Link between Intelligence and Rationality (CP3)

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Amount of intelligence does not equal amount of rationality. The correlation between IQ and rationality was 0,326 in a recent Norwegian study: it might be nice to be intelligent, but it does not help you much in making rational decisions. Some rationality tests measures one’s ability to pass judgments.

If a highly and averagely intelligent person is faced with a task where the solution seems simple, both are just as likely to respond heuristically. In other words, use automatic processes instead of deeper ones. Evidence does however suggest that more intelligent people are somewhat more epistemically rational than others (Stanovich, 2008). However, more intelligent people only adjust themselves quicker to relevant information if they are warned about the danger of cognitive miserliness beforehand. It seems like this increased ability to adapt is related to IQ. Paradoxically however, people with aspergers syndrome, a milder form of autism, have higher gf (fluid intelligence) than non-autistic people (Heyashi et. al., 2007). Autism is certainly a very debilitating condition, and is characterized by unwillingness to adapt to things that does not follow routines.

There is controversy whether a narrow or broad conception of intelligence is best suited. Many studies are based on a narrow conception of intelligence as being gf (fluid intelligence), something Howard Gardner would contest as being far to narrow. The reasoning behind the criticism is that a high IQ-score singles out a very specific type of person as being intelligent, i.e. a person that is good in academic settings. Gardner, with his eight intelligences, thinks students should go to schools that are specializing in the students primary intelligences: our current educational system treats students like they are one homogeneous population (Levitin, p.744-745, 2002).

Gardner`s use of the term “intelligence” is rather loose, and that can be criticized: a term that is so wide is not very good as a scientific term. Intrapersonal, bodily & kinesthetic, visual, musical, naturalistic, linguistic, logical & mathematical and interpersonal talents sounds better than intelligences, because intelligence already has a circumscribed meaning that is hard to shake. Having an aptitude for interpersonal reflection is important and can be linked with metacognition, being aware of how to use your mind, and mindware. Linguistic talent is important to communicate e.g. ones research, and interpersonal talent is important when you are a part of a research project. I think allot of Garnder`s critics would be more accepting of his approach if he simply had not used such a provocative term as multiple intelligences, because it gives the impression that they are inter-substitutional.

IQ is described by some of its critics as a sort of social construct that is used in an oppressing way towards peoples and cultures that does not favor scientism.(Levitin, p.801-802, 2002). I do however think a link can be drawn between individualism and scientism, the former being a requisite for the latter, because scientism very much is about “thinking for yourself”. Traditional authority, political, religious or familial, can be said to be a hurdle as far as creativity and development of science is concerned, as is shown with Chinese students (Man, 2005). Eastern-Asian people are known for having a more collectivistic mindset, and for thinking more holistically than e.g. their western counterparts.

There are strengths and weaknesses related to both cultures, and it would be interesting to do some studies on how rationality is influenced by cultural identity. It sounds reasonable that collectivistic cultures would be more conservative, and thus be somewhat biased when it comes to upholding currently establishes conduct; something limiting utilization of epistemic rationality (rationality in terms of determining and holding true beliefs). The fact that Eastern-Asians and westerners have very similar IQ-scores, regardless of very different cultures, can be seen as an argument in favor of IQ being an objective measurement of general intelligence. One could argue though, that these similarities in IQ further demonstrate that IQ-tests do not measure individuals ability for critical thinking, something that is essential for academic success. The disincentivizing of critical thinking is arguably a big disadvantage for Chinas future.

A political problem with viewing IQ as a tool that gives us accurate information on a person’s intelligence, is that there are racial differences in IQ (Neisser, et al., 1995). The Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association`s task force found that heritability plays an important, but not unanimous, role as far as IQ is concerned. Heredity does however play a more determining role later in life than what it does earlier. They found that IQ varies between populations, but where unsure what caused these differences, so it seems like one of those correlations lacking explanatory causation. There are genetic changes from one generation to another, and environmental factors can play an authoritative role as far as which genes are or cannot be expressed (epigenetics). There should be studies on the heritable component of rationality as well. Further studies of it might be able to explain more about IQ`s heritable and environmental factors, since they are somewhat codependent. It also may be that certain of Gardners intelligences are more heritable than others, so there is another avenue for further research.

Geniuses pose another problem for the nature vs nurture debate, since many geniuses grew up with parents that did not demonstrate any similarly remarkable talents. How can it be that non-genius parents can give birth to a genius? Immanuel Kant, Renè Descartes, Albert Einstein, Mozart and Leonardo da Vinci`s parents were not below average intelligence, but they were far from the cognitive brilliance of their children. If intelligence is so heritable, how can it be that parents and the children of these geniuses did not achieve similar achievements? Does it have to do with metacognition? A deep study of geniuses and their parents and children could give us a clearer picture of what role nature and nurture plays.

Are we on the right track or not? The Norwegian study found that there is some correlation between intelligence and rationality. We also studied correlations in-between various tests that measure various aspects of intelligence and rationality. It would be beneficial for further research on this topic to use different combinations of tests, to see whether that would produce higher, similar or lower correlations. One of the questions remaining is the degree to which intelligence and rationality is quantitatively or qualitatively different abilities. It may be that the correlation we found simply was where these to cognitive faculties overlap, and that further studies would find similar results. Another explanation for our correlation is that our means for measuring rationality is a bit too similar to how we measure intelligence. Jet another thought is that there might be multiple kinds of rationalities, similarly to Gardner and his multiple intelligences. The epistemic and instrumental rationality dichotomy might be insufficient, though it also might be just right too. So in conclusion, is seems like we have to choose between a narrow or a wide approach in future research, and it would behoove us not to be irrationally biased towards either.

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