Apples and Oranges

Once I talked to my friend Michael Plotkin about IQ tests, which we both do not like. Michael suggested that I run an experiment and send a standard IQ question for children to my highly-educated friends. So I sent a mass email asking:

What’s common between an apple and an orange?

I believe that the expected answer is that both are fruits.

Less than half of my friends would have passed the IQ test. They gave four types of answer. The largest group chose the expected answer.

The second group related the answer to language. For example, apples and oranges both start with a vowel and they both have the letters A and E in common.

The third group connected the answer to what was on their minds at the time:

  • Apples and oranges are both healthy foods that I enjoy, but do not eat as often as I should.
  • They have the same thing in common as do a saxophone and a guitar.
  • You can’t shave with either one.
  • They both are much worse than a cucumber in the bedroom.

And the last group were people who just tried to impress me:

  • One should not decide that n apples is better than m oranges just because n > m.
  • They both can provoke the discovery of gravity.
  • You can’t compare apples and oranges.
  • Existence.
  • They both have fundamental meaning in food tongue.
  • They’re topologically homeomorphic.

If my friends with high IQs have given so many different answers, I would expect children to do the same. The variety of answers is so big that no particular one should define IQ. By the way, my own well-educated kids’ answers are quoted above — and they didn’t go with the standard answer. I’m glad they never had IQ tests as children: I’m sure they would never have passed.



  1. Petter:

    All those answers would have strongly indicated an intelligent child. The purpose of the question is language understanding, I presume.

  2. Hemant:

    You might appreciate this:


  3. Johnson:

    By the way, my own well-educated kids’ answers are quoted above.

    Please specify which among the last 3 answers?

  4. colorblind:

    What they have in common is they were both in a question asked by you. Had the participants been taken from their classes/work and asked the same question in a formal environment, those last three categories would have been much smaller.

  5. NTG:

    I’ve always felt like an idiot trying to solve those iq tests. I was thinking endlessly even when confronted with those first ones that suppose to be simple, having no clue what I am expected to do ;D It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who couldn’t decide which answer is better and why ;D
    P.S. My favourite answer for this ‘apple – orange’ question is that the both exist ;d

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