The central feature of intelligence is the ability to understand what is
really going on out there and to respond to events with successful and adaptive
behavior. Intelligence is built from subsystems that sense, decide, remember and
act. Intelligence is about survival in a threatening world. Humans survive
because of the genius abilities such as vision, hearing, skilled movement and
speech, all abilities that are built into their brain, innate gifts from nature.
Humans do not have learn how to see or how to hear what is going on out there,
but they do have to learn what it means to them today. This is an interactive
process. Speech is an advanced form of sound interaction. Although modern humans
tend to emphasize individual thought and expression, most thinking involves
group activity and the value of speech is to connect individuals in thinking
groups. Books and other publications link large numbers of humans in common
patterns of language-dependent thinking.
The newest human abilities are more dependent on learning and are the least
reliable. Reasoning, planning and learning to tolerate other humans in a
friendly constructive manner require the most sustained practice. The
term, nice, refers to these characteristics and therefore nice people
require sustained learning to remain reasonable, to tolerate others and to
behave in a friendly, constructive manner.
It is fashionable to speak in terms of "mental abilities" and to list a
number of different mental abilities in terms of educational concerns, such as
reading, writing, math and music. This is a narrow view of intelligence. The
brain is modular with a host of different functions contributing to
intelligence. We expect and do find different arrangements of mental abilities
in different people. If you consider the intelligence test of life overall, then
you recognize that there is a range of abilities in any human population. In
higher education and other life contests, general ability has been traditionally
desirable. The "well-rounded" individual was a generalist, good at everything
but perhaps not outstanding in one skill.
Smart people learn faster and learn more than not so smart people. Smart
people also are more curious, seek more diverse experiences and absorb more
information. Intelligence is manifest in the ability to acquire complicated
skills and excel in performance by practice and progressive improvement.
Competent people are smart people who have the discipline to practice and
improve their performance. There is a relationship between being nice person and
being a competent person. In demanding, professional environments the nicest
people tend to be the smartest and most competent. There are exceptions.
Leda Cosmides and John Tooby suggested: "The brain is a naturally constructed
computational system whose function is to solve adaptive information-processing
problems (such as face recognition, threat interpretation, language acquisition,
or navigation). Over evolutionary time, its circuits were cumulatively added
because they reasoned or processed information in a way that enhanced the
adaptive regulation of behavior and physiology....our minds consist of a large
number of circuits that are specialized. For example, we have some neural
circuits whose design is specialized for vision. All they do is help you see.
The design of other neural circuits is specialized for hearing. All they do is
detect changes in air pressure, and extract information from it. Still other
neural circuits are specialized for sexual attraction -- i.e., they govern what
you find sexually arousing, what you regard as beautiful, who you'd like to
date, and so on.
You can view the brain as a collection of dedicated computers -- a collection
of modules whose operations are functionally integrated to produce behavior...So
it is with your conscious experience. The only things you become aware of are a
few high level conclusions passed on by thousands of specialized mechanisms:
some that are gathering sensory information from the world, others that are
analyzing and evaluating that information, checking for inconsistencies, filling
in the blanks, figuring out what it all means.