The Science of Being Smart

How can you tell if someone is smart? All of us have an idea of what a smart person looks like. It comes across in the way people talk and in the activities they engage themselves in. We each have our own way of measuring people’s mental ability. We need these personal measuring devices because we won’t discover someone’s IQ just by looking at them. Circumstances will in time require us to seek out the brainier people of society. However, each of us has a different idea of what smart means. What do you think counts as smart?

Knowing stuff impresses people. I can recite a few lines from Shakespeare and people will think I’m cultured. Years are spent in school consuming large amounts of valuable information supposedly to make a person more capable in the working world. Knowledge is power, you could say. However, not all knowledge is equal in value. My ability to list off all the Star Wars characters in the original trilogy may be of worth on a TV game show but has little practical application in a professional setting. Doctors, lawyers, and scientists are usually perceived as being smart by the fact they are required to know a considerable amount of data to perform their respective jobs.

Having information is not the same as being able to interpret it. We begin our lives with only a limited understanding of the world around us. Simple concepts are what we initially deal with. Each successive year of our lives we become introduced to more complex concepts. We are first given mathematics, then algebra, and eventually calculus. Deeper and deeper our understanding goes. Our understanding can get so deep we eventually uncover the central idea behind a concept; its core. The more understanding we have of different subjects, the better we can see how they all connect to each other.

Being able to think of things no one else has wins you brownie points in the public’s eye. People highly regard originality. Not everyone has the capacity to create unique ideas and concepts on a consistent basis. You’re said to have a way with words if you are clever in your speech. You’re considered a genius if you can come up with an idea other “smart” people failed to produce before your time. Another word for this kind of unique thinking is called creativity. You’re considered creative if you can make something of your own without relying on others.

Having knowledge is not the same as being wise. A man with great knowledge can still be foolish. Wisdom is about the application of the amount of knowledge you have; small or great. A person is considered wise when he or she makes choices that lead to positive consequences. Another word for it is foresight. Most of the time we cannot see if our choices are wise until time has passed. It can be wisdom to attend college even though you might not know if it will help you out in the long run. It’s wise to be insured even though you don’t plan on having any accidents. Wisdom is sown in the present and reaped in the future.

Some brains just work faster than others. It’s a talent to be able to reach into our reservoir of thought and pull relevant information out on command. Quick with a reply or quick with a joke keeps audiences enthralled. Being quick-witted doesn’t necessarily make you smarter than others, but it gives off the impression of mental prowess.

Having a strong grasp on reality is a gift that must not be taken for granted. Each of us has our own moments where we fail to notice the obvious. Some minds are better than others when it comes to picking up on specific details. My mother is good at picking out the clues in a mystery thriller. My brother can recognize the different instruments played in the music he listens to. And my best friends can tell when I need cheering up. At least, that is what I noticed.

Just because you can see something doesn’t mean you know what you are looking at. Two people looking at the same object will see two different things. A good perception allows a person to see one thing in many different ways. This power of discernment is a guide for making judgment calls on how something should be viewed in a specific situation. What may seem ordinary to one person may appear extraordinary to another. You may see a man who struggles with Asperger’s, but I see a man who is happy to be himself.

Every question is an invitation to gain more knowledge. People rate the value of certain questions as being good or bad for some reason. I can agree that some questions are more powerful than others. “What if the world isn’t flat?” Those who don’t ask questions are content with the level of intelligence they’ve already achieved. In other words, smart people ask questions.

Gut feelings push us to perform specific actions. They’re not based on visible evidence. It is possible to understand something without personal experience. Another word for this would be instinct. Trusting in your gut relies on an inner intelligence. It’s the ability to work well in new situations using your personal instincts. A smart person might have all the answers, but an intuitive person knows how to find answers.

We all learn at our own pace. Some people can comprehend complex concepts faster than others. Any task they are put to becomes a learning experience they don’t easily forget. Most of us learn a particular subject better when that subject is something we are interested in and intend to put to use. Learning occurs as fast as we want it to. Those who stop seeking knowledge can hardly call themselves intelligent.

Mentally Skilled
The human brain is a Swiss Army Knife of functions. It can store loads of memory, interpret and simplify information, and focus intently on specific tasks. Some tasks require more brain power than others. Reciting the Declaration of Independence from memory is impressive but not as much as beating a chess master at his or her own game. To perform complex tasks requires a human being to increase in mental capacity. Since the brain is a part of our bodies, it can grow and develop just like any other organ. The brain can be trained to handle larger amounts of information with time. People exercise their brains simply by using them. We all express our mental talents differently, but you can become mentally skilled at any task you put your mind to.

Common Sense
Being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome does not make me unintelligent. I am not made smart or a savant because of it, either. In other words, Asperger’s is not what makes me special. I determine whether I’m special or not. If I am good or bad, then I am to blame for it and not the diagnosis. If I’ve earned the respect of my peers and receive acknowledgment from them, then I get to take all the credit for it.


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