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Monday, September 6, 2010

How smart are we, and can we measure it?

First, let's look at the history of "intelligence"
1. We begin with Socrates: "I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing". Remember, "intelligence" is a thing gifted from one man to another rich man...aka exclusive to upper social class and males. Emphasis on reason and logic.
2. The Roman Catholic church maintains written knowledge during the dark ages...then chains all books (literally) to the church: knowledge maintained, and owned, by the Church.
2. Intelligence as divider between social classes: Eugenics, or maintaining intelligence by not allowing lower and higher classes to mix genes.
3. Degree of intelligence obtained by specific skull measurements.
4. Clinical trials: nurture over nature (intelligence could be taught).
5. IQ test is born-intelligence is measured by standardized testing
6. Multiple intelligences: how well do you understand logic...and yourself. Birth of self-awareness as a form of intelligence, not just "school subjects" or "reason/logic". Introduces the idea that you can be great at math (intelligent) but poor at social skills (unintelligent) and vise versa.
7. Emotional Intelligence (EI)- rates how you perform with others (the importance of collaboration) and how well you know yourself (not just "I feel angry" but knowing why you feel angry).

So the basic answer is YES we can measure it, but NO we cannot agree on how it can be/should be measured. As you can see from the seven steps above, intelligence's definition is multi-faceted, mostly because of its tumultuous history and various owners.

Today, our culture is biased towards one definition of intelligence: standardized testing. Unfortunately, these tests discount one's ability to know thyself. Understanding your limits, and knowing how to interact with others, often makes you a better worker than solely being "smart". Not to mention the social tensions standardized tests cause for schools and students.

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Daniel Goleman discusses the negative repercussions of our culture's bias towards IQ as a standardized measure of intelligence



We know that EI makes you a better communicator in your culture, but does a high EI (emotional intelligence) make you a better communicator across cultures? That's my graduate thesis...I'll let you know what I find out.

Special thanks to ThinkBig for the original post of this video.

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