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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 standardized, supervised intelligence test. Mensa is formally composed of national groups and the umbrella organization Mensa International.

Mensa ( ; in Latin) means "table" in Latin as is symbolized in the organization's logo.

Founding

Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Dr. Lancelot Ware, a British scientist and lawyer, founded Mensa in the United Kingdommarker in 1946. They had the idea of forming a society for bright people, the only qualification for membership being a high IQ. It was to be free from all social distinctions (racial, religious, etc.), represented by the name of the organization, which comprises two Latin words: mens, which means "mind;" and mensa, which means "table", indicating that it is a round-table society of minds. Mensa also was to be a non-political organization, reflected in its constitution: "Mensa encompasses members representing many points of view. Consequently, Mensa as an organization shall not express an opinion as being that of Mensa, take any political action other than the publication of the results of its investigations, or have any ideological, philosophical, political, or religious affiliations."

Membership requirement

Mensa's only requirement for membership is that one score at or above the 98th percentile on certain standardized IQ tests, such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales. Because different tests are scaled differently, it is not meaningful to compare raw scores between tests, only percentiles. For example, the minimum accepted score on the Stanford-Binet is 132, while for the Cattell it is 148.

Mission

Mensa's constitution lists three purposes: to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.

To this end, the organization is also involved with programs for gifted children, literacy, and scholarships, and it also holds numerous "gatherings" (see below).

Organizational structure

Mensa International consists of more than 110,000 members in 50 national groups. 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 two largest national groups are American Mensa, with more than 56,000 members, and British Mensa, with about 23,500 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.

Additionally, members may form Special Interest Groups (SIGs) at international, national, and local levels; these SIGs represent a wide variety of interests, both commonplace and obscure, ranging from motorcycle clubs to entrepreneurial cooperations, reflecting the wide diversity of members in occupation and social class. Some SIGs are associated with various geographic groups, whereas others act independently of official hierarchy. There are now quite a number of electronic SIGs (eSIGs), which operate primarily as e-mail 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. The national groups also issue periodicals, such as Mensa Bulletin, the monthly publication of American Mensa, and Mensa Magazine, the monthly publication of British Mensa.

Gatherings

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, games (Carnelli, poker, Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, Scrabble, chess, double-deck cancellation hearts and many other games are popular at American Mensa gatherings) and other activities. The American and Canadian AGs are usually held during the 4th of July or Canada Day weekends respectively.

There are also smaller gatherings called Regional Gatherings (RGs) held in various cities that attract members from large areas; the largest is held annually in Chicagomarker around Halloween, and features a costume ball and a joke-telling competition. Many members will arrange their vacations to attend an RG in another part of the country (such as the one in Chicago) as an annual tradition. Some members will regularly attend as many as half a dozen RGs every year.

In 2006, The Mensa World Gathering was held from 8 August to 13 August in Orlandomarker, Floridamarker to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Mensa. An estimated 2,500 attenders from over 30 countries gathered for this celebration. The International Board of Directors also had a formal meeting there.

Since 1990 Mensa also sponsors the annual Mensa Mind Games competition, whereat the Mensa Select award is given by American Mensa to five board games that are "original, challenging and well designed."

Publications

Mensa's flagship publication is the Mensa Bulletin, published 10 times per year, which includes articles and columns written by members. The Mensa Bulletin also contains International Journal, "a separate publication featuring news from other national Mensas and Mensa International."

Mensa also has published a number of books, including Poetry Mensa (1966), an anthology of poems by Mensans from all over the world, in which languages other than English are represented.

Demographics

Mensans come from all walks of life, vary in job and profession, and are represented among all age groups. There are many famous and prominent members (see list of Mensans). Members pay annual membership dues that vary by country; some national groups offer a "Life Membership", but it is not transferable between groups.

All national and local groups welcome children; many offer activities, resources and newsletters specifically geared toward gifted children and their parents. Both American and British Mensa's youngest members are age two, such as Elise Tan Roberts and Oscar Wrigley. The Mensa Research Journal, which is published quarterly, includes a TAG (Talented and Gifted) Progeny section especially for younger members.

At the other extreme, American Mensa's oldest member is 106, and British Mensa had a member aged 103. According to American Mensa, 41 percent of its members are baby boomers between the ages of 47 and 64, and there are more than 1,700 families with two or more Mensa members.

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