First published in the Geneva Shore Report, January 1, 2020:
Your definition is as good as anybody else’s definition of that word. What does it really mean to be smart, relative to other humans or even beings alive on this planet?
Wikipedia defines the word intellect: “Intellect is a term used in studies of the human mind, and refers to the ability of the mind to come to correct conclusions about what is true or real, and about how to solve problems.”
That’s not correct.
By adding that last sentence of conclusion about Wikipedia’s definition I am not making a statement about intellect so much as I am making a statement about correctness. If Webster or other dictionaries are consulted, with respect to the intellect, every one of the definitions provided has the word opinion, reality, or correct somewhere inside them. So to possess intellect by accepted definition in society today one must have the approval of others, enjoy the benefit (or downside) of group opinion, or at the very least be found not to come to conclusions about things based upon feelings or emotion…all the while being judged by beings ruled primarily by feelings and emotions.
Intellect is the ability to take those things discovered in life, and manipulate them to arrive at successful conclusions. That definition, my very own, seems much more applicable to human circumstance than the others. Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.) is a phrase that’s held high social value ever since children began to be studied for the possession of intellect over a hundred years ago by a man named Alfred Binet. He was a Frenchman commissioned to discover which children entering formal education might need more help than others. The test he devised blossomed into the development of a standard still used today to judge not only entry-level school children but also all members of humanity.
I.Q.s are so accepted as a measure of intellect that they are still kept quietly confidential, for fear of revealing instructive data that might be used in a damaging way. The fact that I.Q. tests reveal little in the way of intellect remains beside the point. I.Q. tests really measure an ability to read before anything else. A poor reader will demonstrate poor intellect. I.Q. tests do nothing to measure musical skill, verbal expression or innate ability to conceptualize the universe. They don’t represent compatibility. The things I.Q. tests don’t measure might fill up a full page in this article, but I.Q. tests are nevertheless used as a standard of measuring intellect.
Why can’t society drop the usage of I.Q. test results for measuring much of anything?
Personality. People are organized around only four personality expressions: analytical (detail orientation), amiable (quiet and introverted), driver (mission-oriented) and expressive (entertainment and extrovert oriented). Why does personality have anything to do with a discussion about intellect? Simply because the people primarily invested with the responsibility and power to determine who are smart, and who are not, are generally analytical personalities. Ergo, analytical personalities view intellect through a filter of their own making. American schooling is all analytically oriented with rigidly administered multiple-choice and true or false questions delivering skewed results. In all of the American schooling process, there is little measurement of anything other than analytical results, and in fact, teaching is primarily delivered in the same way. ACT and SAT tests determine who gets into college, yet those tests are little more than multiple-choice tests almost identical in form to I.Q. tests. They measure, and this is being proven more and more by the classes and schools set up to teach people how to grade higher on the tests, not intellect but the ability to do well on specifically designed analytical tests.
Memory isn’t a measure in any definition of intellect, yet memory is the key to manipulating ‘reality’ using information accumulated from places and times outside of the user of such information. In fact, it is not uncommon for a person who has a really good memory to be told that doing things like remembering all the cards played in a card game (counting cards), or the chess moves of masters who’ve gone before, or quoting from famous literary works verbatim, is not linked to intelligence at all. Somehow, and to the advantage of analytical personalities, intelligence has become linked, like the chains of old dungeon prisoners, to holding people of true intellect back behind those who merely test well on specifically designed tests that test little of nothing, other than how to do well on those tests. The fault is not all in the analytics usually selected to design and control such testing. The fault is also to be found in ease. It’s easy to simply hand a person one has never come into contact with a couple of pieces of paper and have them fill them out as best they can. It’s also enjoyably dominant for many humans to do so. Intellect is more than the small dedicated sums of pre-arranged information packets being tested today.
How do intelligent minds work, no matter what the level of intellect?
Through all the ages of humanity’s rise to the present time, as you read this article, the question of how intellect really works is as foreign to human understanding as the origin of the universe, the existence of dark matter, the existence of dark energy, the existence of plants and animals revolving on an orb rotating around a relatively small and dim Sun, and even whether life or intellect exists upon the trillions of planets revolving around the billions of suns we know to be out there in the void. Assuredly there are better means available to test humans beings to see what level of intellect they might have but as long as the vicious competition among those humans continues unabated at its current pace no effort is going to be made to uncover and use them for all of mankind’s betterment. Most works of literary genius (almost all) end up at the bottoms of wastebaskets simply because there’s no recognition available due to disguised competition. Most scientific material is first considered based upon who submits it rather than what is submitted. Credentials mean more than material by far and credentials are mostly founded upon how a person has performed in taking analytical tests. True intellect remains feared (but taken from all the time), disguised (most geniuses know they are prey), and unmeasured because of this fierce competition. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, the determinant manual about diagnosing mental health problems in society, has at least thirty parts and entries wherein the result of someone having true genius (but not being measured well on analytical tests) is to be taken for a person suffering psychosis or lesser mental ‘abnormalities.’
Think about your own intellect and then reflect very carefully upon it before you decide to attempt to benefit those around you. Your open intellectual affection may well be competitively treated as a psychotic affliction.
Thoughts for the New Year.
James, I laid down a lengthy reply but it’s here no more. My three service connected strokes and dvt are SC to Agent Orange and am wheel chair bound for the duration with total loss of r side and beginning to lose left side due to tremors. Will try to redo after I recompensate.
I am sorry, Do not know what happened to it.
Please get well soon.
I’m not a fan of that type of testing because as you indicated, it is seriously flawed. But it is the only tool available as an analytical-numbers driven way to evaluate one person vs another. People want to know how they “measure up”. But how do you measure creativity, common sense or personal drive/ambition? You can’t quantitively. That may be why the only time I hear IQ even mentioned are by those oh so subtle Mensa, “gifted” people. I know a fair number of “very smart” people, including several engineer types who are smart in a small niche, but are lost when it comes to common sense, self awareness, interactive people skills, personalities and other non-measurable qualities. But maybe it’s that mix that makes the world soo “interesting?
Thanks for sharing your insight.
I always wonder why thee is not a measurement for Common Sense ~~smile
Are you familiar with the Meyers-Briggs Personality tests?
Of course, and the Wilsonian Personality Profiles, that preceded them, as well.
I very much agree with your assessment.
As an illustrative example I give you MENSA. Have you ever noticed that most people who fall in this category have very little amounts of what most people call “common sense”.
To paraphrase your definition, they can not manipulate information into successful outcomes regarding social norms such as behavior , or outcomes regarding self preservation.
Give me a good ole country boy (redneck) and he could possibly survive a nuclear holocaust!
As I mentioned to Steve,
Why don’t we have a measurement for Common Sense and categorize that way?
Thank you for always sharing cogent thought, Rob.
The ability to solve problems can be hard to measure, A good thought provoking article.
Thank you, Steve
I’ve always felt that reading well was a very important skill to have. As for IQ tests, the info is nice to know but more human traits are needed to be in the mix for the genius to be useful to themselves or anyone else! My wife a retired teacher laments the testing done today in public school classrooms to determine teacher performance. A result of that testing is more teaching to the tests and not enough teaching of the things leading to the enhancement of traits we all have regardless of IQ!
My two cents worth.
Thank you for sharing your insight, John.
I can understand why your wife is frustrated.
John, Some of us, thankfully, are blessed to spend time in the classroom where THOUGHT was encouraged, if NOT mandated. ~~smile
Throughout High School and Unversity, almost all of my Tests were essay and most DID not have correct answers. You were judged on how well you answered Questions, based on what was read and discussed on the topic.
We really need more professionals in the classroom and Administration today with the attitude of your wife.
I really appreciate this article. I have always felt too much emphasis on IQ tests. They do indicate a person’s ability to regurgitate but fall short of indicating the ability to THINK.