In 1882 a mental testing centre was set up by an English statistician, Francis Galton, in an attempt to standardise a test for measuring an individual’s intelligence. He believed that intelligence was hereditary, and so he formulated a test based on – of all things – reflexes, grip strength and head size! In 1883 he published “Enquiries into Human Faculty and its Development” in which he set out his theories, but after several years of testing he was unable to see any correlation between the physical human body and intelligence, and ultimately gave up his research.
Over the past 50 years a few similar forms of IQ (‘intelligence quotient’) test have become almost standard. But do they really test the true, full level of a person’s intelligence? Of course they can successfully test someone’s ability to calculate quickly, work out what shapes fit where and so on – but I don’t for a minute believe they give any real indication of how people are able to get on with life in a productive, and essentially happy, way.
It all comes down to your interpretation of intelligence. Ken Wilber introduced me to ‘lines of intelligence’ in recent years; they have no bearing on how good you are at mathematics or whether you can spot an out-of-place symbol in under three seconds. I admit that these are great skills to have, and they are very important in some walks of life, but they are not the be all and end all.
Lines of Intelligence includes emotional intelligence, which is the basis for being able to deal with your feelings in an appropriate way. Someone with high emotional intelligence would understand how they feel, have the ability to register and sympathise with another person’s feelings, and be able to keep those feelings from adversely affecting them. Emotional intelligence also gives a person the ability to be more compassionate towards other people’s suffering.
Then there is moral intelligence, which gives a person the awareness of right thing to do in any given circumstance. The right thing to do is not always the easiest thing or indeed the most painless. But the ability to do the right thing based on compassion and a good emotional intelligence is, in my opinion, easily as important as a mathematics degree.
What about spiritual intelligence? To know your purpose, to understand what you want out of life and to have a definite direction; surely this ability is far more beneficial than knowing dates in history?
Now before I get a ton of emails: I’m not saying you shouldn’t develop your individual talents or try to improve on those you feel you lack in, and every one of us can benefit from a good broad general knowledge. But we need to acknowledge the amazing capability of many people who might otherwise have low standard IQ scores.
I know who I would appreciate more, and who I would rather spend my time with… Plus I never do well on IQ tests!