty Images / Pool