EDS 103 Module 2: “I am intelligent” and other self- inflating statements

The human brain is a sophisticated and an astounding machine that, if you really think about, can produce abstractions: remembers events, imagines and creates things that aren’t there, all through a bunch of chemical reactions. The physical brain can be so simple, and yet, its abstract can only be limited by its own. High levels of intelligence is indeed quite powerful to have, not that it could predict success in certain domains, but depending on the school of thought one subscribes, it can possibly provide for someone to become very well- adapted in life (Sternberg, 1985).

But why are we attempting to measure intelligence? Situations where immediate familiarity is required may have some use for using intelligence measure as a yardstick– albeit caution is required. Applying for a job is a situation where it is almost necessary to display a high level of intelligence, and eventually, competence at the onset. To be able to identify appropriate method of instruction to learners with special needs is another context where intelligence test scores are used.

With all this trouble in defining what intelligence is, what comprises it and how many types are there and how it is inherently challenging to measure, shall we leave it to the person to do a self- rating? After all, who knows one the best, bias and everything, but the self?

I cannot help but reckon the phenomenon of illusory superiority. According to it, majority of people tend to rate themselves as above- average in beauty, social status, other positive traits, including intelligence (Dunning and Kruger, 1999). Although this is statistically impossible, people nonetheless think a little too highly of themselves in a whole lot of situations.

I have yet to meet a car driver who will not say they are not exceptional in it, even go beyond and undermine others, dismissing them as “weak”, “slow” and “lacking traffic logic” (diskarte), which explains the angry and impatient honking on Manila streets.  Just like skillful driving and other tacit knowledge, people could easily rate themselves as better than most, and fall into the illusions of superiority.

The construct of the common sense has been the butt of street humor, it becoming uncommon among people, but is a crucial factor in practical intelligence. It is all too easy to point fingers at another and accuse them of lacking commons sense, when in fact, people behave in ways that didn’t follow a rational process.

These situations led Dunning and Kruger to experiment in 1999, and find out that often, greater ignorance (low levels of intelligence) begets someone to overinflate one’s abilities and increases failure to recognize their own lack of skill (Lee, C., 2012).

Now, my suggestion earlier to invite our own selves to determine the levels and types of intelligence we possess is rooted in the middle of all the fuss made by the apparent difficulty to consolidate a single accurate test of intelligence. Whether it’s IQ or EQ, or perhaps MI for you, I think the idea remains plausible, because in some of the deep recesses of the human mind and behavior only the self can explore, we may have to rely on our good- old self knowledge to reveal what’s really in there. Who else to know that we have a high level of analyzing- over- analysis than us?

I admit that this endeavor could prove difficult because of the thousand loopholes we can see even from a mile away (the Dunning Kruger effect is just one), but healthy and able individuals should be equipped with a  kind of reflection to be able to self- rate in a survey to partly (?) assist in scientific study.

It will take a certain kind of skill rooted in philosophy, or high levels of metacognition, or both,  to be able to overcome the highly attractive trap—to say that “I am intelligent”, with impunity.

It was, after all, just a suggestion.

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2 thoughts on “EDS 103 Module 2: “I am intelligent” and other self- inflating statements

  1. Thank you for reminding me about illusory superiority! It’s true, we all think we’re smarter than we are. I am super prideful when it comes to intelligence. I really think I’m so smart, which probably means I’m not as smart as I think. Haha! But of course everyone thinks of themselves as intelligent because we only know what we know. And what we know, we know well. We don’t know what we don’t know, and therefore we are blind to our own idiocy/ignorance.

    I would wonder, however, if this is such a bad thing. Believing yourself to be smart could be an evolutionary advantage. Because what benefit could there be to thinking of one’s self as stupid? A person who believes himself inferior to others would not be motivated to strive for better things, would be depressed or antagonistic, or would simply allow others to take advantage of them. Perhaps. I don’t know. What do you think?

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    • Indeed, Ina, thinking we are intelligent is a catch-22. I mean, how do you know the difference between illusion and truth? What if we think it, and we actually are? Who can accept it as fact, right? You’ve made an excellent point, though I don’t even think it’s a matter of pride. I think it’s beyond self- esteem, and future motivations. Because isn’t self-awareness also a form of knowledge? If we know what we are capable of, then I think we can call sound judgements and make better decisions. Someone who knows (and not just believe) that one is intelligent is not just fully self aware, but knows where one is going. We can make educated measurements, and calculated risks with the knowledge of our true capacity. And when I say true, I don’t just mean an illusion; we have formed this concept of the “truth” of our level of self awareness not thru estimates, but thru our experiences that may have defined what is intelligence to us, and it’s not the mainstream kind. You said you think you are intelligent; perhaps you passed a difficult exam in the past. But allow me to make a guess here that the exam results weren’t even your basis– it was HOW you thought of the results that made you think you have high levels of metacognition, reflection, …etc. Perhaps experiences like that is what shapes our self image, intelligence- wise, and notice how it is not mainstream, or trivial or normative.

      Would you agree?

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