Saturday, August 10, 2013

that I think better than a genius

I always thought of myself as a normal sort of a person with strengths and weaknesses. I think I can tell a pretty good story because I love my books, but I'm thick in other ways. I feel confident at reading character but would certainly flounder in a Year 12 Maths or Physics exam.

I was reading a book called "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, and a few chapters suggested that geniuses who soar sky-high in IQ tests often have limitations of their own. A crowd of intellectual students were once given the sort of challenge they weren't used to, a divergence test. They were asked to name as many functions for a brick and a blanket as they could think of.

Well, straight away, I thought what a breeze that one would be. I'm pretty confident I could rattle off several for either of them. You don't have to hone in on some elusive correct answer. You can come up with any silly thing such as doll's house table (brick) or substitute wrapping paper for a large present (blanket).

Apparently, one student could only come up with the following. Brick - building things, throwing. Blanket - keeping warm, smothering fire, improvised hammock, cover for sleeping. Now, the amazing thing is that this fellow is a prodigy with one of the highest IQs in his school.

So wow, geniuses aren't necessarily creative or imaginative. This guy's sharp brain may be able to grasp all sorts of minutiae that would boggle me, but I'm happy being able to think of 100+ random uses for bricks and blankets. A totally pointless skill to have, maybe, but it could add colour to the world I look at. I can't help thinking how boring it would be if I could solve incredibly twisted mathematical equations but never thought of any plots for possible novels.

Not long ago, my husband and I both did a long test compiled by Dr Caroline Leaf, measuring which of the seven pillars of the brain we are strongest and weakest on. These were the results.

Paula - Linguistic, Intrapersonal (I got even scores on those first two), Musical, Interpersonal, Logical/Mathematic, Kinesthetic, Visual/Spatial

Andrew - Logical/Mathematic, Musical, Visual/Spatial, Kinesthetic, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Linguistic.

So if our two brains were to be slapped down on a butcher's marble bench, they would look like similar grey blobs, but little could anyone tell how differently they fire up and work. Once, the two of us did a silly online IQ test and he supposedly came up two points ahead of me, which he teases me about to this day. I used to get mad because, honestly, I thought he was pretty dense in many ways. Our eldest son and I can be laughing over some subtle innuendo, while he's still scratching his head, not getting the semantics. He has to ask me how to spell things and surely wouldn't come up with many ideas for the brick and the blanket. Balderdash is his least favourite game and he couldn't thresh out a blog post or write a book.

However, he's a whiz at remembering directions to places, and returning in a bee-line a second time without having to consult maps. He picks up computing and mathematical concepts in a flash and often has to help me out with computer glitches, which he sometimes says are only glitches in my head. He knows a lot of information about all sorts of things, making him the ideal person to run possible plot twists past, or say, "I dunno, go and ask Dad."

He gives the kids advice like this. "Whenever I come across a word in a novel I can't pronounce, I just call it 'wheelbarrow' and whenever it comes up again, I say, 'Oh, there's wheelbarrow again.' You go and do the same."

But I get myself all flustered over diagrams in instruction manuals, while he hardly needs to refer to them at all. And I'd far rather play Balderdash than Chess or Othello.


The brain is a strange and mysterious organ. When I think of all this, and also how astronomically talented autistic people may be at different fields, I'd hesitate to judge anyone's brain as better or worse than anyone else's, despite the facetious title of this blog post.

2 comments:

  1. I think the thing that struck me about your husband and your results is how wonderfully you complement each other! Your strengths build on the other's weaknesses. I love that my husband and I have different strengths so that we can support each other that way. That's what makes a great team.

    You are so right that there are different kinds of intelligence. We are the different parts of the body. All are needed, but serve different purposes. :o)

    Peace and Laughter!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Cristina, I agree with you. It is good when you complement each other (and compliment too). It would be a dull old world if we were all the same.

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