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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 standardised, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test. Mensa formally comprises national groups and the umbrella organisation 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]) is Latin for 'table', as is symbolised in the organisation's logo, and was chosen to demonstrate the round-table nature of the organisation; the coming together of equals.
|Formation||1 October 1946|
|Legal status||Limited non-profit organisation|
|Purpose||High IQ society|
|Headquarters||Slate Barn, Church Lane, Caythorpe, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom|
Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Lancelot Ware, a British scientist and lawyer, founded Mensa at Lincoln College, in Oxford, England in 1946, with the intention of forming a society for the most intelligent, with the only qualification being a high IQ.
The society was ostensibly to be non-political in its aims, and free from all other social distinctions, such as race and religion. However, Berrill and Ware were both disappointed with the resulting society. Berrill had intended Mensa as "an aristocracy of the intellect" and was unhappy that the majority of members came from working or lower-class 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[clarification needed] 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. The Mensa test is also available in some developing countries such as India and Pakistan, and societies in developing countries have been growing at a rapid pace.
Mensa International consists of around 134,000 members in 100 countries and in 54 national groups. The national groups issue periodicals, such as Mensa Bulletin, the monthly publication of American Mensa, and Mensa Magazine, the monthly publication of British Mensa. Individuals who live in a country with a national group join the national group, while those living in countries without a recognised 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,
- Mensa Germany, with about 15,000 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, 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 email 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.
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.
Smaller gatherings called Regional Gatherings (RGs), which are held in various cities, attract members from large areas. The largest in the United States is held in the Chicago area around Halloween, notably featuring 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 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, 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 sponsored the annual Mensa Mind Games competition, at which the Mensa Select award is given to five board games that are "original, challenging, and well designed".
Individual local groups and their members host smaller events for members and their guests. Lunch or dinner events, lectures, tours, theatre outings, and games nights are all common.
In Europe, since 2008 international meetings have been held under the name [EMAG] (European Mensa Annual Gathering), starting in Cologne that year. The next meetings were in Utrecht (2009), Prague (2010), Paris (2011), Stockholm (2012), Bratislava (2013), Zürich (2014), Berlin (2015), Kraków (2016), Barcelona (2017), Belgrade (2018) and Ghent (2019). The 2020 event was postponed and took place in 2021 in Brno. Upcoming EMAGs will be held in Strassbourg (2022) and Århus (2023).
In the Asia-Pacific region, there is an Asia-Pacific Mensa Annual Gathering (AMAG), with rotating countries hosting the event. This has included Gold Coast, Australia (2017), Cebu, Philippines (2018), New Zealand (2019), and South Korea (2020).
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.
Only some national Mensas accept child members; many offer activities, resources, and newsletters specifically geared toward gifted children and their parents. Both American Mensa's youngest member (Kashe Quest), British Mensa's youngest member (Adam Kirby), and several Australian Mensa members joined at the age of two. The current youngest member of Mensa is Adam Kirby, from Mitcham, London 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. In 2018, Mehul Garg became the youngest person in a decade to score the maximum of 162 in the test.
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 or Millennials 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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