The IQ test that so many of us are familiar with and likely have even taken ourselves at some point in our lives. Understanding what the average IQ is for human beings is a more complex subject than it might appear on the surface. In fact, some say that many IQ tests are so biased and discriminatory by nature that they ought to be scrapped entirely. We’ll explore some of these controversial topics below.

Average IQ test scores by country

When you think of looking at the average IQ you probably want to first compare the average IQ scores of people from different countries. This might seem like a quick and easy way to figure out which regions have the smartest people in the world. This can and will be disputed by some, but the quick breakdown of it looks like this:

  • Hong Kong: 108
  • Singapore: 108
  • South Korea: 106

Then towards the bottom of the list, you have countries such as:

  • Mozambique: 64
  • Saint Lucia: 62
  • Equatorial Guinea: 59

National IQ per country - estimates by Lynn and Vanhanen 2006.pngiq map legend
By WD RIK NEW at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Clearly, when demographic factors and race get tossed into a discussion, things have the tendency to get controversial, but there is a lot to unpack from these types of numbers in terms of the tests themselves and the nature of intelligence and IQ testing.

Nature vs. nurture

It can quickly get pretty disturbing when some people take average IQ score data out of context and begin to believe that certain races are simply genetically superior to others. Unfortunately, there are people who use some of these test scores to justify this line of thinking. Despite the fact that many people take this line of thinking, there has been no scientific link found between genetics related to race and intelligence. Much more evidence has surfaced that nurture plays a big role in how someone does on the test. Another factor that can influence test scores is life experiences. Some of the questions on the test are presented in such a way that some people may not know the answers simply because their life experiences have not exposed them to the subject matter. So, for example, if a person has never had a mortgage or does not understand what one is based on where they live, a question on that topic can be more difficult than it is for someone familiar with what a mortgage is.

It’s simply a fact that IQ tests have most frequently been created by white men from certain regions of the world, namely Western Europe and the United States. Not surprisingly, these tests are standardized to the experiences of their creators. If you are not a part of that sex or race, then you may have trouble understanding some of what is being asked of you on the test. In effect, you could be penalized on your score for simply not having had the same life experiences as others. These are some of the frequent critiques of popular versions of the IQ test. However, this has also led to some innovations in testing and the rise of other tests which try to measure intelligence while avoiding cultural bias, like the Cattell Culture Fair IQ test.

IQ by gender: average female IQ vs. average male IQ

The interesting answer here is that the average adult IQ is nearly identical for males and females. While there has been plenty of banter and discussion over the years as to which sex has the upper hand in terms of intelligence, it turns out that the average human IQ doesn’t discriminate in terms of gender. One thing worth noting here is that the IQ results for both men and women have risen in the last few decades, but the scores for women have been rising at a faster rate than for men.