Ask Marilyn About Door #1

I was reading the Parade magazine that comes with our Sunday paper a few weeks back when Robin happened to see that the page was turned to the “Ask Marilyn” column, in which the author solves puzzles and answers various questions. “Did you know she’s supposedly the smartest person in the world?” Robin said.

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Robin. “Look it up.”

So I did. And sure enough, the “Ask Marilyn” gal was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Highest IQ” from 1985 to 1989, having scored a whopping 228 on the IQ test at age ten, and then a score of 186 in her early forties. (Guinness retired the “Highest IQ” category in 1990 after concluding IQ tests were too unreliable to designate a single record holder. The tests themselves—which seem to be largely focused on pattern-recognition abilities—are of dubious reliability, but anything above 160 is considered to be extremely high.)

The fact that the “Ask Marilyn” columnist is so darn intelligent is made all the more humorous by the fact that her full name is Marilyn vos Savant (née Marilyn Mach, she’s descended from the physicist and philosopher, Ernst Mach). Savant, indeed….

Curious, I read more about his very smart woman. Those of you of a certain age will remember back in the early 1990s when “the Monty Hall problem” was all the rage in newspaper and magazine articles.

(For those who don’t want to follow the link I provide above, this “problem” essentially articulates as follows: If you’re given the choice between three doors, one of which contains a prize, and after picking door #1 [but not knowing whether or not it was the correct guess], the person in charge [i.e., Monty Hall from the Let’s Make a Deal TV program] shows that door #3 contains a dud and then asks whether you want to now change your choice from #1 to #2, the odds say you should indeed switch to door #2.)

Well, lo and behold, it was Marilyn vos Savant who, in her “Ask Marilyn” column, popularized this Monty Hall problem back in 1990 (though she didn’t invent or solve it).

So my question is, am I the only person who didn’t know all of this about the “Ask Marilyn” gal? But I do have to say, I now read her weekly column with far more interest than before.

37 thoughts on “Ask Marilyn About Door #1

  1. Thanks for the information, it was quite interesting. I would also say those IQ tests are unreliable. They told my parents that I was borderline retarded when I was in the 6th grade after taking one of those tests. I just didn’t like taking those tests and marked off any old circle. Fooled them.

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  2. I had heard of Marilyn vos Savant before, although I didn’t know she was considered to be the smartest person in the world or about the Monty Hall problem. Very interesting. I followed your link and understand the solution, but still have a hard time wrapping my head around how it can be true.

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  3. I’d never heard of the “Ask Marilyn” column, Leslie. Though, I do remember watching a Mythbusters episode that took on the Monte Hall problem. They set up in a theater and brought in dozens of volunteer test subjects. A fascinating watch.

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      1. Most of the test volunteers stuck with their first choice, reasoning they had a 50/50 chance of winning at that point. Then Adam and Jamie did their own simulation in which Adam always changed and Jamie never did. Adam ended up winning more often, explaining it his way – “because the player has a 2/3 probability of choosing a losing door at first, switching turns the odds in his favor.”

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  4. You must be one of the very few! I’ve been reading her column for years. It’s the only thing in Parade Magazine that I read. I find her column, then toss that section of the Sunday paper. I’m glad you found her!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. So funny, Leslie, I would have skipped right past that column when I saw the “vos Savant” (nudge-wink-eye roll). Like, the smartest woman in the world chose a pen name to let you know how brilliant she was, knowing it would go over the heads of half the readers just trying to wake up with their coffee and the paper on a Sunday morning. I can’t watch any shows where contestants have to choose between doors, because I was traumatized by a creepy film I saw in class in junior high called “The Lady or the Tiger.” If you chose wrong, the tiger ate you. Nope nope nope. Door Zero for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I read her column on occasion—skipping the ones that are just math problems—but I always answer it first in my head to see if I can be Becky Savant. I end up being Becky Fair-to-Middling. I do the same with the Ask Amy advice column. After I marvel at the weird problems people have (or think they have), that is.

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  7. I used to read Parade all the time and Marilyn’s column (not that I understood all the questions/answers). I’ve known about her maiden name, the Monty Hall problem, and her IQ levels. I didn’t know she was descended from a physicist and philosopher, though.

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  8. Hmm, I learn something new each day! I didn’t know she held the record for highest IQ. Cool! I do like her column. Our newspaper here has become such garbage, it’s not fit for lining a birdcage with, so my whole family stopped the paper. I miss it- well, I miss a GOOD paper. That’s not an option here yet. I hope soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting post, Leslie. I haven’t read Parade for many years because we don’t get a Sunday paper any more (or any paper, for that matter). I get all my news from the Internet.
    I dealt with statistics a fair bit in my other life (i.e., before fiction writing) so the Monty Hall solution makes perfect sense to me. Another thing that many have a problem with is the so-called Gambler’s Fallacy, that is, if you spin a roulette wheel and black comes up several times in a row, the chance that red will come up on the next spin increases. That’s not true; if the wheel is fair, the chance of red or black is equal for each spin, because the spins are independent events.

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  10. I have read Marilyn’s column over the years and she frequently pops up in my “recommended” feed on YouTube.
    As a kid I always felt that Monty Hall was a huckster trying to trick people into choosing the wrong door! I never trusted him, lol. I liked his daughter, Joanna Gleason, though. She was a regular on a few TV series, including Hello, Larry in the late 70s. But I loved her most on Password Plus. She was a brilliant player — almost as good as Betty White!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Chicks are full of fascinating tidbits! I only know Joanna Gleason from Broadway. We saw her in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but discovered her when she was in Into the Woods. Had no idea she was Monty Hall’s daughter or that she was a regular on Password!


  11. Not only did I know this about Marilyn, I remember the People article about her being the smartest person in the world – the article that led to her column. But the stats behind the Monty Hall problem confound me.

    Liked by 1 person

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