Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test. Mensa formally comprises national groups and the umbrella organization Mensa International, with a registered office in Caythorpe, Lincolnshire, England (which is separate from the British Mensa office in Wolverhampton). The word mensa (//; Latin: [ˈmensa]) means "table" in Latin, as is symbolized in the organization's logo, and was chosen to demonstrate the round-table nature of the organization; the coming together of equals.
|Formation||1 October 1946|
|Legal status||Non-profit company|
|Purpose||High IQ society|
|Headquarters||Slate Barn, Church Lane, Caythorpe, Lincolnshire, England, U.K.|
Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Dr. Lancelot Ware, a British scientist and lawyer, founded Mensa at Lincoln College, in Oxford, England, in 1946. They had the idea of forming a society for very intelligent people, the only qualification for membership being a high IQ. It was to be non-political and free from all other social distinctions (racial, religious, etc.).
Berrill and Ware were both disappointed with the resulting society. Berrill had intended Mensa as "an aristocracy of the intellect", and was unhappy that a majority of Mensans came from humble homes, while Ware said, "I do get disappointed that so many members spend so much time solving puzzles".
Mensa's requirement for membership is a score at or above the 98th percentile on certain standardised IQ or other approved intelligence tests, such as the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales. The minimum accepted score on the Stanford–Binet is 132, while for the Cattell it is 148. Most IQ tests are designed to yield a mean score of 100 with a standard deviation of 15; the 98th-percentile score under these conditions is 131, assuming a normal distribution.
Most national groups test using well established IQ test batteries, but American Mensa has developed its own application exam. This exam is proctored by American Mensa and does not provide a score comparable to scores on other tests; it serves only to qualify a person for membership. In some national groups, a person may take a Mensa-offered test only once, although one may later submit an application with results from a different qualifying test.
Mensa's constitution lists three purposes: "to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members".
Mensa International consists of around 134,000 members, in 100 countries, in 51 national groups. Individuals who live in a country with a national group join the national group, while those living in countries without a recognized chapter may join Mensa International directly.
The largest national groups are:
- American Mensa, with more than 57,000 members,
- British Mensa, with over 21,000 members, and
- Mensa Germany, with more than 13,000 members.
Larger national groups are further subdivided into local groups. For example, American Mensa has 134 local groups, with the largest having over 2,000 members and the smallest having fewer than 100.
Members may form Special Interest Groups (SIGs) at international, national, and local levels; these SIGs represent a wide variety of interests, both commonplace and obscure, ranging from motorcycle clubs to entrepreneurial co-operations. Some SIGs are associated with various geographic groups, whereas others act independently of official hierarchy. There are also electronic SIGs (eSIGs), which operate primarily as e-mail lists, where members may or may not meet each other in person.
The Mensa Foundation, a separate charitable U.S. corporation, edits and publishes its own Mensa Research Journal, in which both Mensans and non-Mensans are published on various topics surrounding the concept and measure of intelligence. The national groups also issue periodicals, such as Mensa Bulletin, the monthly publication of American Mensa, and Mensa Magazine, the monthly publication of British Mensa.
Mensa has many events for members, from the local to the international level. Several countries hold a large event called the Annual Gathering (AG). It is held in a different city every year, with speakers, dances, leadership workshops, children's events, games, and other activities. The American and Canadian AGs are usually held during the American Independence Day (4 July) or Canada Day (1 July) weekends respectively.
There are also smaller gatherings called Regional Gatherings (RGs) held in various cities that attract members from large areas; the largest in the United States is held in the Chicago area around Halloween, and features a costume party for which many members create pun-based costumes.
In 2006, the Mensa World Gathering was held from 8–13 August in Orlando, Florida to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Mensa. An estimated 2,500 attendees from over 30 countries gathered for this celebration. The International Board of Directors also had a formal meeting there. In 2010, a joint American-Canadian Annual Gathering was held in Dearborn, Michigan, to mark the 50th anniversary of Mensa in North America; this is one of several times the US and Canada AGs have been combined. Other multinational gatherings are the European Mensas Annual Gathering (EMAG), and the Asian Mensa Gathering (AMG).
Since 1990, American Mensa has also sponsored the annual Mensa Mind Games competition, whereas the Mensa Select award is given by American Mensa to five board games that are "original, challenging, and well designed".
Individual local groups and their members also host smaller events for members and their guests. Lunch or dinner events, lectures, tours, theatre outings, and games nights are all common.
All Mensa groups publish members-only newsletters or magazines, which include articles and columns written by members, and information about upcoming Mensa events. Examples include the American Mensa Bulletin, the British Mensa magazine, Serbian MozaIQ, the Australian TableAus, the Mexican El Mensajero, and the French Contacts. Some local or regional groups have their own newsletter, such as those in the United States, UK, Germany, and France.
Mensa also publishes the Mensa Research Journal, which "highlights scholarly articles and recent research related to intelligence". Unlike most Mensa publications, this journal is available to non-members.
All national and local groups welcome children; many offer activities, resources, and newsletters specifically geared toward gifted children and their parents. Both American Mensa's youngest member (Christina Brown) and British Mensa's youngest member (Adam Kirby) joined at the age of two. The current youngest member of Mensa is Adam Kirby, from Mitcham, Surrey, UK who was invited to join at the age of two years and four months and gained full membership at the age of two years five months. He scored 141 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test. Elise Tan-Roberts of the UK is the youngest person ever to join Mensa, having gained full membership at the age of two years and four months.
According to American Mensa's website (as of 2013[update]), 38 percent of its members are baby boomers between the ages of 51 and 68, 31 percent are Gen-Xers between the ages of 27 and 48, and more than 2,600 members are under the age of 18. There are more than 1,800 families in the United States with two or more Mensa members. In addition, the American Mensa general membership is "66 percent male, 34 percent female". The aggregate of local and national leadership is distributed equally between the sexes.
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