I regularly read the Mensa Research Journal and in Vol. 39 No. 3 I found some of the material so interesting that I decided to write a blog about intelligence. The issue was about high intelligence (HiQ) in the workplace The abstract begins, “HiQ adults ( people with a very high intelligence; 2% of the population) sometimes are not able to function adequately at work and play.” Ironic, isn’t it, that the most intelligent among us may function inadequately at work, in school, or in other settings? Why is that?
HiQ people share certain characteristics that can make adapting difficult when adapting means thinking, acting, or feeling within defined normal limits. Some of the shared characteristics of high intelligence individuals are:
• Speed of thinking. HiQ individuals think more quickly than others and operate on multi levels. They make many mental switches, associate rapidly, and give the impression that they jump from one subject to the next.
• High sensitivity. People with high intelligence are also more sensitive in various areas, such as psychomotoric, sensorial, intellectual, imaginative, and emotional.
• Introversion. The inner world of HiQ individuals is very well-developed. They tend to keep others at a distance. Some avoid parties and other social gatherings because the topics of conversation bore them. People with high intelligence also have trouble finding others to associate with, which leads them to become even more isolated.
• Emotional development. Many HiQ individuals feel emotions strongly; but because their thinking ability is dominant and provides safety, their emotional development appears to lag behind.
• Creativity. HiQ people are more global by nature and have strong capacities for imagination. People of average intelligence can’t follow their train of thought. HiQ individuals can also identify patterns quickly and thus predict trends. They may draw conclusions intuitively or make what appear to be quick or premature judgments. Because of this they find interactions with others frustrating.
• Independence. HiQ people make judgments and form opinions autonomously. They are non-conformist and often have an aversion to authority.
• Perfectionism. Perfectionism is often accompanied by having too high expectations of others, and themselves specifically within ordinary environments where they are unable to meet their own high expectations.
HiQ people tend to be interested in and good at many different things, and then over-commit themselves. This may continue into adulthood, making the high intelligent individual a “Jack of all trades, but master of none.”
While this list of characteristics of the HiQ is interesting, the underlying meaning is hard to grasp. Most can’t comprehend the hardship on a high intelligence individual who sees layer upon layer of meaning in every situation or relationship because often these layers are missed by the average person. This hyper-sensitivity can be crippling and can make them appear a bit off. Those with high intelligence see and experience life very differently than the average person.
Once they have grown up, knowing that they are very intelligent, they use their high intelligence to develop the social skills needed to get along with others. Many who adapt do so because they are able to work or learn in a gifted environment. A few even manage to become primarily social, functioning well in multi-disciplinary jobs where high intelligence and good social skills are needed.
The authors write that HiQ people use various strategies to cope with their oddity. They may choose to be inconspicuous, keeping a low profile and restricting personal relations. More often those with high intelligence get stuck using confrontational or isolationist strategies. Once they develop a dislike for argumentation and confrontation the preferred choice is to isolate themselves.
Another article in the journal showed what sorts of professions the HiQ’s tend to choose by surveying groups of very intelligent and average intelligent adults. I was surprised to learn that 45.6% of HiQ people surveyed worked in the humanities, while only 17.8% of those with average intelligence did, and that only 22% of the HiQ’s worked in science and technology, while almost 26% of people with average intelligence did. A similar proportion worked in the natural sciences.
Perhaps most surprising was that only 10% of HiQ people chose economic or legal professions, while almost 27% of the average iQ people went into economics or law. This must explain why it’s so difficult to find a good attorney, why smart people often have to do the work their attorneys ought to be doing, and why the economy is in so much trouble.
Finally, no HiQ people in the study group chose artistic professions, whereas 4.4% of average intelligence did. This goes along with what other researchers have found, which is that people who are intelligent and will act on their intelligence also tend to be practical. They will choose certain safety over behaviors that have questionable outcomes.