Friday 19 July 2013

Is intelligence also personality?


In contrast to yesterday's posting, which attempts to differentiate qualitatively between intelligence and personality - with personality being something like the basic nature of the brain/ mind, and intelligence a measure of its efficiency - I am also drawn to the apparently contrary idea that intelligence is (or, at least, can be) personality.

For example, it seems very obvious to me that children of very high intelligence may have a distinctive personality, so tat even from an early age (maybe five?) they are recognizable as 'intelligent' children.

Yet, of course, their actual intelligence is well below the average for an adult in other words their performance of even a top one percent six year old on an IQ test normed for adults (or a measurement of their 'reading age', which is much the same) would place them well below an average 18 year old.


What, then, are we detecting in the highly intelligent child?

The usual answer is that we are implicitly comparing the highly intelligent six year old with other six year olds, and are noticing how much more able they are - but I think this is false. I believe that high intelligence can be recognized in a child even when you do not know their age, or even if you believed they were older than their true chronological age - in other words, I think there is a qualitative difference between the personality of the highly intelligent child and average children, which can be detected almost regardless of their actual level of performance.

It is not so much what they can do, cognitively; but the way that they do it - a matter of the mode of thinking rather than the efficiency of the thinking.

Indeed, I believe this is a very strong effect, which is underestimated by the fact that many/ most IQ tests are done against the clock - which underestimates the intelligence of that significant proportion of children with exceptionally high underlying intelligence, but who have sensory, motor, attentional (etc) impairments that reduce their speed/ accuracy of answering.


(Contra the received wisdom, I think that very high g has a cost, there is a developmental trade-off between intelligence and - for example, sprinting/jumping/throwing-type athleticism/ dancing/ personal combat ability; thus at the highest levels 'g' is not a reliable fitness marker - probably because of the necessary element of group selection in the occurrence of creative genius.)


In a sense, intelligence must, at least at extremes, affect personality; since at a certain point quantitative difference becomes qualitative. Someone with much more rapid processing will perform more processes in the finite available length of time in real world situations - such that the same sensory stimulus will typically lead to a different behavioural response.


This kind of difference is seldom measured in the usual psychological studies due to the problem of range restriction in samples - for example the use of college students restricts the range of intelligence to about two standard deviations, towards the upper end of the distribution - while the population as a whole requires four standard deviations to include 96 percent of the range.

Indeed, it is logistically very difficult/ in practice impossible, for most intelligence and personality researchers to sample the bottom of the intelligence range - since they lack access to special institutions and hospitals.

And, further, an institution/ hospital sample will include many with neurological and mental illness, and physical handicaps such that the usual tests will not be possible. In practice it is extremely difficult to sample people of low intelligence who are not also pathological - so the very obvious and characteristic differences in personality between those of very low and very high intelligence may not show up in the usual run of studies.