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Is it just me or are all the 'lazy genius' claims irritating?

  1. Dec 12, 2008 #1
    There's a ton of these around, especially in my department (physics) and the engineering department too. They always talk as loud as they can how they slept in high school math/science classes and how they neeever do homework or study or anything and then strut around like they'll be the next Einstein. What is WITH this kind of academic peacock syndrome? Who cares? I've never seen any of these losers do anything except scrape by with passing grades and annoy the actual students. Is there something in our water or is this more widespread?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2008 #2
    As a lazy genius I resent this post. :grumpy:

    On a more serious note, I think you're greatly oversimplifying and mischaracterizing several different social phenomena. Consider the following:

    1. American Academic programs are consistently geared to the lowest common denominator, a fact which is highly frustrating and DEMOTIVATING for gifted students. This includes most university programs as well. This is compounded by the fact that the value of trudging through the curriculum the way it is taught isn't apparent until years later (although I still have major complaints about physics pedagogy, but that is a separate issue).

    2. A number of people invest significant portions of their self perception and self-worth into the activities they believe they excel in (regardless of their actual prowess).

    3. Peer status is one of the most fundamental motivating factors in human behavior. Everyone wants the people they consider to be their peers to respect them.

    These things interact in different individuals in different ways, depending on specific circumstances. When you have a consistent behavioral pattern (and this is a pretty widespread one. You would be hard pressed to find a high school or university in the US without it) though, across many individuals in different circumstances, it becomes clear that there is a macro level phenomenon going on, i.e. the cause is systemic.

    Moreover, you hardly seem like an impartial observer of the phenomenon. The judgemental attitude doesn't help to understand or deal with the behavioral pattern. Besides, there are no moral phenomena, merely moral interpretations.
  4. Dec 12, 2008 #3
    Not sure why the bother you...

    They usually get whats coming eventually.
  5. Dec 12, 2008 #4
    i actually slept in my high school government class and got an A. not that it was difficult, mind you. everyone, even the jocks, had to pass it in order to graduate, you see. nor did i do it out of laziness or peacock syndrome, it was just that it was 6th period, not very interesting, and i was working til 12 or 1 a.m. most nights and was exhausted. my teacher hated it, but when she'd call on me with my head on the desk and i'd answer correctly, she stopped bothering me about it.

    in college, the only time i slept in class was during a calculus final. again, exhausted and hallucinating, and a 5 min. nap recharged my batteries enough to continue.
  6. Dec 12, 2008 #5
    franznietzsche: Thank you for a thoughtful post, but I am hardly a lazy genius. One can observe a phenomenon without participating in it.

    1. Everyone enjoys thinking of themselves as being 'above average'. Statistically, everyone being above average simply isn't possible. I hardly think all of these people were in a gifted program but let's say that they were in high school. Regardless, our university is one of the top in the US for physics. If these individuals are in a program where they don't have to study 'at all' something makes me think they should get out of Physics 100 and into something actually worth while.

    2. This doesn't mean that the rest of us have to play along with their fantasy of not being complete weirdos. 'If you can't walk the walk, don't talk the talk' I believe is the phrase. I respect you for wanting to deal with their situation in a sympathetic way but not everyone sees it so sympathetically and nor should they have to. We live in a society and their are certain social etiquette rules that we all follow to make this experience palatable.

    3. Except it's so painfully obvious that this is an alienating behavior. No one appreciates their comments except fellow peacocks (who are always one-upping each other, so it seems more like competition than friendship). I'm not questioning their motivations, my question was more of a frustrated observation.

    I am not trying to fix this situation since I don't make a mission of repairing other people's psychoses. Forgive me if I came off as negative but hearing this constant boasting coming from someone who has little actual talent gets old. In fact, hearing it from someone who actually has talent would get old as well. It's attention-seeking behavior and is rather sad that some people want to define themselves by how much little work they appear to be doing.
  7. Dec 12, 2008 #6


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    Usually people that do this will either face a period where they have to shape up and get to work or they just drop out of such a program.

    Sometimes the reason is that things are just plain boring. If things are really easy just feel like they are dragging on then yeah it can be like this. Most people that have been learning for a long time realize how little they know anyway and are not as likely to make such claims.

    I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. If you really want to shut them up why don't you ask them a hard question or two and see what they say? If you'd rather not interact with them then it's probably best to wait until things start to get heavy and require more focused efforts. Wait till your in grad school or working and you'll be surrounded by people that give a **** and don't let them drag you down.
  8. Dec 12, 2008 #7
    I wasn't saying you were, I said I was. :wink:

    Not everyone, but the majority yes thinks they are better than average(something like 88% of drivers think they are above average drivers for example). What is interesting is that studies (I'm going to have to hunt down the citation now) have found that the most skilled (top 10% or so) actually underestimate their skill as well (although this can be considered a boundary effect, since if you are the best you cannot overestimate your rank by definition).

    As for getting into something worthwhile, that takes me back to the problem of American Education system. It is a one size fits all approach that says it has to take you a certain amount of time to cover a certain amount of material. The VAST majority have no option but to jump through the hoops which dictate that they have to sit there for a specified amount of time regardless of the time it actually takes them to learn it. A few get lucky and have teachers and administrators willing to accomodate them. The rest are stuck in the frustrating and demotivating situation I referred to. I spent my high school physics class writing programs to solve nonlinear differential equations instead of paying attention. Then I got to college and had to take the same physics class again (it was 'more sophisticated' than the class I took in high school, but not more than what I did instead of paying attention, so that difference was irrelevant). So I found a professor that would put up with me one on one and started writing more complicated programs to solve more complicated nonlinear equations. I was bored senseless in my lower division work. Now, in HINDSIGHT I actually recognize that there was value to being forced to go through those classes and do the work, but at the time I was bored and just didn't care (being young and immature didn't help). And I was one of the lucky ones who found a professor that could accomodate me.

    Don't mistake me for sympathetic. I am, I suppose, empathetic in that I have been there, and done that. More than anything else though I am curious. I have a puzzle fetish. I'm the kind of person who reinvents the wheel from scratch just to see if I can.

    Except that it's not so obvious, at least not to those engaging in the behavior. Everyone sees the world through their own rose colored glasses. Those engaging in the behavoir are performing a sort of psychological projection--they are impressed by the the things they think they can do, so they think everyone else must be. The fact that everyone else isn't necessarily impressed is irrelevant. Perception is reality, in so far as how it effects people's decisions.

    Well, it's not by any definition a psychosis. I think the situation is one that needs fixing, not in the sense of therapy for the individuals, but drastically overhauling the broken education system in this country. As for being annoyed by it, I don't blame you. It is tiresome and annoying. It is attention-seeking behavior. But they aren't defining themselves by how little work they do--they're defining themselves by how little work it takes them to learn, it's not really the same thing. Although, the result is usually the same as moose pointed out.
  9. Dec 12, 2008 #8
    Ho ho ho, these guys (arrogant classmates that is). What I find, is that these people are actually trying to hide whatever failings they have by intimidating or impressing others (putting on my fake psychologist hat here). There was this one guy in my class this year (and was in my class this year, :mad:) who had the most obnoxious voice (think super arrogant nerd voice in any teen movie) and would always answer questions of the professor - often it was completely unrelated or worse: he wouldn't wouldn't even answer the question - he would ask a question of his own and then answer it himself (you know, to show of his "superior knowledge)!

    The thing is, if I can detect his BS, of course the prof certainly can (so I have that to comfort me); what got me was that other classmates thought he was Mr. Knowledgeable! But whenever I heard him talk to his closer friends about exams and such, he would be saying something like "hoping for a 50% on this one..." I recall we needed 40% on this exam, so I joked to my friends, thinking, "ooh, he's shooting high this time!" There were (are) others like him, just less of an extreme case.

    But on the other hand, I am guilty of sleeping in class and other such non-lecture worthy activities. For first year bio and chem (mandatory), me and my friends, despite sitting at the front of the class, would whisper, silently hi-five each other, do the crossword, or sleep. And lots of other classmates resented us a bit when seeing that, since we were (sorry about this) near the top grades-wise.

    What you have to keep in mind is that those people are there just in case the prof says something not in the textbook that could be on the exam (which happened a lot last year). Not to mention, physics 100 is required anywhere and everywhere no matter who you are, and even those lazy geniuses still want to get a good mark!
  10. Dec 13, 2008 #9


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    Let them revel. Who cares what they think of themselves. Come grant time, everyone plays on the same page. Work hard and honest, and the rewards will find you. Until you reach the grant candidate level, this is merely banter. If the gloaters have been down this road, they have the right to gloat, however inappropriate that may appear to be.
  11. Dec 13, 2008 #10
    franznietzsche: I think that we may have a slight misunderstanding. I do agree that it is rather wasteful to have bright students languish in mediocre classes taught by mediocre teachers and certainly the situation of our education needs fixing. The students I am speaking of are not the bright students who do not have a challenge, but the slackers who (as you said) are impressed by what they think they can do. Students who actually do the work and understand the material (regardless of how little or how much they study) I've seen are not the offenders in this case.

    Again, sleeping in class, blowing bubbles, or whatever, I don't mind very much. it's your grade and if it is a class that you can sleep in and you get a good grade, more power to you.

    Perhaps it's annoying because I am actually getting a better grade than most of these smart-asses and I don't go around telling people how hard I partied the night before a test? It's stupidity and it's shocking too see that so many people accept it but I guess this stems from the rat race of high school, where stuff like this is de facto.

    Sidenote: Physics 100 in my university is not a class for anyone pursuing high physics. It's a class for liberal arts majors who need a quick, dirty, and simple science GenEd taken care of. perhaps this is a miscommunication on my part, sorry :)
  12. Dec 13, 2008 #11
    Perfectly possible. Happens more often than you would think.

    Well now it sounds like you are talking about the 'too cool for school' phenomena, which would be an entirely separate social phenomena. Also widespread.

    Humans having the primate affinity for hierarchical social organization, social life in every context is a rat race of one form or another. Even in a post-scarcity economy.

    It sounds like what you are complaining about then is the social recognition they get for unfounded bragging? Not sure what else to make of these two in concert.

    Every physics program has a separate first year first year physics course for physics majors (usually grouped with engineers as well), distinguished by the fact that it is calculus based. Everything I said was in reference to the 'physics for physics majors' course that I had to take.
  13. Dec 13, 2008 #12
    franznietzsche: "Too cool for school" would be a better description, yes. Thank you.

    Many things are natural. This does not mean that all are acceptable. Sexuality is natural, but hitting on everything that moves is annoying and rude in most situations. Wanting to feel important is natural, but making up reasons and lying about your abilities is annoying and rude. This is my point, essentially.
  14. Dec 13, 2008 #13
    I don't know that I would call it lying. Lying implies an awareness of the falseness of the statement. The Dunning-Kruger effect outlines the following points:

    I would posit that the cause of the first three is an unawareness of the what competent individuals are actually capable of. As an example, consider the individual whose knowledge of physics comes from popular science books trying to argue about highly technical features of quantum mechanics--they don't understand how little they know because they have no knowledge of how deep and intricate the subject matter actually is. So the difference between themselves and experts is lost on them. This doesn't make them liars if they claim to know a lot about quantum mechanics--it just makes them wrong.
  15. Dec 13, 2008 #14


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    I didn't see many of these such students when I was an undergrad. There were, of course, people who clearly found the course easy, but they actually were genii and didn't need to boast about it.

    Of course, a lot of people I know found high school maths and science easy, but then we wouldn't be in the profession if we didn't!
  16. Oct 23, 2010 #15
    Not every lazy genius is like this. The peacock syndrome is because they are compensating for some sort of insecurity (probably because they were teased as kids/young adults; smart people usually are).

    I consider myself a lazy genius...but its to the point when I'm too lazy to even try and show off my intelligence (unless I'm trying to help/teach someone, in which case its not showing off). A lot of the time the laziness is due to not wanting to take orders from those perceived as less intelligent, or not wanting to jump through the hoops present in bureaucratic systems of academia.

    There are also chemical reasons related to the dopamine genes present in high IQ individuals... not going to get into those now though.

    Of course while I was researching dopamine polymorphism my grades suffered, such is life.
  17. Oct 23, 2010 #16


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    You realize that no one has posted in this thread for 2 years?
  18. Oct 23, 2010 #17
    HariV: did you also sign up just to post that?
  19. Oct 23, 2010 #18


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    That doesn't mean that human nature/vanity hasn't evolved and negated the OP's point. I entered engineering school with a guy who was very smart, and pretended to have advanced stuff come to him easily. I knew better. He WAS smart, but when we were in courses where the instructors leaned heavily on the texts, he would knuckle down and work out every single problem in the book before class, and look like a genius when catching the prof in an error (not a bad talent in an 8am calc class). Toss him some new material that was outside of the published course texts, work-books, etc, and he'd not fare as well. To the extent that classroom participation counted toward our grades, I'll bet that he did very well, as long as the instructors could tolerate the one-upmanship.
  20. Oct 23, 2010 #19
    The experience of skating by on the absolute bare minimum, doing little if no coursework, and then spending all night studying and acing a final, is just something you feel like telling someone.

    It is actually very stressful. It's like if you had to evacuate an area that was about to flood, and waited until the last second, to run on foot, while the water surged in right behind you, and what you have in the end, is a survival story.

    I have nightmares about it to this day.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2010
  21. Oct 23, 2010 #20
    I don't understand why someone would do that. If I can solve all the problems before lecture, I wouldn't attend the lecture. I would rather work on more problems.
  22. Oct 24, 2010 #21
    This is more an indication of hard work than intelligence.

    And yes, I signed up just to post on this thread.
  23. Oct 24, 2010 #22
    It's actually a fairly popular thing for a certain segment of society to do. We had our fair share of 'em in the military, too.
  24. Oct 24, 2010 #23
    people who constantly loudly brag about their abilities: insecure

    unless they actually rape everyone else at doing things, then they're just crowing lol
  25. Oct 24, 2010 #24
    Sorry HariV. There's an error in your post count. It looked as though it was your first post.
  26. Oct 24, 2010 #25


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    There is no error, it was his first post.
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