When we think about intelligence, it is clear that there are different kinds of intelligence. I am very much open to the idea that some of these fields of intelligence overlap or tend to correlate with one another. For instance, someone who tends to have really poor scores in many other fields is likely to also have a very poor score in the field of memory or geospatial reasoning. Someone who has outstanding scores in several fields probably is more likely to also be more creative than someone who has very low scores in other fields. I do not want to make this sound like I am pumping up snowflake reasoning that everyone, even the dimmest among us, can necessarily have some outstanding hidden talent that distinguishes them from others.
However, it is important to note that there is the potential for people to be outstanding in certain area or areas while lackluster in others. The “idiot-savant” type does exist. And, perhaps, it would also be true that some “sets” of intelligence correlate better than others, and correlate far less than others.
For the purposes of this blog post, let’s divide intelligence into just a few fields – this isn’t meant to be overly thorough or exhaustive, heed you, so be charitable. There is an entry on Wikipedia for the “Theory of multiple intelligences” and perhaps those categories are pretty good, so I will borrow from them but try to condense them.
Geospatial reasoning: Intelligence that involves the analysis and navigation of the physical world.
Psychosocial reasoning: Intelligence that involves navigation of human relations and one’s own psychology.
Logical: Intelligence that involves abstract reasoning, categorization, etc.
Computative: The raw ability to manipulate numbers, quantities, etc.
Verbal: The navigation of language and words as well as the narrative and poetic.
Memory: The recall of things.
Musical: Intelligence regarding sound.
Visual: Intelligence regarding visual composition.
Wisdom: [Soft] The ability to tackle ethical or existential questions while adequately appealing to social or theological principles that is pleasing to one’s own psyche and to the group.
Strategic & Tactical [soft]: The ability to analyze and come to solutions based on logical, computative, geospatial scenarios, and perhaps even the cunning reasoning employed within a debate.
Creativity [soft]: The ability to produce, synthesize, or analyze some kind of intelligence in a way that is novel, unique, dynamic, or otherwise impressive.
The categories marked “soft” indicate that these fields of intelligence cannot necessarily be regarded as a hard or measurable intelligence. Perhaps they can also be thought of as something that can even be acquired.
What is also true of them, especially of creativity, is that they may very much defy the normal perceptions of intelligence. Anyone can look at a man who is able to quickly assess the problem with a complex machine and deliver a solution while others familiar with it are dumbfounded as skilled. Anyone can be impressed by the perfect recall of difficult material without prior planning and view it as a feat. The fellow who can still recall the correct meaning of 100 words of a different language he was only exposed to the day before. The ability to process and compute difficult information immediately is one of the most impressive displays of them all, and we all clearly understand how such a thing occurs.
There isn’t a mystery in any of these – it involves simply someone having a brain that functions better than the normal person when it comes to that category. And it is even true that it is easy to understand a person who simply hears tones or sees color in a way that is more distinctive, sharp, and superior to the way others see it.
However, the other skills have a certain mystery. For instance, a man with an advanced engineering degree may lose a chess game to a child simply because he does not have the profound strategic insight of a kid who has simply traveled down a few chess games before in his life. A Professor of Philosophy might appear quite foolish on a topic next to a wizened, illiterate old man who, through life experience and a deep connection to the society around him, is able to give a sort of proverbial knowledge with broad appeal.
Perhaps the most mysterious of all is how a man or woman can simply construct a song or a paint a picture of something that is not really based on anything but is a totally original synthesis. Of course, there may be a loose amount of inspiration from other things, but ultimately inspiration can lead to results far different than the originally inspiring thing.
This kind of intelligence is perhaps the most interesting because it literally defies what we would think about the physical workings of the brain.
How is it that someone who has less developed reasoning skills than others is still able to creatively or tactically engage the material in a way that is superior to others?
Perhaps this will be researched extensively and we will have some kind of answer for it. But it is worthwhile to note that the mystery itself is rather delicious.