Intelligence Does Not Make You Intelligent

Intelligence Does Not Make You Intelligent
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Paul Frampton has prodigious intelligence. A (former) tenured professor of physics at the University of North Carolina with more than 450 publications to his name, he undoubtedly possesses a high IQ, as well as a considerable capacity for "logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, emotional knowledge, memory, planning, creativity, and problem solving."

But Paul Frampton is not intelligent. After all, no smart 68-year-old man would get tricked into thinking that transporting $400,000 dollars worth of cocaine from Bolivia to Brussels would earn him the love and affection of world-renowned bikini model Denise Milani. To fall for such an obvious honey trap, one would have to completely lack skeptical reason, sound judgment, and the ability to think critically.

Frampton's case perfectly exemplifies the most important thing to know about intelligence: Intelligent people can be, and often are, very stupid.

Enduring psychologist and legendary skeptic Ray Hyman explained why in a recent interview on The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

"Intelligence is a capacity," he said. "Intelligence tests don’t tell us what people will do, they tell us what people are potentially able to do. It’s how people use their abilities that make the difference."

Barbara Drescher, a former psychology professor at California State University - Northridge, elaborated further in a three-part piece published to the Skeptics Society website.

In her piece, Drescher described joining Mensa, the International High IQ Society open to anyone with a tested IQ in the top 2%. Upon joining, she was instantly irked to find that the organization featured special interest groups for pseudoscientific topics like extrasensory perception, astrology, and parapsychology. "Why would Mensa, an organization made up of the world's smartest people, maintain groups for disproven subjects?" she wondered. The thought prompted her to explore the science of intelligence, and specifically why supposedly smart people can be so irrational.

Drescher found answers courtesy of a series of laboratory experiments conducted by researchers Keith Stanovich and Richard West. Stanovich and West posed various situations and problems to participants and examined how they tried to think through and solve them. In particular, the duo was interested in how and why subjects answered incorrectly. They found that people tended to be wrong by being ignorant, arrogant, cognitively lazy, or closed-minded.

If you haven't noticed, all of those traits are almost entirely under one's control! We can choose to be curious and seek out information. We can choose to admit that we might be wrong. We can choose to think slowly and surely. We can choose to be open-minded!

We can choose to be intelligent! Or we can choose to be stupid.

So what'll it be?

(Image: Shutterstock)

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