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How do YOU define intelligence?

  1. Apr 1, 2012 #1
    What does it mean to you?

    sorry if this seems silly, but- i don't understand how something like intelligence can be quantified by an IQ test. Or why people think they're unintelligent and they can't do anything about it.
    Is it being really well-read?
    Is it knowing lots of crap?
    Is it how efficiently ones brain works? Does that make someone intelligent? Some wiring of the brain? That doesn't even make sense to me...

    I just feel confused and silly.

    I'm trying to reach some understanding of the limitations of people.. because right now I just feel like, if somebody wants to study and devote their life to a subject they find really challenging (Astrophysics, for instance), they shouldn't be discouraged that their brains aren't working as fast as they'd like.

    i'm terrible with words, but I guess to put it as simply as I can: I believe people can be whatever they want to be.
    that they shouldn't be discouraged if they feel lit's too challenging for them. They should teach themselves to work harder! to stay committed.

    ugh. idk what im talking about.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2012 #2
    However it is defined I think that imagination and creativity come into the mix.
  4. Apr 1, 2012 #3


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    Intelligence is an ambiguous word. It's relevant to mental performance, but that is such a complex subject that it requires specification.

    General intelligence pertains to the ability to take information learned in one context and apply it in another.

    However, learning requires memory and there are also several kinds of memory.
  5. Apr 1, 2012 #4
    Above a certain IQ I think that's true. If you're above that level (if you know you're an intelligent guy or if you can use logical thinking - which surprisingly many people can't - you're most likely above that level), you're hardworking and you're motivated, I'd say that's true. Now that doesn't apply to lazy people, people who don't have enough motivation for doing what they're doing, or people who just aren't minimally intelligent.
    Motivation is so much more important than IQ though... Just imagine that a person with very high IQ was only interested in entrepreneurship went to study to Physics or Mathematics. He'd do very poorly, because he wouldn't be motivated, while a person with a normal IQ interested in the subject would do much better than him... And guess who'd become a scientist?
    And take that woman who has an IQ of 190... What is she doing? Solving stupid problems that people send to her, while scientists who have a much lower IQ than her are doing serious and important work. Just looking at IQ is so reductionist...
  6. Apr 1, 2012 #5


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    Hey mariexotoni.

    Intelligence is hard but apart from creativity and imagination from Dadface which I think are really important and sometimes overlooked in terms of defining intelligence, I would also have to say that insight is also important.

    Insight is hard to define but loosely I would say that it's the ability to consider the widest range of situations and to then act in a way that uses this consideration.

    In other words, acting in a way that shows long term thinking, careful consideration of many things (which is a product of awareness) and also acting in a way that is harmonius and doesn't end up in long term destruction: long term destruction is not the sign of someone intelligent IMO.

    The insight mechanism also involves all of the aspects like recognizing patterns, being able to make use of uncertainty and all of the other aspects involved in learning, but it's not the whole story. Insight requires a kind of awareness that demands the individual consider as much as possible and pay attention to everything in a way that is unhindered by personal belief systems, personal biases and other forms of mental constraints.

    Unfortunately human beings in general are not like this and therefore any potential gain for awareness will be lost due to the fact that we have biases, belief systems (not just religion but belief systems in general) and other things that constrain us mentally which ultimately hinders insight.

    Being able to remember things, spell, put shapes together and do those kinds of things to me is a very minor part of intelligence because the activities in terms of measuring insight are quite limited in the grand scheme of things: they definitely do test certain forms of insight that can be non-obvious, but insight is so much broader than this and it also applies to every single area of life in all of its manifestations and is not strictly limited to putting blocks together or knowing general knowledge.
  7. Apr 1, 2012 #6
    What other belief systems?
  8. Apr 1, 2012 #7


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    Just anything that constrains what we will even consider to begin with. One requires a suspension of disbelief initially for this to occur across the board.

    Also the thing is that this is clouded by whatever experiences we have and unsurprisingly different people will hold different things to be 'self-evident'. The thing about though is that if these self-evident truths are strong enough to constrain anything else not conforming to them, then will limit the potential awareness that is out there and subsequently constrain their insights.

    Here are a few examples. A women has been abused by her ex-lovers and thinks that all men are trash and scum. A man goes through his life as a drug addict, gets helped by a priest and believes that god is our saviour and refuses to believe in chance. A scientist has spent their entire life studying nature under a microscope or with an instrument through a computer and after all they have experienced through their findings refuses to believe the mutterings of a religious crackpot.

    All of these are belief systems whether they have learned through personal experience or programmed by other people or social systems.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with having beliefs no matter how they accumulated or what they are based on: the important thing is to be aware that these are beliefs whether they have been accumulated by experiments, personal experiences, or otherwise.

    When people think of belief systems they usually think of religion, cults, and all of those things but it's not true. They also think a negative thing about belief systems but again I am not placing a judgement of what they are, only that they need to be acknowledge and also that the non-consideration of other systems has to be acknowledged.

    This is as hard for the scientist as it is for the priest as it is for the abused lover and there is nothing really wrong with that as long as these don't end up hurting other people (which in some cases is unfortunately true).

    If I were to offer a solution to the above, it would be to suspend disbelief and all emotional filtering and then use some kind of logic to show that a counterexample exists. The problem is getting past the suspension of disbelief phase and the truth is that many people value their time enough in a way that they will not expend the energy on taking the risk that someone else might have a valid point even if it may be covered in a lot of untruth because there is always the risk that we will have wasted our time on something fruitless and unmeaningful. Also if we have had a bad experience in the past like our abused lover, scientist talking non-scientists about their failed inventions, or even our ex-addict who believes he has found god, then it's not hard to rationalize why people in general don't do this.

    Again it's got more to do with acknowledging the fact rather than trying to justify or not justify it.
  9. Apr 1, 2012 #8
    first you need knowledge, not necessary from books. then you just need to be able to apply it.
  10. Apr 1, 2012 #9


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    I'm not going to claim to know what "intelligence" but I will say that I don't know any one, including a number of people I know well that give or deal with "IQ" tests regularly, that believe that "IQ" tests quantify "intelligence". The general opinion of professionals who work with "IQ" tests is that they are one of many measures that, taken together, can give some insight into how well a person can learn.
  11. Apr 1, 2012 #10
    Intelligence exists as a very general mental capability involving ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. The brain processes involved are little understood.
  12. Apr 2, 2012 #11
    This is something i can't understand, you call someone a religious crackpot and then expect a someone to even consider his arguments.

    BTW there is a difference between refusing to consider someone's argument and openly denigrating the other side's argument as fairytale or crackpot.

    IMO intelligence is having or developing the ability to persevere your goal or interest.
  13. Apr 2, 2012 #12
    I perceive someone to be intelligent when they demonstrate an ability to manipulate other people without force. This is an exceptionally hard thing to do, and requires a deep knowledge of the self and of people in general. It is probably also the most important ability to have for success in any field. People with this ability are the most alert of all people, and have the big picture in perspective.
  14. Apr 2, 2012 #13


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    The crackpot is the term that scientists usually apply: I have only chosen their language from reading forums posts here and elsewhere.

    You've basically outlined the key problem (in bold). It's one thing to just denigrate, abuse, and slander among just not given the other person a chance versus having some kind of discussion (as opposed to an argument): you've illustrated this exactly in your post.
  15. Apr 2, 2012 #14
    I doubt real scientists would call people or term them as crackpots. Still there is a difference if a person refuses to even consider well established science and start off on his own tangent just because he believes in it or does not like it, its quite difficult to even take him very seriously.
  16. Apr 2, 2012 #15


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    There is actually a philosophical basis in what I am trying to say, but this is not the philosophy and would sidetrack the thread: basically the idea is that even in these situations, the person who is experiencing their reality and ends up going on the tangent is for whatever reason having an interpretation that is valid in their mind and although it may end up in the case you are specifying, philosophically this has implications about the makeup of the universe amongst other things.

    Also the fact that we will always be in this situation where we do not wish to expend the time and energy on being involved in such an experience should not be taken as a character flaw because we all do it: everyone does it.

    It might be because of a previous experience, it might be because we've formed an impression through a non-direct experience (maybe from a conversation, movie, whatever): again it's not a judgemental thing what I am saying: the only thing I am saying to the OP is to be aware of how this affects us ultimately as human beings and how we not only obtain but process information which has an effect on the thing called intelligence.
  17. Apr 2, 2012 #16
    I've heard it said that the most intelligent people are those who admit when they don't know.

    And, in this case, I would define it in whatever what it makes the most logical sense, wholely. So, I guess you could say that it is being able to assess the situation/information and formulate a reasonable/acceptable answer/solution.
  18. Apr 2, 2012 #17


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    I have no idea of how to define it. I recognize it when I encounter it, and I like to think that I have some, but beyond that it's a total mystery.
  19. Apr 2, 2012 #18
    I like zoobyshoe's description (post #12). You, do have to be really intelligent for that (an ability to manipulate other people without force..) But then again, I'd have to say all girls I find attractive are intelligent, so hmmm, I guess it fails that logic test.
  20. Apr 2, 2012 #19


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    People who are extremely creative, no matter the field. I also consider the quickness with which one learns new ideas/concepts to be a factor, though not as strong as creativity. So, when I meet someone who learns quickly and creatively applies or expresses their knowledge, I become intellectually aroused. :biggrin:
  21. Apr 2, 2012 #20


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    I define intelligence as something that is, and not that could be.
  22. Apr 2, 2012 #21


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    If you consider what IQ tests measure, it is the ability to uncover logical patterns and then apply them to the world.

    Speed and complexity count.

    And also the self-awareness to be able to articulate the rules. Doing the same thing instinctively, without being able to explain the rules being used to others, seems less intelligent.

    So some autistic savants or great sports people can do amazing feats, but they don't seem smart in the sense of having consciously induced the rules that then control their behaviour.

    Emotional intelligence would count as "intelligent" on the same basis, IMO. Good manipulators actually understand why what they do works. They have formed social theories with some degree of clarity they can communicate. But others may be more instinctive in their social actions - effective in their way, but not "bright".

    So as well as intelligence being about speed and complexity of pattern handling, it is also about not being contextually-bound. The patterns themselves are the subject of thought rather than being just subconscious rules expertly and unthinkingly applied.

    And I guess if you were talking about truly effective intelligence - of the kind you find in the world's actual achievers - you would have to throw in drive and curiosity. Some people just seem to find great satisfaction in finding out the hidden rules of life. Working things out to the level they can be consciously articulated becomes addictive.
  23. Apr 3, 2012 #22
    I'd say something similar.

    Intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge in difficult contexts.

    However, it is different from imagination and creativity.
  24. Apr 3, 2012 #23
    I try to avoid using the word intelligence. As at least one poster has mentioned, it's an ambiguous term. Maybe even absurdly ambiguous ... though, imo, some posters have offered some interesting insights.

    Because of that ambiguity, you needn't feel silly. Confused maybe ... like most everyone (I'm guessing) including myself, but not silly.

    I agree with your attitude that most anyone can achieve anything they want, given certain resources and perseverence (a combination of desire and commitment ... wrt which some vague notion of intelligence would seem to be less important).
  25. Apr 3, 2012 #24
    A combination of things: reason, creativity, wisdom, amount of control over emotion, curiosity, and that is the current standard by which I judge a person's intelligence.

    Intelligence definition:

    I believe my own standard would apply to the definition.
  26. Apr 3, 2012 #25
    Intelligence is the ability to distinguish things from other things well. Doing that well includes speed, accuracy, and breadth. For example, certain levels of low mental skill correspond to an inability to distinguish self from surrounding. We can speak of distinguishing truth from falsehood. We can also speak of distinguishing if a person likes or hates a certain action (social genius) or whether people visually enjoy something or visually hate it (artistic genius). Intelligence needn't be a conscious effort.
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