Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Genius and social intelligence (High Psychoticism and the creative genius personality may be conceptualized as social intelligence co-opted for abstract thinking)

Humans are social animals: most Men see the world through social spectacles.

But a genius is not like this. The genius does not have a specific, positive personality type - but geniuses are characterised by not being primarily social animals. 

A genius is one whose main focus and motivation is not social, nor sexual; but instead abstract, not-social - whether artistic, scientific, technical or whatever it may be.   


Could it then be that the genius uses for abstract thinking, those brain-systems which in most people are used for social intelligence? That in the genius, the social intelligence system is wired-up to internal stimuli instead of to social situations? 

That the genius deploys the social intelligence parts of the brain for other purposes - and that therefore the usual spontaneous motivation and attention that goes to social material is instead - automatically - being harnessed and deployed to deal with other and inner-generated material. 


So, it is not that geniuses lack social intelligence (the genius is not 'autistic' in the sense of having a deficit or defect in social intelligence); rather that geniuses have all the 'equipment' necessary for social intelligence, but are 'wired-up' to use their social intelligence for other and not-social purposes. 

Specifically, the genius social intelligence may be wired-up to internally-generated material (instead of attending to to actual people in the environment and from memory).  The spontaneous interest and concern with 'other people' that is characteristic of most people; is, in the genius, directed to whatever 'abstract' subject the genius has a vocation-for. 


Another way of thinking about this is that the genius may be able to deploy extra 'brain power' in problem solving, by 'co-opting' the brain regions normally used for social intelligence. 

And not only brain power - but the distinctive 'theory of mind' mode of thinking which characterises social intelligence. So the genius thinks about 'his subject' in a social-like way - as a world populated by entities with motivations and dispositions and each having a purpose (teleology). 

Social intelligence could be much of what is creative about creativity; because to think about abstract things 'anthropomorphically' with social intelligence, or animistically as if they were sentient social agents, perhaps opens-up a new and probably more creative, intuitive and flexible way of thinking. 



Ngoc Nguyen said...

Your argument can ergo neatly explain Newton's lack of sex drive and atrocious personality towards his much disliked colleagues and peers at Cambridge. He was never regarded to be a pleasant man (by them), especially through the viewpoint of history. (Indeed, why wouldn't an intellectual Brobdingnaggian such as Newton have nothing but the greatest disdain for all the mental Lilliputians around him??).

Bruce Charlton said...

@NN - I think the idea might explain Newton's lack of sex drive, utter absorption in his work and indifference to colleagues, but I don't think it explains his nasty-ness - I think he just happened to be a rather unpleasant man.

Some geniuses are nice people, some are nasty - but neither is essential to being a genius.

Crosbie said...

I suppose the claim the primate brain sizes correlate closely with group size might suggest that our brain is 'for' social interaction - and everything else we do with it is a kind of re-purposing.

It seems to tie in with your notion that 'reality is relational'. Reality is formed of relations, and our brain is 'for' relations.

Ngoc Nguyen said...

Yes, his unfortunate childhood was responsible for that. Sorry for conflating the two (i.e., his brilliance vs. his long-lasting bitterness and resentment against his step-father and mother's perceived betrayal) and for not making it pointedly clear.

Nicholas Fulford said...

I think reality is inherently relational - right down to the way the brains interact to create a coherent experience, and not a disjoint muddle of chatter. That a genius may repurpose the brain real estate that is usually involved in social relationships to abstract relationships is not terribly surprising. In all probability being ostracized at a young age for having a predisposition towards abstract over concrete relationships reinforces the use of the relational faculties for more reflective and abstract purposes. It would seem to me to be a positive feedback loop that shapes and casts the genius's relational faculty for its best use - by a genius.

There is nothing like getting bullied for being socially awkward to initiate a much more complete withdrawal into the world of ideas. (Ideas don't beat a kid up in the playground.)