The evolution of intelligence

Observation #1: This is my intelligence speaking. I write like I think; I think like I live. I have goals, but no expectations or illusions of control. And BTW, not always grammatically or politically correct.

Warning #1: If you think this is a choice, understand that we all live with uncertainty all the time.

Observation #2: We all get stuck in our heads from time to time, referring to journal articles and results from scientific studies. Attempting to connect intellectually from the cerebral cortex instead of emotionally from the heart.

Warning #2: this feels like one of those times for me.

A little intelligence history

Remember those nasty standardized tests in school?

Who can forget the anxiety, the pressure, the pleased or disappointed expressions of parents and teachers? Students with high scores were directed toward college prep; students with lower scores got shuffled into business or shop. Now though, the times they are a changin’.

IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests were and still are thought by some to measure raw intelligence and predict future success.

But raw intelligence does not predict anything. Standardized tests that all students take today measure achievement, that is, what students have learned so far. According to a couple of psychologist friends who work in a school, only the students who are falling behind or score low on those tests get the IQ, now known as WISC-IV (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) tests.

The WISC-IV  still provides one IQ score, but this battery of tests measures multiple areas and includes sub scores for those areas. The WISC-IV is expensive and takes about 4 hours of one-on-one time with a psychologist trained in administering the test. Not in most school budgets for all students, it is used to determine necessity for and allocation of special education resources, not to identify areas of giftedness.

Your intelligence

The WISC-IV is not what you would have taken with the rest of your classmates in school decades ago. Nonetheless, do you know what your IQ score is? And do you know how that score has affected your life?

You may have scored high and become highly successful in life. Or you may have scored high and “underachieved.” Conversely, you may have scored low and been laughing your a– off in your penthouse office and multi-home existence. Not that money measures success, but that IQ scores do not predict anything.

If you are familiar with Darwin’s theory, the most successful at surviving and thriving are those who can adapt to changes. Hmmmm….

Multiple Intelligences (MI)

in 1983, Howard Gardner, PhD introduced the concept of multiple intelligences (MI). He describes his theory in this Wall Street Journal article (Strauss V., October 16, 2013):

A belief in a single intelligence assumes that we have one central, all-purpose computer—and [that computer] determines how well we perform in every sector of life. In contrast, a belief in multiple intelligences assumes that we have a number of relatively autonomous computers… I estimate that human beings have 7 to 10 distinct intelligences (see

You can read brief descriptions of the MIs in this Wikipedia article then go from there.

All of us, Gardner suggested, have multiple intelligences. Kobe, Stephan, Cam, and Peyton would score high in Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. Bob Dylan, you might guess, would be high in Musical Intelligence, but perhaps even more so highly intelligent in Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence. Mick Jagger, high in Bodily-Kinesthetic and Musical. You get the idea.


We all have highs and lows in imagined MI scores. (There is no MI test, although you can take this quiz for fun.)

Enough about that. What I really want to talk about is emotional and social intelligence. In MI terms, that would be inTRApersonal intelligence and inTERpersonal intelligence. Someone who is high in intrapersonal or emotional intelligence understands his or her emotions and manages emotions well in difficult situations. Under pressure, someone high in emotional intelligence will think clearly. Barack Obama is high in emotional intelligence; Martin Luther King Jr. was too.

From Wikipedia:

[Intrapersonal Intelligence] refers to having a deep understanding of the self; what one’s strengths or weaknesses are, what makes one unique, being able to predict one’s own reactions or emotions.

People who are high in social intelligence understand relationships and other people’s emotions.

…individuals who have high interpersonal intelligence are characterized by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group….[they] communicate effectively and empathize easily with others…Gardner has equated this with emotional intelligence of Goldman [sic].”

Daniel Goleman is the author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More than IQ (2005) and Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships (2007).

Insight and relational mindfulness

The mindfulness and psychology community refer to the process of increasing emotional intelligence (EI) as insight and the process of increasing awareness of social intelligence (SI) as relational mindfulness.

When we sit quietly and allow thoughts and feelings to flow, and we allow ourselves to observe those thoughts and feelings without criticizing, analyzing, or judging, we give ourselves space for insights about self, others, and our human experience.

When we pay attention to another person, rather than our own thoughts and feelings, we develop social intelligence or relational mindfulness…awareness of others…the connection that so many of us long for and the ability to work together to accomplish that which we cannot do very well alone.

Since the first publication of Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More than IQ in 1995, EI has become a goal in business, education, and with policymakers.

This all makes so much sense looking back. In the beginning (of testing I suppose), we thought intelligence was an IQ number and that it determined success, or failure. Along came Howard Gardner who introduced the idea of Multiple Intelligences and suggested that each of us has something more like a graph with highs and lows in 7-10 areas of intelligence. Rather than one massive number, like 120 or 140, MI eliminated the judgment about people with high intelligence in areas that were not measured by traditional IQ tests.

Next, Daniel Goleman focuses his attention on Emotional (EI) and Social (SI) Intelligence. The Western world embraces this new idea of what it takes to succeed.

If you know your own emotions + can manage them + you know what other people want and need = SUCCESS!

But success at what? More friends on Facebook? Higher salary? According to this article in The Atlantic EI and SI are good for the one and for the many:

If we can teach our children to manage emotions, the argument goes, we’ll have less bullying and more cooperation. If we can cultivate emotional intelligence among leaders and doctors, we’ll have more caring workplaces and more compassionate healthcare.

With higher EI and SI, perhaps we can save the world in every way.

Learning to be intelligent

Mindfulness exercises provide a way to strengthen or develop EI and SI. We do that by practicing awareness, attention, and equanimity. Awareness of whatever is happening in the present moment: sounds, smells, sights, tastes, sensations, emotions, thoughts. Attention to whatever we want to focus on. And equanimity to observe all of this without attachment to any outcome. Like clouds in the sky, waves in the ocean, pelicans flying in formation at dusk.

Where do we go from here?

The article in The Atlantic is titled The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence. It begins with a story about a man who studied responses to his body language and facial expressions to improve his public speaking skills. Adolf Hitler refined his emotional and social intelligence to a science and convinced a whole nation of people to follow him.

We can imagine Wall Street and other banking executives, CEOs of multi-national corporations, CEOs of non-profits, politicians, religious leaders, university professors, salespeople, and anyone in positions in which EI and SI would prove useful for manipulating others, and we can imagine the darker side of what many see as progress.

The author of that article suggests that:

if we’re going to teach emotional intelligence in schools and develop it at work, we need to consider the values that go along with it.

That’s where Ethics, IR and SR* come in. Try measuring that on a standardized test.

*Individual Responsibility and Social Responsibility.