What determines genius?

  1. Okay I know memory is related to the number of neural connections you have. You have better memory if you have more connections(it might not be directly proportional but it is dependent I guess).

    So what determines genius say in Mathematics, physics, chess etc.

    I know majority is dependent on practice. Practice makes the brain more familiar with the concept etc. but still regardless of practice there seems to be something that makes some people naturally better at some stuff.
    What is that thing?
  2. jcsd
  3. arildno

    arildno 12,015
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Before a workable concept of what defines genius has been made, I don't see how your question can even be regarded as well posed.
  4. Well genius is a person who can come up with a solution to a problem faster than others.
  5. all comparatively of course; but it's four things

    1.) how much you can bench press.
    2.) how much of an arsenal you have.
    3.) how much money you have.
    4.) how good looking you are

    I see those as four things that determine how quickly one can solve a problem
  6. arildno

    arildno 12,015
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Unworkable, due to imprecisions.
  7. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Avichal to realise why your question is unanswerable you have to understand that the very notion of intelligence is ill defined and continually debated. Superficially it seems easy to describe: the ability to solve problems but this doesn't get us far when it comes to evaluating this in a person. A doctor solves medical problems faster than a non-doctor, how do we take knowledge out of the equation? How do we take into account the fact that people are intelligent in some fields but not others? When we start entering terms like genius it becomes even more problematic because how does one define it and how does one measure it?

    We've had a thread on this before ill try to find that goes into more detail over the problem of the word genius. The biggest being that it can be used to describe anything from hard intellectual work to innovative plays in sorts to novel art.
  8. Well if we just focus on one field say mathematics. It is a truth that some people do perform better and some not.
    We also see prodigies that show exceptional qualities. I don't think I need to define prodigies.
    So what I want to know is the thing that is going on in their brain. What is different?
  9. arildno

    arildno 12,015
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Well, mathematics isn't "one field", either, and when you study maths, you'll soon find out that different people have different aptitudes to different types of maths (for example, analysis vs. combinatorial/discrete maths).

    This shows that what actually goes on in what we call "intelligence" is that there is a whole bundle of skills, by means of talents and/or training MOST of those individual fibres we have, as yet, little capacity to define and analyze properly.

    But to be able to answer your actual question, that defining and analyzing work is a precondition we still haven't fulfilled
  10. First: The number of synaptic connections doesn't really determine memory capacity. It's much, much more complex than that. In terms of relating brain physiology to memory skill, we know the hippocampus is important (because those with damage to their hippocampus have problems with memory), but we don't know exactly what it does. The real question is: how exactly does the brain encode memory? When we find the answer, it will be a great day for neuroscience and humanity as a whole.

    Now, to address your actual question I must first define it:

    If we assume practice, or more generally, environment, is not a factor, then what determines genius? For the sake of argument, I'll define genius as a synonym for "child prodigy".

    So let's say I take Child #1, and Child #2, at birth, and place them in identical environments for 10 years. They learn, play, cry, basically a normal educated childhood.

    At the end, one child may show significantly greater mathematical/musical/etc ability than the other, and you want to know why. Correct?
  11. Well environment plays a role yes but it is also the genes or what's in us we all have a different tendency towards different things w see things differently and we accept the ones which suit us better and those that we accept also make us who we are and that explains why some people have grown up in a terrible orphanage and become really wonderful persons because they took things differently and refused to accept the environment rules , now ofcourse there is a question what helped them in doing so was it their faith or whatever but I'll leave that an open the question just the fact that everybody looks at the same thing differently so maybe some of us just see some things in such a way that they become very good at them and other not.

    Remember that many great people both scientists musicians painters and other have said that the things they are extremely good at comes like a play for them they just enjoy them and don't see the hard part in them.While for the rest of us those things may seem extremely complicated.

    just like two people looking at one painting and each one of them sees something different now if we would say that mathematics is a painting then people like Isaac Newton and Euclid saw the pixels behind it and that's how they could understand it in a way others couldn't.
  12. the individual's brain capability is important.
  13. That's exactly what I want to know
  14. I think 'geniuses' generally have something wrong with them rather than something more right than usual. (I'm defining "genius," simplistically, as "a person who has historically been referred to as a genius.") Newton's a good example. He was an emotionally maladjusted, hypersensitive child who preferred to be alone rather than with kids his own age. Life happened to batter him in the right way, at the right times to fuel in him the notion his problems might be 'solved' by an academic route and he threw himself into that arena with a vengeance. The battery had to be just severe enough to push him to develop an iron will with which to attack his obsessions, but not severe enough to break him. All that was out of his hands and happened by accident. So, too, quite by accident, the new science of physics had just been split off from the relatively irrational philosophical speculations of Aristotle by Galileo, and Newton happened to have the wherewithal to step in and advance it much further.

    His big rival, Hooke, by contrast was a bright, educated man, but he completely lacked the stamina to work his ideas out in rigorous detail. Hooke could have written the Principia, but he was too scattered and lazy. Not less intelligent, less motivated, less dedicated. The difference between genius and not genius here is a difference of motivation. And that's an emotional difference rather one of intelligence. Genius may be a matter of a certain, very specialized, kind of aggressiveness, which cannot be channeled into the usual outlets of aggression.

    Something to ponder. At any rate, the fact of 'geniuses' having a lot of childhood emotional problems comes up again and again in biographies.
  15. I read somewhere that Newton also used some of Hooke's own work without credit him for that.
  16. The tale of the Hooke-Newton rivalry is told in detail in every biography, so you can pick one up and read it, which will be better than any summary I post here.

    My main point is that people concerned with the nature of "genius" should consider the possibility it is, in some cases at least, the result of defect and circumstance rather than the expression of a superiority of some sort.
  17. Well with all the answers and some googling my conclusion is that genius' are people that are able to concentrate and focus on a single topic. However what brain parts allow them to do this is unknown to me but I guess the ability to focus on a single topic without getting disturbed and bored is the reason
  18. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Why do you think this is a neurological rather than psychological thing? The implication of this being that it is strongly biologically determined rather than a factor of the environment. Consider that an ardent football fan cold talk and study football for hours and hours. Does that make them a football genius? It seems to me that a lot of the time people are labeled genius which seems to imply something inherent in them that makes them good rather than they have an interest in the topic that they have dedicated significant time to.
  19. Well considering a football genius - one who actually plays football very well. Some are naturally good at it. This might be because of better leg-and-brain coordination - That's just natural. Although a lot depends on how much you practice.

    Same with other disciplines - maths, science etc. A lot depends on practice but some things are natural. What is the natural thing?
  20. Many have considered genius in practical terms as the ability to go cross subject and make connections. Academic specialisation is the perfect background for this as it teaches fundamental rules, objectivity and good rational practices. A genius does not think at random or by trial and error but with great discipline.
    This is the beginning but not the end of the process because then you have to avoid getting trapped in that typical rigidity of that mindset. You need to then generalise in terms of knowledge and build on everything you have learned by adding flexibility and controlled imagination.
    Einstein is a perfect example of the mindset of a truly great genius.
    The genetic cluster of genius includes schizophrenia, autistic spectrum, ADHD etc and this seems to make for a highly flexible mind. Most with that genetic cluster fail at the stage of learning discipline which would harness their gift. 'Normal' people find the self discipline easier and have to work harder at the flexibility stage, especially since the academic world is not set up for that. It is actually found more often in industry and medicine.
  21. Unfortunately, I think that genius is something we can't pin down with one of our famous PF equations. Pardon the cliché, but I think either you have it or you don't, and your class, creed, and culture don't give you an edge one way or another. I'm a part-time singer-songwriter. Why is it that the guy from Maroon 5 can write such catchy songs? What makes him so special? I thought I wrote catchy songs but he kicks my *** every time, I'm jealous.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share a link to this question via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook