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What makes the genius?

  1. Jul 27, 2004 #1
    There are many knowledgable people out there. Even really smart ones. But how would you define a genius. It seems the word is thrown around a little. Like nowadays someone might even call an idiot savant a genius when he has just seen one side (the only side in this case) of his intelligence. So what are the qualities of a true genius?
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  3. Jul 27, 2004 #2
    my own personal definition of a genius is someone who can learn things really fast and efficiently, regardless of what area of study it is. I also classify people who are really good at thinking "outside the box" a genius. I don't classify people who are walking calculators a genius if they can't put a reasonable sentence together. i would classify them something else. However, these are my own personal definitions, and common definiton probably varies
  4. Jul 27, 2004 #3
    those who shows a degree of insight that makes them the cutting edge in their field of study are those i consider to be geniuses.
  5. Jul 27, 2004 #4
    In addition to what Jim and devil-fire have mentioned, it is often said that the genius is one capable of making intuitive breakthroughs. IOW, it is one that can arrive at a very complex conclusion through intuition, without taking all the technical steps from the current level of knowledge to her/his conclusion.
  6. Jul 27, 2004 #5
    A genius is someone who can intellectually do what others cannot. And I don't mean someone who can think the fastest, learn the fastest and has the best memory. A genius has to be able to produce something that others cannot.
  7. Jul 28, 2004 #6


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    I knew a kid at my grade school who was written up in the local newspaper because he calculated the orbit for Comet Kouhtek. He was certainly quicker than the rest of us at learning things, and he loved coming up with games and puzzles. Some of the other kids called him "Mister Science." But it's funny, the guy couldn't spell worth beans.
  8. Jul 28, 2004 #7
    a genius, to me, not some one who knows facts, like how to calculate the distances of other galexies by using the doppler effect. it is a person who knows how to think, using creativity and logic togeather. who can, not think outside the box, but recongize that there is not box.
  9. Jul 28, 2004 #8
    Creativity + logic..thats what I say. Someone who has dominant creativity and dominant logic at the same time. But that leads to a lot of mental tension. It creates an anxious person, a person frustrated with himself. That is how I feel, that is why geniuses often suffer mental disorders.
    My problem is, then why is "Genius" said to be able to be defined by an IQ test. I dont trust IQ tests at all. Sure it can measure intelligence to an extent but a person can have a "gap" in their IQ from one day to the next. He could have a "bad" day.
    Shouldn't someone be working on a way to measure true genius taking into account the great multitude of intelligences out there?
  10. Aug 7, 2004 #9
    Actually there's so much work that goes into the really professional IQ tests, it's specifically designed in a way that minimizes questions that would throw scores from day to day. On a good IQ test, the same person tested multiple times will be within 3-4 points every time (assuming they're not intoxicated, etc)
  11. Aug 7, 2004 #10
    What if the person being tested isn't...good at tests?

    I'm awesome at tests, but I'm horrible at taking on large projects (academically). Some people are the opposite.

    I hate timed tests though. As I don't think they give me enough time to think everything through and give the best answer. In fact, I don't know why they time us. If someone takes 30 minutes more than everyone else, but gets 30 points higher on his score, does it matter?

    IQ tests also cannot predict artistic genius such as music or painting, AFAIK.
  12. Aug 7, 2004 #11


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    I would love to know how John Lennon would have tested. It is a fact that he was a pretty much a failure at school. Even art school, which should have been more to his liking, turned out to be a drag for him, and he stopped attending class. But he went on to a songwriting and performing career that certainly lives up to any reasonable standard of 'genius.'
  13. Aug 7, 2004 #12
    John Lennon isn't the only artistic genius that had trouble academically.

    Some authors nearly flunked out of school. The famous children writer, Avi, is an example:

    In elementary school I did well in science, but I was a poor writer. When I got to high school I failed all my courses. Then my folks put me in a small school which emphasized reading and writing. Even beyond that I needed special tutoring.

    http://www.avi-writer.com/aboutAvi.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  14. Aug 8, 2004 #13
    IQ tests measure intellectual capability*; not artistic capability. This is a design aspect, not a flaw.

    *i.e. a person with a 120 IQ who works extremely hard can be 'smarter' and know more than a person with a 140 IQ who does absolutely nothing to develop their ability.
  15. Aug 9, 2004 #14
    Most so called "musical geniuses" are not geniuses unless they know wot their music and each chord progression, chord and note is doing in the song. They do not consider every single thing. It just seems good because it sounds good. I do not believe John Lennon to be a musical genius and am sorry if u r offended by this. I consider the classical artists only to be true "musical geniuses" as they saw the meaning in every note.
  16. Aug 11, 2004 #15
    I still don't buy that IQ tests can fully measure intellectual capacity. There are so many other factors involved. For example, someone may have a certain anxiety and not do well under pressure, but if he is studying not under pressure he can absorb more than someone who may score higher on the same IQ test.
    Most people have either stronger creative nerworking in their brain or stronger logic. Creativity does not, however, always imply artistic. Artistic ability falls under the creative category. Likewise, not all people with strong logical ability are good at the same things. The human mind is too complex for the human mind to fully understand. I just think that IQ tests measure a certain intellectual brain function without taking into account other abilities or hinderances which also affect scoring.
  17. Aug 15, 2004 #16
    Genius doesn't equal high IQ

    I always find it strange how people put so much emphasis on high IQ, but I believe that in the sciences you need something other than just a high IQ, think about it.

    Did Einstein have the highest IQ have the highest IQ both in the physics world and in the world in general?? Probably, not yet his contributions are more important than the the person with the highest IQ in the world and the person with the highest IQ in the physics world, at that time.

    Did Schrodinger have the highest IQ both in the physics world and in the world in general?? Probably not, yet he developed the basics of quantum mechanics, a contribution more important than the person with the highest IQ at that time, both in the physics world and the in the world in general.

    Does Andrew Wiles have the highest IQ?? Probably not, yet he proved a conjecture that stumped some of the greatest mathematical minds in history, probably including people with higher IQ's than his!!!!

    Despite the abundance of geniuses in the sciences many of the most fundemental questions and problems go unsolved, why??? Why isn't string theory fully formulated yet, why haven't we found a cure for at least certain types of cancer, why do so many math conjectures go unproved???? Why can't high IQ people solve these problems for us???

    I believe to become a true genius you need to be born at the right place in the world, to be born at the right time in history, to have the right idea at the right time, and to have an IQ high enough to develop your idea within a reasonable amount of time.

    A high IQ isn't enough, most high IQ people alive today will probably not solve any great problems, or contribute something original and we will probably never hear of them again.

    John G.
  18. Aug 15, 2004 #17


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    They all three had enormously high IQ's. You can't give me an example of somebody with a low IQ who did comparable work in math/physics. The "highest in the world" requirement is a straw man.

    To say that other qualities are required doesn't amount to much because the one quality that can't be eliminated is IQ (or more accurately, g).
  19. Aug 15, 2004 #18

    Just how do you know the IQ's of those individuals?? Where is your data, can I analyze or see it??

    Einstein Never took an IQ test:


    Just how do you know he had a super high IQ??

    My point was IQ is necessary but NOT SUFFICIENT, even if you control for enviornment and timing issues.

    Thought Example:

    You and your lower IQ friend are working on fully formulating string theory, you want to make it background independent, no one knows how to do this. You are at the end of your ropes, you don't know how to proceed, or what to do. You're friend has an intution about the background independence of string theory, it turns out to be the KEY IDEA to making string theory background independent. Despite your higher IQ it was your friend who developed the solution.

    You can have a high IQ but if you don't have the correct idea at the right time you won't be making any original contributions. So in a way the idea is more important than IQ, though IQ is still necessary.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2004
  20. Aug 15, 2004 #19
    Creativity and imagination surely play a big factor in genius as well. There was an individual with a 115 IQ who did something significant with DNA, I believe he discovered it. He won the Nobel prize for this as well. This is all true if memory serves me correctly.

    Einstein's brain looks as if he had an abnormality which made him better in specific areas such as Physics. Overall I think great things can be accomplished with a somewhat above average IQ, hard work, and creativity. Groups of people working together to accomplish a goal seems to be happening more today. That's a good thing I'd say.
  21. Aug 16, 2004 #20

    "To win a Nobel Prize is no big deal, but to win it with an IQ of 125, now that's something." - Richard Feynman

    While this is a full standard deviation above the mean, it is far lower than that of Einstein et. al.
  22. Aug 16, 2004 #21
    Urban legends of normal-range IQs of famous geniuses

    It isn't much lower than Shockley's (inventor of the transistor) mid-130's IQ (tested by Stanford-Binet IQ-test author Lewis Terman as part of his famous study of highly gifted children).

    In an interview with Christopher Langan, Arthur Jensen addressed the Feynman et al urban legends of quotidian IQ levels:

    • http://www.iomas.com/gina/ultrahiq/mega-society/NoesisJuly/JensenPartI.htm:

      Christopher Langan for the Mega Foundation:
      It is reported that one of this century’s greatest physicists, Nobelist Richard Feynman, had an IQ of 125 or so. Yet, a careful reading of his work reveals amazing powers of concentration and analysis…powers of thought far in excess of those suggested by a z score of well under two standard deviations above the population mean. Could this be evidence that something might be wrong with the way intelligence is tested? Could it mean that early crystallization of intelligence, or specialization of intelligence in a specific set of (sub-g) factors – i.e., a narrow investment of g based on a lopsided combination of opportunity and proclivity - might put it beyond the reach of g-loaded tests weak in those specific factors, leading to deceptive results?

      Arthur Jensen: I don’t take anecdotal report of the IQs of famous persons at all seriously. They are often fictitious and are used to make a point - typically a put-down of IQ test and the whole idea that individual differences in intelligence can be ranked or measured. James Watson once claimed an IQ of 115; the daughter of another very famous Nobelist claimed that her father would absolutely “flunk” any IQ test. It’s all ridiculous. Furthermore, the outstanding feature of any famous and accomplished person, especially a reputed genius, such as Feynman, is never their level of g (or their IQ), but some special talent and some other traits (e.g., zeal, persistence). Outstanding achievements(s) depend on these other qualities besides high intelligence. The special talents, such as mathematical musical, artistic, literary, or any other of the various “multiple intelligences” that have been mentioned by Howard Gardner and others are more salient in the achievements of geniuses than is their typically high level of g. Most very high-IQ people, of course, are not recognized as geniuses, because they haven’t any very outstanding creative achievements to their credit. However, there is a threshold property of IQ, or g, below which few if any individuals are even able to develop high-level complex talents or become known for socially significant intellectual or artistic achievements. This bare minimum threshold is probably somewhere between about +1.5 sigma and +2 sigma from the population mean on highly g-loaded tests. Childhood IQs that are at least above this threshold can also be misleading. There are two famous scientific geniuses, both Nobelists in physics, whose childhood IQs are very well authenticated to have been in the mid-130s. They are on record and were tested by none other than Lewis Terman himself, in his search for subjects in his well-known study of gifted children with IQs of 140 or above on the Stanford-Binet intelligence test. Although these two boys were brought to Terman’s attention because they were mathematical prodigies, they failed by a few IQ points to meet the one and only criterion (IQ>139) for inclusion in Terman’s study. Although Terman was impressed by them, as a good scientist he had to exclude them from his sample of high-IQ kids. Yet none of the 1,500+ subjects in the study ever won a Nobel Prize or has a biography in the Encyclopedia Britannica as these two fellows did. Not only were they gifted mathematically, they had a combination of other traits without which they probably would not have become generally recognized as scientific and inventive geniuses. So-called intelligence tests, or IQ, are not intended to assess these special abilities unrelated to IQ or any other traits involved in outstanding achievement. It would be undesirable for IQ tests to attempt to do so, as it would be undesirable for a clinical thermometer to measure not just temperature but some combination of temperature, blood count, metabolic rate, etc. A good IQ test attempts to estimate the g factor, which isn’t a mixture, but a distillate of the one factor (i.e., a unitary source of individual differences variance) that is common to all cognitive tests, however diverse.

      I have had personal encounters with three Nobelists in science, including Feynman, who attended a lecture I gave at Cal Tech and later discussed it with me. He, like the other two Nobelists I’ve known (Francis Crick and William Shockley), not only came across as extremely sharp, especially in mathematical reasoning, but they were also rather obsessive about making sure they thoroughly understood the topic under immediate discussion. They at times transformed my verbal statements into graphical or mathematical forms and relationships. Two of these men knew each other very well and often discussed problems with each other. Each thought the other was very smart. I got a chance to test one of these Nobelists with Terman’s Concept Mastery Test, which was developed to test the Terman gifted group as adults, and he obtained an exceptionally high score even compared to the Terman group all with IQ>139 and a mean of 152.

      I have written an essay relevant to this whole question: “Giftedness and genius: Crucial differences.” In C. P. Benbow & D. Lubinski (Eds.) Intellectual Talent: Psychometric and Social Issues, pp. 393-411. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  23. Aug 18, 2004 #22
    just a thought

    It seems to me that geniuses simply have a huge ability to grasp complex concepts without much general knowledge beforehand. I like to equate geniuses with musical prodigies. It seems almost as if randomness or dumb luck makes them stumble on the best way to go about playing an instrument or the most efficient way to think at an early stage. Almost as if they never have to try to do anything. Einstein said that he worked by sitting in chair and thinking. Most geniuses say something along those lines.
    I believe that really great thinking can only be done if the mind is not filled with worries and responsibilities. If you can quiet your mind, it will start doing the thinking on its own. Like all the master teachers say, "Stop trying to understand, and you will understand." All my best thoughts come when I just sit by myself and veg out. After a while I will think of something and the idea or thought will be completely formed as if someone just pulled away a curtain and said, "Here look at this." I'm not saying I'm a genius by any means, just that my creativity and depth of thought goes through the roof when I stop thinking about anything.
  24. Aug 19, 2004 #23
    In all prbability that person in not more intelligent than is indicated by the tests, assuming that the tests in question are standard IQ tests.

    IQ tests do not measure the ability to take on large projects. IQ tests measure _g_ and group factors. Almost all of their external validity comes from their _g_ loading.

    When test time limits are reduced, they begin to lose _g_ loading. When very short time limits are applied the _g_ loading decreases significantly. This is because _g_ is a measure of the common cognitive process and is not a measure of learned material. With short time limits, a premium is placed on the faster use of _s_ loading; this necessarily causes a reduction in the _g_ loading.

    IQ tests cannot predict any form of genius. IQ tests measure one ability which is a necessary but not sufficient condition for genius performance. FWIW, Jensen's observation of people who have "made it" is that they have three qualities:

    Exceptional level of ability or talent
    Unstinting energy
    Intensely concentrated, sustained interest in what they were doing.
    [Miele - Intelligence, Race, and Genetics, P. 29]

    Galton observed that such people have a high level of ability, zeal, and persistence of effort (pretty much the same list as Jensen's).
  25. Aug 19, 2004 #24
    When Jensen has discussed test anxiety in his books, he related it to measurable indicators, such as high pulse rate. The findings he has reported do not show that fear of tests causes low scores. Can you direct us to a scientific sutdy that shows the opposite?

    This subject was addressed in the last issue of the journal Intelligence:

    Intelligence Volume 32, Issue 2 , March-April 2004, Pages 145-153

    Do standardized tests penalize deep-thinking, creative, or conscientious students? Some personality correlates of Graduate Record Examinations test scores

    Donald E. Powers, and James C. Kaufman

    Another significant body of work has examined the relationship between creativity and general intelligence, finding consistent but weak correlations between these two constructs (see Barron & Harrington, 1981 and Sternberg & O'Hara, 2000, for reviews of the literature) and a somewhat stronger relationship between creativity and verbal abilities (e.g., Qureshi & Qureshi, 1990). The correlation between creativity and IQ tends not to be linear, appearing to diminish beyond an IQ of approximately 120 (Fuchs-Beauchamp et al., 1993 and Getzels & Jackson, 1962).

    IQ measures _g_ and group factors. There is no claim that it measures anything else. We all know that there are many other human traits that are important in various situations. The most important aspects of IQ are that it strongly predicts ability to learn and the ability to perform in certain Hi-Q professions. People with IQs significantly below the thresholds for demanding careers have little, if any, hope for success.
  26. Aug 19, 2004 #25
    I agree. If one is to succeed in a demanding field, such as physics, he must be intelligent and possess the other necessary components for success, which Galton named as zeal and persistence.

    I don't see how this relates to the other parts of the discussion. We all know that questions are answered each day as humans develop improved models, better instrumentation, and a more comprehensive knowledge of science. Some questions may never be answered for the reason that there may be factors that contributed to them which we cannot inspect now or ever.

    I agree that a high IQ is not enough, but an IQ well above the threshold for scientific (or other field) work is necessary. We are not going to have any of the secrets of the universe solved by people of ordinary intelligence.
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