Intelligence and Rationality Revealed (CP1)

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What is 8×7? Is there a synonym for “synonym”? What is the correlation between intelligence and rationality? Those are three questions that require keen use of our cognitive abilities, and the last one has certainly captivated the minds of the greatest thinkers throughout history. Even as I write, there are many ideas on this topic incubating in the minds of the thinkers of our time; awaiting eureka? Paradoxically, there isn`t even a universal definition of intelligence or rationality; let alone any clear idea about the correlation between the two. Investigating extent of such correlations is essential to establish whether we are on the right track or not.

Knowing more about this is not simply a pastime for philosophers. Consider that our educational system, based on our past understanding of this topic, might end up giving power and influence to people who might be irrational and/or have other cognitive deficiencies. In a world faced with unparalleled challenges, from economic and climate crises to mass-extinction of animals in Earths ecological system (Biello, 2008), we need to know what kind of minds that are needed to tackle these issues and how to maximize our cognitive efficacy.

Intelligence and rationality has been a hot topic since classical antiquity, but the transition from philosophical to experimental investigation of it happened quite recently. Cousin of Darwin, Francis Galton (1822-1911) lived in a time where the descriptive gulf between the animal kingdom and the kingdom of man narrowed, while the normative gulf between animals and humans widened.   Galton set out to measure intelligence, and discovered that many aspects of it where quantifiable. Later researchers continued and refined how to measure these quantitative aspects, like Alfred Binet (1857-1911) and Thèodore Simon (1872-1961), and confirmed predictive correlations between intelligence quotient (IQ) and educational success.

But are all aspects of intelligence so easily quantifiable, or are there various aspects of it that is harder to quantify? Two current camps here, one with a narrow approach spearheaded by David Wechslers and John Ravens tests, and one with a wide approach spearheaded by Howard Gardner and Robert Sternberg. In the interest of time, I will contrast Raven to Gardner in this paper. Intelligence is composed of eight parts according to Gardner: intrapersonal, bodily & kinesthetic, visual, musical, naturalistic, linguistic, logical & mathematical and interpersonal. Raven measures fluid intelligence, something that will be explained in the methods section.

Rationality made the transition from philosophical to experimental investigation very recently. Fruitful theories about rationality in our times have, like intelligence, roots stretching deep back into western history. By now a dichotomy is commonly used; epistemic and instrumental rationality. Epistemic refers to ones relation to information that confirms or falsifies held beliefs; instrumental refers to how one selects a means to an end. If I believe there was a link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, and does not change my opinion even though all evidence and my favorite politician negates the link; then I am epistemically irrational.(Prasad, 2009) Bias is also a term for not using facts as a guide. If I want to prevent getting cold but choose to walk out in shorts and t-shirt mid-December; then I am instrumentally irrational. Rationality has to do with judgment.

IQ tests where by many thought to equal degree of rationality, but current psychologists like Keith Stanovich has found that IQ tests actually do not even test rationality (Stanovich, 2009). This is quite alarming considering the enormous authority IQ tests have inside and outside of the educational system; irrational surgeons are a disturbing concept, what about world leaders? Irrationality (dysrationalia) is caused by two kinds of problems according to Stanovich; it may be caused by insufficient processing of relevant information to make a decision (cognitive miser), or it might be caused by a deficient understanding of how you should go about making decision in the first place (mindware gap).  The general idea about intelligence and rationality has now been laid out, and additional information relating specifically to our study will be provided in the next part of this paper. How we process information is however something that needs to be established in advance.

Our mind processes information though an intricate system, and how deeply information is processed varies. Relevant to our research is the theory behind the system orchestrating our conscious awareness, working memory (WM). WM is thought to be divisible into four components according to Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch. The central executive coordinates and directs the flow of information into three subsidiary systems. You have the visuospatial sketchpad for visual and phonological loop for auditory information, while the episodic buffer is a new edition to this theory. The first two subsidiary systems code in one “language”, while the episodic buffer is kind of “bilingual” and functions as an interface between these various systems.(Baddeley, 2000) Information that later ends up in our semantic or episodic long-term memory is filtered through and activated by this system.

Its important to note that the investigation of how intelligence relates to rationality has not fully left the womb of philosophy. While it is true that this topic is more a task for science as of now than what it has been at any time previously, it behooves anyone investigating this to be critical even of our most cherished conceptions of it.  There are still many unanswered questions that will have to be addressed because the complexity surrounding these investigations mirrors the import and implications they have for us. Investigating the correlation between intelligence and rationality is the purpose of our research, and we have chosen the following method by which to investigate it.

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Music: “Awaiting Return” Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Video background: The Unfinished Swan, by Giant Sparrow


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