Posts Tagged ‘intelligence’

Intelligence and Social Experience

10 September 2017

It was determined at some point when I was young that I was “smart.”

I didn’t think much about this in my younger years. I did not feel that I was getting pushed in any particular direction (because of my intelligence) by anyone exterior to myself. And no one ever brought it up with me.

Yet, I had an abiding sense of being “different.” Not a lot different, but different to some degree. And though I explained this to myself in various ways over the years, it never particularly occurred to me that intelligence had anything to do with it. Until one day a senior of mine who was in a position to know such data told me that by test I was one of the more intelligent people in our group. Though I made no particular connection at the time this comment was made, it intrigued me in light of other data I had studied, and in the light of my social experience.

Electronics

I took up a study of electronics around my last year of high school. I had always enjoyed my work in the arts throughout my younger days in school, but it occurred to me that I had no idea how to make a living as an artist. Beyond that, I had not figured out what art was “good for” outside of keeping myself and others involved in the field amused. I thought I’d better sort these points out before I committed myself to a life in the arts, so I chose a fall-back study, electronics, as I was already running into it through my interest in music and audio equipment.

my electronics bench

My electronics bench in its beginning form, 1972.

Practical electronics is basically an engineering study involving multiple subjects. To build equipment you must be able to make design drawings, construct objects from wood, plastic, or metal, choose, purchase and assemble parts that include hardware, passive electronic parts, and active parts like transistors or ICs. These days you also have to know how to write code (computing software). Electronics design further involves a knowledge of physics, mathematics, and materials sciences.

As I moved along in my study of electronics, I occasionally noticed that many people around me had no clue about any of these subjects. My father, for example, having studied mainly in the humanities, did not really know physics, chemistry or engineering – though he had used a computer to help him compile data for his doctoral thesis. I was living in a society full of people who did not know that much about the technologies they were using every day.

As I bought and read engineering and hobby books covering these various subjects (as well as studying the basic science and math in high school) I knew that a technically-savvy community existed and that I had become a part of it. It didn’t really occur to me that there might be large numbers of persons who were not up to this level. After all, I had been introduced to the basics in high school.

Blank Stares

However, when I got into social situations and people would ask me, “What do you do?” (which is a crazy question, by the way), when I would answer “electronics” I would often get a blank stare. The more socially adept would recover quickly, acknowledge my answer, maybe say something like “That sounds really interesting!” and then change the subject.

But, as I have since come to recognize it, I had given them a Misunderstood Word, basically cutting the communication line.

Could other words I was using be causing similar effects?

Per even an average understanding of what it means to be “smart,” a higher-than-normal vocabulary is one agreed-upon characteristic. The subject is mentioned here http://thecommonroomblog.com/2013/02/vocabulary-and-intelligence.html in relation to childhood education. There are some IQ tests based entirely on vocabulary (knowing the meaning of words, and knowing when you don’t know their meaning).
The LRH study method is based on gaining conceptual understandings of the meanings of words. For some words, you might have to go out into the world and find the object or experience the action referred to by the word in order to get a really good conceptual understanding of it.

IQ

The term IQ comes to us from the field of psychology and is intended to be a measure of relative intelligence. In other words, the 100% score (or “average”) could mean a different intelligence – in either quality or quantity – now than it did 100 years ago. However, measuring intelligence this way has only been done for a relatively short amount of time compared to how long intelligent people have been writing down their ideas and experiences in the hopes that others might benefit from it. So we might imagine that a baseline measure of intelligence would be valid and comparable whether it was done today or 50 years ago.

A simple and well-agreed definition for intelligence is: mental ability. How best to measure mental ability depends to some extent on what we think the mind is for. If it is seen mainly as a storage device, then testing it might consist mostly of testing one’s ability to remember with speed and accuracy. If it is considered a thinking device – the more common belief – then it would be tested by posing problems for it to solve. This is the ordinary approach of most intelligence tests.

The fact that many studies have shown that IQ scores correlate with our ideas of what mental ability should be able to do for a person indicates that we have at least some grasp of the subject of human intelligence and how to measure it.

Experience of Others

I found relatively few articles on the internet addressing this subject directly, and none of them scholarly articles. However, some of them did refer to studies that had been done by psychologists or sociologists. Some articles I saw dealt with how to improve your intelligence, while others focused more on advice about how to cope socially if you are extra-smart.

To summarize:

  • Being smart has a certain isolating effect on people. They know and use more words, they can do very well at certain jobs – and are therefore sought-after for such positions, they tend to feel that the help they provide is vital – even if not well reimbursed – and so are willing to work extra hours, and they tend to have so many interests that it may be hard for them to stay focused on the activities of any particular group.
  • Their curiosity may “get them into trouble” on occasion.
  • Similarly, they may notice things – including flaws in data or logic – that others miss and therefore be seen as “picky” or disagreeable.
  • They may develop interests that others can’t grasp or fully participate in due to the breadth of knowledge required to be involved with that subject.
  • They may inadvertently say things or do things that make others feel “stupid.”

My Own Experience

Though my own experience aligns well with many of the above points, I am particularly interested in certain aspects that have been amplified by my study of church materials:

  • Misunderstood Words. It is hoped that a person, through study alone, would be able to acquire enough conceptual understanding of most unusual (or even common) words or symbols that these would fully become a part of their working vocabulary. But I have found – particularly in the case of engineering subjects (including math), or other specialized vocabularies (botany, biology, law, medicine) that this is not always that easy to attain. Though people are generally “excused” for not knowing technical words, when these words are constantly used in their environment (such as computing terminologies are in this day and age) a mental dullness could result that could only be resolved with a dedicated study of the subject. I may not do well at limiting technical terms in my own writing and conversation, but when these things extend into general marketing – such as the list of side effects that drug advertisers are required to include in their ads – things have gone too far. I don’t see any good reason why “homicidal ideation” (thoughts of killing others) needs to be a household phrase in this world.
  • The need for multidisciplinary understandings. A common term for this sort of person is the “polymath.” He has always been considered to be someone a bit special, but anyone who wants to be an electronics engineer has to become a polymath of sorts, just to learn that subject well. Hubbard has made the point that if a person wishes to live well and fully, there are 27 different “hats” he must learn to wear, at a minimum. With the introduction of so many “advanced” technologies in recent years, this becomes even more essential. A very smart scientist can fail utterly as a human being if he has not learned the basics of Ethics and Public Relations. And who is teaching that to scientists? (My church is!) So the challenge of the brighter ones among us these days is in persuading others to join them. We face a very dire future indeed if too many insist on remaining ignorant of subjects they MUST know!
  • Tone level. I have mentioned this subject before.  If a person can’t get up this scale and stay on that side of life most of the time, it doesn’t matter how smart he is: He won’t make ethical decisions.

Beyond Intelligence

I did not totally expect this “musing” to turn out this long. It remains to be known what really makes some people seem smarter “out of the gate” (so to speak) than others. But it could well be that some of us have a keener awareness, as soon as we arrive on this planet (no matter how many times we have been here before) that there is an urgent need for positive action on Earth. And this could be what drives them to push for a higher level of intelligence. That this push then tends to isolate them socially is an unfortunate result. But it points out that the solution lies beyond the subject of mere intelligence. Above mental ability lies spiritual ability. If I did not know this I would be very despondent indeed. Knowing this gives me reason to hope. Yes, it’s “good” to be smart. But in the long run that’s not enough. I’m glad I was “smart” enough to at least find that out.

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