Where Brain Meets Life
I've been using the term "cognitive outlier" on discussion forums as it seems less of a loaded term than "gifted" or "high IQ". However, yesterday I was reminded of this blog post I wrote a couple of years ago. I was participating in a discussion on LinkedIn and one member decided to start flaming.
The question was "What is intelligence?" and all the answers that people had come up with had to do with displaying certain behaviours in the environment. I asked how those environment/behaviour-based definitions worked when faced with a 6 year old child who could already read on an adult level, and whose mental abilities were clearly beyond what their current environment was providing for. In such a case, I argued, any environment/behaviour-based definition seemed inadequate.
Another member claimed that reading ability and intelligence weren't linked, according to research. I asked what research, and gave examples from my teaching experience that seemed to suggest the opposite. I pointed out that I had given the reading example rather than coming straight out with the "g" word as I had been trying to be polite. It turns out this member is some self-appointed dyslexia expert and accused me of having a go at dyslexics, when no one had even mentioned the subject until she did. I mentioned that I had been tested as both a child and as an adult and had been shown to have some rather variant abilities.
Perhaps members of the discussion group should have expected that a question like that might flush out this type of story from one of its members, and that there is no point, having raised the issue and attracting an entirely on-topic response, in getting all knee-jerky about it.
This is the earlier article I wrote, called "The big taboo: don't mention high IQ":
What is it exactly that makes this topic too hot to handle?
I, too, like "cognitive outlier" for being statistically accurate. SDs (standard deviations) can be compared across tests.
The short answer to your question is that I don't know. Athleticism doesn't seem to spark this, but beauty does. I think some of it has to do with whether the notable quality is displayed all the time, or just in a specific domain. When someone is athletic, off the field they're just a regular person. Their talent isn't constantly in your face.
Maybe just the sheer comparative nature of our social interactions? You know, the keeping up with the Joneses. With money, or career, or even beauty (with plastic surgery), there's always the hope and possibility that you can improve your status. But it's not really possible to go from an average IQ to, say, 130, 145. Although the scientists are working on a pill for that. . .
Hi - The question what is intelligence? In my opinion all matter living and non-living matter contains some form of intelligence, (knowingness, awareness, or conciousness) This is based upon the understanding of Quantum Physics. If you can conceptualize intelligence within this framework, then intelligence can be placed on the realm of existing on levels. We humans like order, we need to be able to classify and put everything into categories; including intelligence. Intelligence is fluid, that is a large part of why IQ tests have been over rated. They were never meant to be used to determine intelligence in the first place. Many gifted individuals, like myself, have fallen through the cracks, when it came to the educational system. I am a nontraditional student, I have always been an avid learner, but I hated school. It wasn't until college, when I studied more as an independent student that I made high grades. In the 6th grade, for example, I had a teacher who was more interested in fitting in and dressing like her popular stylish students, and whose idea of teaching involved handing out DIDO sheets, while she sat at her desk reading trashy novels. She didn't like me, and I sure didn't care for her much. I found talking to the special ED teacher during recess more interesting than playing kickball. So, near the end of the school year I was mainstreamed into special Ed part time. I can laugh about it now! IQ tests like all tests are failable. There are too many variables that can effect the outcome. There are too many myths within the general public about what determines whether or not someone is intelligent, gifted or average, and even below average. In my early 20's I was on medication and was tested for the second time, for IQ; the test results revealed that I had a below average IQ. The psychologist having spent time talking with me highly noted that the results were tainted due to being over medicated. As gifted individuals we must reeducate not only the public but professionals, as well. Our whole concept about what intelligence is or isn't needs a new perspective, especially if we are to survive and thrive as a nation. Every day this country and the world is losing valuable human resources, through a general lack of knowledge or understanding regarding what it means to be gifted and what the unique traits/characteristics, as well as needs are of a gifted individual. Our educational systems are failing gifted children and adults. A common myth held is that giftedness only involves individuals who demonstrate high ability in the realm of math or science. Intelligence involves introspection as well as external behaviors. Intelligence is not always observable. There are many forms of intelligence that we humans have yet to even identify. I suppose then, to these unidentified forms of say higher intelligence,we might seem pretty unintelligent collectively speaking? I am not sure that one can ever truely measure intelligence even in a given moment. There are child savants being born into the world and there are children who in time grow into giftedness. Our minds are ever expanding, like the universe. I think we should treat all humans as being intelligent; viewing all individuals as being gifted in some way or another, all people having value and worth with something to offer the world.
That is an interesting question. In graduate school, we often talk about a "stigma of giftedness". Why is it that, as a society, we are not as proud of our "cognitive outliers" as we are of those with high abilities in other domains? Apparently being less gifted in sports than someone else does not make people feel inferior but being less gifted in cognitive ability does. I have been reading Richard Hofstadter's book "Anti-intellectualism in American Life" and it provides lots of examples of how we indoctrinate our children to view intellectual behavior as undesirable. According to Hofstadter, society needs intellectuals yet resents them... and this has been going on for a long time.
Yes, society needs gifted individuals and does resent them at the same time. Throughout history there have been unique individuals born into the world. Some are world renowned, some known only within their own country, some well known within a smaller community, and some who stand out, even if it is just within their own family. Any form of community needs people with higher than average abilities, at just the right time. As human beings, from the beginning of time, we have been on an evolutionary track that must always be moving forward. When things happen that either slow down that process or begin to create deevolution, it is the gifted, above average individuals who reset that balance and keep things moving in a forward direction. Human nature tends to resent or dislike change. All change is stressful, to some degree, whether it is perceived as being positive or negative. All humans are born with egos, the human ego does not like being challenged, particularly if it thinks is in the "right".As individuals we can easily get stuck in a mind set or in a certain way of doing something. The familiar way is the SAFE WAY. We like security, even though we know that change is needed. The gifted individual will inevitably shake things up!! Even if that was not the individual's intention; simply the mere presence of a gifted person, a simple word or action, or by simply using one's gifts can potentially stir things up.I don't think there is a simple solution to how any particular society, at any given time, including the future responds to individuals with unique abilities. Reeduating people, through our personal relationships, and within our bown families and our own communities will lead to a more broader awareness overall. However, there is still the matter of hardwired human traits that will always at least in many people still pose as a barrier in terms of how these individuals respond to gifted people. I think that parents should encourage any child to be the best that they can be and to teach them not to hide or ever be ashamed of any ability that they may have. Parents of all people need to be supportive, providing coping tools that children can use when faced with others who are not supportive of them. Helping gifted children to develop good self-eateem will help them to handle many of the challenges that they will have to face in life. Sadly, there is a mixed message/double standard in regards to intellegence in this country that reads alot like this..., "Be All You Can Be!... Just Don't BE Too MUCH!" In other words, it is ok to be intelligent, just as long as you are not too intelligent.
Thanks for the article and above post. I like your idea when comparing the gifted with high performing athletic . Perhaps what makes this topic difficult is the very fact of doing great on IQ test has not been accepted by the society in general in the same way as athletic achievement. Another measure of performance is needed when finding a acceptable levels. What comes close are competition in different mind games which is a very simple measure taking into account all the possibilities many gifted individual have e.g. math-logic, physics, writing and expressing creative ideas, various art forms, playing instrument an composing music. I could go on.. Anyway our society needs motorways and highways for individuals who have a Ferrari "between" their ears and than we can have a real competition just like the athletics.