Five Ways to Make Brighter Choices

Understanding intelligence without judging yourself and others.

10/20/2021 12:18:00 AM

Having a narrow definition of intelligence holds many people back from making smart decisions. Here's how to prevent that from happening to you, writes Zenpsychology

Understanding intelligence without judging yourself and others.

with learning languages? Too busy concocting theories to get the dirt off his eggs? Maybe very intelligent people do not bother with socks? Hmm. Excuses, I say. Reasons we do not make for more ordinary folk.It is more likely that there are different forms of what is considered intelligent, as suggested by Howard Gardner.

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2He proposed at least eight specific kinds of intelligence instead of just a single ability: musical, spatial, linguistic, logical/mathematical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist (added later), and maybe existential intelligence. Gardner's categories allow actual people–as opposed to people we put on a pedestal or push off from one–to begin to make more sense.

When we allow for more complexity, we become more appreciative of diverse contributions and possibly abstain from harsh judgment, including self-judgment. It becomes more acceptable that a person can be very intelligent here and not so intelligent there. We make peace with reality when we realize that nobody knows it all. More grounded, we might just learn to relate,

, and let go. All of this makes stumbling into happiness more likely.Furthermore, Jeff Hawkins, with theresearch company Numenta, has recently shared a new theory of intelligence called A Thousand Brains.3He believes that intelligence has three broad components: 1) reference frames (neurological mechanisms with which we build models/maps of the world), 2) neurological capacity (amount of neurons, synapsis, cortical columns), and 3) training. We would be more or less intelligent depending on all three components. For example, if we had great capacity but lacked practice, our reference frames would not help us make accurate future predictions.

Hawkins explains further what reference frames (models of the world) are and how intelligence is tied to the quality of our reference frames. In a nutshell, we build reference frames that help us navigate our physical environment and objects and abstract objects in humans. We then have 150,000 cortical columns –like little pieces of thin spaghetti

4–stacked side by side in our neocortex, which create reference frames.The scientist explains that"the brain arranges all knowledge using reference frames, and that thinking is a form of moving. Thinking occurs when we activate successive locations in reference frames."

5Each cortical column would have thousands of reference frames (maps of the world) and overlap with thousands of other columns. All relevant reference frames would be activated and vote together to reach a consensus to determine if a cup is really a cup.

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What might this mean for us thinking about intelligence and how to relate to intelligence? An intelligent move in life, be it concrete or abstract, depends on many factors. As said, we need some raw material (neurological capacity) and an opportunity to practice (training). Still, we also need to build millions of maps of the world with the help of our 150,000 cortical columns.

There is much room for error. We can be misguided by emotions and drives, but such intrusions are by far not the only reason for making seemingly ridiculous mistakes. If we have created wrong models of the world, we can get lost in bad ideas. An otherwise trusted expert could suggest dumb things, not only in an area outside her expertise–where an Einstein becomes a cook–but even in her area. She could have acquired a few bad models, or omitted to test her models (think social media where people only surround themselves with people who concur), or failed to integrate models of critical importance.

For example, suppose a man holds several doctoral degrees and usually knows best per many people's experience. In that case, he is likely to learn that he is usually right when others struggle to understand. He might become overly confident and not be alarmed by others pointing out his errors. In fact, in his past, controversy usually followed when he shared the uncomfortable truths that resulted from his superior, critical thinking. (The models we make of the world include where we place ourselves in the social hierarchy.)

Furthermore, some doctors' models of the world might follow rigidheuristics(the government can never be trusted; women cannot think abstractly; rich people have only their interests in mind). Then add a bit urgency to the equation–think pandemic–and suddenly, the man who usually knows best might give the worst advice ever. He still has models of the world that accurately predict very complex things with the help of his 150,000 cortical columns, but on some matters, he takes a wrong turn, just as you and me.

Here are five ways to reduce mistakes and relate positively to intelligence:1) Keep Cool. Read more: Psychology Today »

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Zenpsychology If you are the most intelligent person in the room, you are in the wrong room, a friend of mine used to say.

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