Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who else thinks intelligence is genetic?

From New Scientist comes a very interesting article on the real nature of intelligence:

(read the original at → Confidence as important as IQ in exam success )

Do you think you’re smarter than most? Chances are, your children will feel the same way about themselves.

A new study of thousands of twins suggests that intellectual confidence is genetically inherited, and independent from actual intelligence.

Moreover, these genetic differences predict grades in school, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychologist at Goldsmiths University in London, whose team found that 7- to 10-year-old children who achieved the best marks in school tended to rate their own abilities highly, even after accounting for differences due to intelligence and environment.

Nature or nurture?

Psychologists have long known that intelligence isn’t the only predictor of scholastic achievement and that intellectual confidence does a good a job of predicting grades as well.

“There has been a very, very big lobby within educational psychology against the notion of IQ,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. “And part of this lobby has been based on the idea that self-perceptions matter more than actual ability.”

Most of these researchers assumed that environmental factors – the influence of parents, teachers and friends – explained why some students think more of their abilities than others.

That’s only partially true, says Chamorro-Premuzic. About half of differences in children’s self-perceived abilities can be explained by environment. The other half seems to be genetic.

‘Challenges convention’

Chamorro-Premuzic’s team drew this conclusion by comparing intelligence, grades and personal ratings of 1966 pairs of identical twins and 1877 pairs of non-identical or fraternal twins. Identical twins share nearly all their genes, while fraternal twins just half. This allowed researchers to calculate how much of the differences in intellectual confidence were due to genetic versus environmental factors.

My take:

I always believed that my good results at school had much more to do with my relative lack of pre-exam stress, than with actual “intelligence”. Many classmates of mine whose average performance was lower were actually just as intelligent, or more, than me, but had either self-confidence issues, or got nervous before tests.

Apparently, you might not be a genius, but the curious feedback loop the article above describes seems to boost your own ( and others’ ) confidence in your abilities, leading to great results which are then thought to be caused by a somewhat superior intelligence.

So, in the end it’s just perceived intelligence — which actually produces good results through a mix of a placebo effect, and a misconception about the nature and output of true intelligence (what is it, by the way?).

Add to that the popular perception that a grasp at a fair amount of factoids/trivia/popular culture (especially science-based) is somewhat indicative of intelligence (it merely indicates good memory, and perhaps curiosity, which may have a part in intelligence, indeed, but arguably less so than, say, raw logic reasoning power), and you have a recipe for a so-called genius / intelligent person, even though the potential actually exists for most people. This differs from the romantic view of innate talent that everyone seems to believe intelligence is.

Summing up:

  • The good news: Most people can be “intelligent”. As with most so-called “talents”, it can be worked up.
  • The bad news: You have to actually work on it. No geniuses are born knowing how to solve differential equations, or recursive integrals, or (insert math terms that make you look smart here)

So, what do you think?

Posted by Waldir Pimenta in 22:58:27

2 Responses to “Who else thinks intelligence is genetic?”

  1. ludmila says:

    vc pensa muito escreve mais ainda rs.. adoroo bjs

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