Intelligence is a curious thing.
In this blogosector I live in, intelligence has been elevated to a hallowed level of pride or shame, as a descriptor of renown or a demeaning jab of mediocrity. The focal point of much of this is of course the legendary IQ score which is a generally effective measure of ascertaining the elusive quality we call “intelligence.” Everyone has their own personal (ie, subjective) definition and image of what intelligence truly is. Many times our perspective of intelligence is painted and distorted by sibling human traits we find favorable or distasteful. For instance, I tend to equate restrained, soft-spoken personalities with intelligence; I do this because I am restrained myself and I tend to reward similar people with elevated estimations of intelligence by virtue of this personality trait though it probably has very little to do with intelligence. Conversely, I tend to think of extroverted, talkative people as less intelligent, but once again, that view is colored by my dislike of loud people who I feel are generally stupid. But if I allow myself to honestly look at the matter dispassionately, I realize and must admit that there are probably just as many intelligent extroverted people as there are unintelligent quiet people. I have this little private satchel of intelligence traits and thus I’m prone to to define intelligence in a certain inflexible manner that is self-flattering and probably, in many ways, flawed and laughable. I’m aware of my linguistic limitations in defining intelligence whereas I feel many are not. Most people are content to believe what they want to believe about intelligence without concerning themselves as to the integrity and sincerity of their beliefs.
Intelligence is a trait that it is fluid and malleable as to be almost unrecognizable in many situations. When taking into account the countless variables which shape the human personality, we see that intelligence is a fragile and impressionable quality and it does not take much deviation from the norm in a person’s elemental character to either dilute or inflate innate intelligence.
The human personality is of such intricate depth that there are vast assortments of partnering or opposing traits which can serve to mimic intelligence or stupidity. Perhaps the IQ score measures raw intelligence but its expression is an entirely different matter that transcends scores and standardized measures.
It’s the expression of intelligence I find most intriguing. For in the absence of favorable assisting qualities, intelligence may be subverted and prevented from meaningful expression giving others an impression the person is decidedly not intelligent. There are many simple qualities which, if present, can easily subvert the effective manifestation of intelligence. In fact, they may have the opposite effect and serve to make the host appear an ignorant lout.
The intelligent mind without training or rigorous standards of learned application is useless. The intelligent mind, given no perch upon which to settle, will sputter to the ground in a helpless descent of unfulfilled glory. Intelligence’s greatest curse is potential.
I write all this because I was thinking of a person I know who shall remain anonymously without gender. This person grew up in a rough neighborhood and a less than ideal childhood environment in the scheme of cerebral stimulating fauna. This person was not trained to think critically nor to depend on their mind for any activities deeper than perhaps changing diapers or coming up with some really good party plans. Schooling was not an integral part of their youth and despite its apparent shortcomings, schooling’s greatest contribution to our intellectual civilization is its endowed method of training minds to structure data, to analyze carefully, and segment conclusions into logical chains linked by the scientific method. This person was never trained in such a manner, and in fact, this person’s personality has been allowed to ricochet randomly and capriciously from stimulus to stimulus without truly buckling down and figuring out problems in intelligent and orderly manner. I can tell this person is intelligent, because their intelligence manifests itself at the unlikeliest times and in the oddest circumstances. For instance, this person is intuitively able to make sense or unravel certain puzzling situations involving logical thought. But this person relies on spontaneous leaps of logic rather than formulated, rigorous exercises in cause and effect. As I said, this person intuitively absorbs the situation and is able to occasionally sieve an insightful answer based on “intuition” which is really nothing but subconscious intelligence.
I would place this person’s IQ at perhaps 105-110. However, in pragmatic, real world working terms, its expression is 90, at best. This person’s laziness and ignorance devour whatever intellectual feast might have been served in the presence of an otherwise mentally challenging childhood.