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Mensa has three stated purposes:
-To identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity
-To encourage research in the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence
-To promote stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members.
— From Mensa International's website "About Mensa"
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Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization started in 1946, and open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test. Mensa is formally composed of national groups and the umbrella organization Mensa International, which is based in England.

Mensa” means “table” in Latin, and the logo is the world on a table, demonstrating the coming together of equals – like the Knights of the Round Tablenote . The unofficial mascot is the owl.note 

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Some people refer to Mensa as an "elite" organization in a pejorative sense.note  It's important to remember that Mensa's requirements are not intended to exclude, but to find and bring together highly intelligent individuals.note  While of course there are some who join to prove something to themselves, the majority join to meet people and make friends. Some find it very helpful in understanding their own intelligence to have the chance to be around others who they already know are intelligent.

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Mensa does not have an established platform or set of values. Individual Mensans can and do have opinions about religion, politics, etc - but the organization as a whole does not. Inside of Mensa are multiple Member-operated Special Interest Groups (SIGs), of varying activity levels on subjects which range from religion to politics to movies to ESP to medical conditions to food. A SIG must be approved by the national organization to become official, and cannot use the words "Mensa" or "Mensan" in its name.note 

The events differ according to whatever a local group does, often having meetings at restaurants, or games nights, or parties at people's homes. The events are posted in a monthly newsletter. Some groups have more events than others. Most groups are centered around cities, making it harder for Mensans who are out in the country to attend regularly. Each local group is loosely led by a Local Secretary ("LocSec") who is voted on. Many local groups' largest events of the year are Regional Gatherings (RG), which usually attract members from nearby areas and often last a weekend at a hotel. An RG usually includes low room rates for the group, a hospitality suite with food and socialization, a games room and a number of seminars on a range of subjects. Some Mensans make it a point to go to as many RG's as possible - there's usually one going on every weekend, somewhere, in the United States at least.

A country will have an Annual Gathering (AG) once a year. For instance, the American and Canadian AGs are usually held during the American Independence Day (July 4th) or Canada Day (July 1st) holiday weekends respectively. Sometimes World Gatherings are held, such as in 2006 to celebrate 60 years of Mensa - an estimated 2,500 members from over 30 countries attended.

American Mensa also holds a Mind Games event every year. At the event Mensans spend an entire weekend playing an assortment of games for instance, 65 were available in 2012. At the end of the weekend they rate each game, and five winners are chosen to receive the Mensa Select seal. A sampling of previous winners includes Trivial Pursuit, Magic: The Gathering, Scattegories, Taboo, and Apples to Apples.

What would you see if you went to a Mensa event? Well, of the three stated goals above, most members enjoy the social aspect. Being able to meet people who you absolutely know have a like level of intelligence is not something Mensa members get in their daily lives.note  What you find for the most part is people sitting around and talking, playing games, sharing jokes and doing other things normal people do. You’ll see all the sorts of people you would see at any social gathering. Probably not everyone you see will be a member, either. A Mensan's spouse and children are welcome at events, whether they themselves actually qualify or not. While in the general population, extroverts outnumber introverts, in Mensa this tends to be flipped with introverts in the majority.

For more information, you can visit Mensa International's website, and even has a sample test which cannot tell if you qualify for Mensa, but can give you a feel for the sort of things you will see on an actual test.

Mensa is a name, not an acronym, so only the first letter has to be capitalized.

What are the chances a person could get in?

We'll answer the obvious question on lots of people's minds when learning about Mensa: Do I qualify?

Anyone can join if they have scored at the 98th percentile on the accepted tests. All you need is one test score - low scores on previous tests do not count against the personnote . After that requirement, any human, any color, any creed, any income level is welcome to join. Mensa likes to point out that while people call them elitist, you will find it hard to find another organization so accepting of so many different types of people.

If TV Tropes is ruining your life it's probably a given that your intelligence is at the very least in the upper 50%. That's a wide swath of humanity, and no guarantee of the top 2%, but only you can know how intelligent you are. Only one person out of every fifty qualifies, but 1 in 50 would be pretty good odds to a gambler. The odds of winning a state lottery are 1 in 120 million, yet people (even Mensans!) will blow money every day on it.

Mensa has its own test you can take. It will not tell you what your specific IQ is, simply if you qualify for Mensa or not. You must be over 14 years old to take Mensa's own test, but other IQ tests exist for any age. (For more about IQ Testing in general, see that page.) Many local groups will have a test during their RG - sometimes taking the test includes admission to the RG the full day of the test.

The best place to go for information, of course, is the International Mensa Website's listing of each country's Mensa websites. Visit the site for your home country and they will have information on how to see if you qualify, and how to contact your local group.

It cannot be stressed hard enough that if you want to be in Mensa, but don't score into it - we are sure you are smart enough not to base your perception of yourself on a number. Everyone has an intelligence they can make the most of, even if it isn't exceptional.


Works where Mensa is mentioned or alluded to:

Newspaper Comics

Film

  • Miracle Mile: When the group from the café is brainstorming over who to take with them to safety, one person says “We have to think Mensa here!”
  • Me, Myself & Irene: Charlie's wife runs off with an dwarf African-American limousine driver who also happens to be the head of the local Mensa chapter.
  • During The Film Crew's riffing of The Giant of Marathon.
    Phillipides: The gods gave me strength, but they gave you something more important - intelligence. Be sure you make use of it.
    Mike Nelson: Please join Mensa.

Literature

  • Woody Allen's short story "The Whore of Mensa," about a man who is unhappy because his wife will not discuss Ezra Pound or other sophisticated subjects, so he seeks out a service that provides college students for this purpose.

Live-Action TV

  • Columbo: "The Bye-Bye Sky-High IQ Murder Case" is set at a Mensa-style club, with the killer being an Insufferable Genius who considered the victim, and the other members of the club, to be inferior to his own intellect. When dealing with Columbo, he occasionally got glimpses through Columbo's façade, and by the time of the his arrest, was relieved to have been caught by someone he now considered a peer, intellectually.
  • NCIS: On "Need To Know" it's revealed that Abby Sciuto is a Mensa member, when she mentions meeting a 'guy from NASA' named Colin (who turns out to be a child) at a Mensa meeting.
  • Stargate Atlantis: It’s revealed in the first season that Rodney is in Mensa, and Shepard qualified but decided not to join. Atlantis evidently has its own Mensa chapter. (Presumably informal, as it would probably violate security to inform the organization of an offworld group.)
    • Shepard brings it up again in the 2nd Season episode "Coup D'etat"
    • Is talked about in the Season 3 episode "McKay and Mrs. Miller". It is learned that in one parallel universe it is Shepard who is in Mensa, and not McKay.
    • Columbus, Ohio Area Mensa had permission to sell buttons to benefit their local scholarship program. The buttons had a link to www.mensa-atlantis.org, but that simply redirects to the American Mensa Website now.
  • Las Vegas: Delinda, who is a member of Mensa, but usually acts very flighty and has a short attention span. She used to be a psychology major, and can still reel off several concepts from the field at the drop of a hat, but quit because it was boring.
  • Alan Statham, the neurotic Consultant radiologist, from Green Wing states that he's a member of Mensa.
  • Rose Ortiz, the Pink Ranger in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, is stated to have a "Mensa-level intellect", though it doesn't outright mean she's a member.

Magazines

  • Playboy: Did a pictorial in November 1985 of "The Women of Mensa" featuring young women who were Mensa members. As you read the "famous Mensa members" below, you'll see a Mensa member made "Playmate of the Month" in 1987.

Webcomics

  • Kevin & Kell: Lindesfarne and Fenton's specific IQ scores are never mentioned, just that they're high enough that Commander Kitsune gave them Mensa memberships for a wedding gift. You can't really do that, though - the scores have to be submitted by the applicant in original form or notarized before you can become a member. Maybe he just paid up their dues.
  • this comic of Achewood. Ray apparently bought his way into Mensa.
  • Bad Machinery: Linton has a supposedly "official" Mensa membership certificate from the Internet, whose authenticity is doubted by Jack and Sonny when they note that the logo is in Comic Sans and "genius" is misspelled. Link
  • In Narbonic, the superintelligent gerbil Artie is jokingly called "The Mensa Rat".

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa is invited to join the Springfield chapter of Mensa in "They Saved Lisa's Brain". The members of the Springfield Chapter are Comic Book Guy, Dr. Hibbert, Principal Skinner, Professor Frink, and Lindsay Naegle.
    Lisa: My family never talks about library standards. And every time I try to steer the conversation that way, they make me feel like a nerd.
    Comic Book Guy: We are hardly nerds. Would a nerd wear such an irreverent sweatshirt?
    Professor Frink: Yes, we call that the "Dennis Miller Ratio."
    • In "Frink Gets Testy", an apocalypse-fearing Mr. Burns summons the Springfield chapter of Mensa to assist in deciding who is good enough to board his Doomsday Ark. This time around, Lisa and Principal Skinner aren't members, but Sideshow Mel and Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon are.
  • In one episode of Extreme Ghostbusters, a ghost modeled on the Sphinx asks a riddle of its victims and renders those who answer incorrectly into helpless, mindless beings. This includes an entire chapter of Mensa.

Famous people who are current or former members of Mensa:

Yep, there are even a few names you'll see around here! This list is compiled from Wikipedia's page on notable Mensa members, and Mensa's own Prominent Mensa Members page. This list skews mostly to the entertainment industry or people who pop up around here.

  • Scott Adams - creator of the comic strip Dilbert
  • Isaac Asimov - author of more books than you can shake a stick atnote 
  • Jean Auel - author of Clan Of The Cave Bear
  • Derek Keith Barbosa - aka rapper Chino XL
  • Theodore Bikel - Was Nominated for an Academy Award for 1951's The Defiant Ones. Also, in the above-mentioned Columbo episode.
  • Richard Bolles - Author of What Color is Your Parachute?
  • Asia Carrera - the former pornographic actress
  • Leslie Charteris - Writer and author of The Saint novels
  • Adrian Cronauer - the inspiration for Good Morning, Vietnam
  • Geena Davis - Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise, The Long Kiss Goodnight, etc.note 
  • Nelson DeMille - Wrote the book on which the film The General's Daughter was based.
  • Precious Paul Ellering, the on- and off- screen manager for the Professional Wrestling Tag Team The Road Warriors.
  • Antonella Gambotto-Burke - Australian author of The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide
  • Nolan Gould – American actor, Modern Family
  • Kara Hayward - Child Actress of Moonrise Kingdom.note 
  • Glenne Headly - Wife of John Malkovich, appeared in Mr. Holland's Opus, Sgt Bilko, and other films.
  • Lucy Irvine - Author of the 1983 book Castaway (Not related to 1997's movie Cast Away)
  • Myles Jeffrey – Actor in Early Edition
  • William H. Keith, Jr. — Military science fiction writer
  • Erik Kuselias – ESPN radio and television personality
  • Mell Lazarus – Cartoonist, creator of comic strips Miss Peach and Momma
  • Scott Levy - Professional wrestler, AKA Raven
  • Janet McDonald – Lawyer and author of African American young adult novels
  • Michael Muhney – Actor in Veronica Mars and The Young and the Restless
  • Ellen Muth – Actress in Dolores Claiborne and Dead Like Me
  • Joyce Carol Oates – Author of The Gravedigger's Daughter
  • Markus Persson – Creator and developer of Minecraft
  • Julie Peterson – Playboy Playmate of the Month: February 1987, and graduate of Life School of Chiropractic.note 
  • Alan Rachins – Actor on L.A. Law and Dharma & Greg (Dharma's father).
  • Ashley Rickards – Actress on Awkward. and American Horror Story: Murder House.
  • Jimmy Savile – English DJ, actor and television/radio personality. Revealed to be a serial child molester after his death.
  • General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. – planner of Operation Desert Storm
  • Laura Shields – English model and actress
  • Quentin TarantinoInglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, etc.
  • Marilyn vos Savant – The last person ever listed in Guinness World Records under "Highest IQ"note 
  • Deborah Yates - Member of the Radio City Rockettes.
  • Roger Zelazny – American writer

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