Outliers ….

Like everyone else I know, I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s  Outliers, at the moment – the intriguing story about why some people become outliers in the sense of being extraordinarily successful while others with similar-seeming innate gifts don’t do as well.

One thing that Gladwell does in the book is give examples of questions from some IQ tests, and he never answers the questions.  The one that has been bugging me as well as a number of other people is the question:  “Teeth is to hen, as nest is to _____”.

Anyone know the answer?  [see under the fold]

Apparently the answer is “mare” because a “mare’s nest” doesn’t exist just like “hen’s teeth” don’t exist.

While it is possible to say that just about any animal that doesn’t have a nest would fit in the blank, the only animal that fits and forms a common English saying is “mare”.

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12 Responses

  1. Christopher says:

    Cow, sow, doe, vixen, ewe.

  2. Craig says:

    This is an excellent example a good objection to IQ tests. It depends on the exposure of the test taker to colloquial english. None of my 5 children, ranging in age from 5 to 16 have even heard the phrase “hen’s teeth”, while the older ones did guess that it must be something rare and so logically filled in animals that don’t nest, none had heard the colloquialism “mare’s nest” either. Now, my children aren’t rocket surgeons, but neither should they be dinged for lack of exposure to phrases that are not at all common in their vernacular.

  3. Bruce Boyden says:

    Either it’s a bad IQ test, or an old IQ test, or both.

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    I’m probably older than most who read this blog, and I didn’t recall “mare’s nest,” nor any occcasion on which I might have used it. I guess I’m young enough to be in the pigs/wings/flying-out-of-butts generation of thaumatology. In the early 1960s, the “Candid Camera” TV show often showed segments capitalizing on kids’ ignorance of these expressions. (My younger sister, then in 1st grade, made it on air when she completed “Fools rush in where …” with “people are crowded.”) OTOH, I don’t recall seeing questions like that on the zillions of standardized tests we took in elementary school. Could Gladwell just be telling an old wives’ narrative?

  5. Jason Mazzone says:

    Agatha Christie likes to use “mare’s nest.” I suspect it is more common in British English. Gladwell’s father is English (Gladwell grew up in Canada).

  6. Sue says:

    Anyone know the answers (as to how they’re obtained) to the IQ test questions in the Outlier’s book? Especially Raven’t question on page78? Please explain. Thanks

  7. Mara says:

    I would’ve said “dentist”. What is a nest to a dentist??

  8. Bobby says:

    I think it’s funny that Craig’s children are not “rocket surgeons”.

  9. Maria says:

    I thought the “rocket surggeons” were funny too. I didn’t know the answer eihter, but hey, English isn’t my native tongue, do I guess I’m excused. This is exactly why IQ-tests aren’t accurate.

    As to the answer to the Raven’s question, I haven’t the foggiest. Don’t feel stupid though, the test measures your ability to learn (as will as your reasoning skills). That means that if you take the whole test you will get to a higher level than you’d be able to do in the beginning. You might even be able to solve this one…

  10. Jeoff says:

    The answer to the Raven’s test is A because the shapes within it’s cells correlate to squares in the other two (vertical rows). If you look at the puzzle vertically, each square has a similar pattern to a square in the other rows. So if you number the squares 1-3 from top to bottom in the first row, then look in the second row to see which square shares the same pattern of shapes (not exact, just the same number). Doing this you’ll find that the first row is 1,2,3 the second row is 2,3,1 and the third row is 3,1, and the missing square is 2.

  11. Jared says:

    Jeoff, that answer was far from detailed enough for me to figure out what you’re saying. You need to distinguish between 3×3 squares and smaller squares, and also between rows of 3×3 squares and rows within 3×3 squares.

  12. Dominic Caraccilo says:

    house… a hen lives in a nest…. people have teeth… people live in houses