Intelligent People Having Stupid Conversations Part I: The “Smarticle”

Have you ever seen brilliance fail?

Sample IQ Test Question

It is my belief that before someone voices their opinion, forms a conclusion or acts in a way that may be influential in any significant way upon the lives others, that they be educated about what they are discussing, familiar with the circumstances of who they are discussing it with, truthful about the facts and evidence surrounding the arguments and open-minded enough to examine and consider all alternatives. It is also my belief that intelligence is not simply measured in facts, equations, memory, grades, puzzles and tests, but also in ways that other people have a hard time understanding or relating to due to the abstract nature of the root of that intelligence. With that said, being someone who has a lot on the mind, plenty of opinions and a desire to share what I know for the benefit of others, I wanted to qualify myself before I began dispensing my “wisdom”. I’m not doing that out of any need to justify myself or validate the substance of my thoughts, but rather to give you enough confidence in what I have to say that you may actually take it to heart and let it do some good.

I suppose you may be wondering what the graphical puzzle that kicks off this little adventure is all about. Point blank, it’s an IQ test question. I designed it myself, based on the properties of a commonly-used IQ test question “template” of sorts. It’s your typical “Which choice below correctly fills in the empty space?” question, designed for you to examine the 8 provided choices and decide which of them best fits into the empty space.

This decision (and sometimes the speed with which it is made) is supposed to provide some insight into your pattern recognition skills and other related brain functionality pertaining to your general intelligence. The credibility of this insight is based on the premise that most of the time your choice was based on some type of logic and reason, rather than a random guess (a situation for which exists a statistical compensation in the calculation of the results). The result of this calculation is an approximate determination of your intelligence and is usually measured on a scale that people refer to as IQ. IQ stands for “intelligence quotient” and is represented as a number. IQ is commonly explained as the ratio of the intelligence of one subject to that of the general population.

The commonly recognized average IQ is 100, as the average person learns at the rate of everyone else, 1:1. When you are younger, your IQ is a measurement of the rate that you learn in relation to your age. For example, consider two children, both 8 years old:

  • The first child learns at the rate of an average 8 year old, his or her IQ is represented as: 8:8 or 1.00 or 100 IQ
  • The second child learns at the rate of an average 10 year old, his or her IQ is represented as: 10:8 or 1.25 or 125 IQ.

As a child becomes an adult, this comparison begins to lose significance as IQ begins to be measured in relation to the intelligence of the general adult population, rather than to a specific age difference. This is due to the leveling off of intelligence at an adult level, resulting in all adults being generally “the same age”, mentally. This works out logically, as a 40 year old with an IQ of 160 would be represented to have the intelligence of an average 64 year old. This is a negligible difference because the average 40 year old and average 64 year old are of the same intelligence. Being a 40 year old who learns at the rate of a 64 year old (excluding any deterioration or illness that detracts from their mental capacity) is no different than being a 64 year old who learns at the rate of a 40 year old. Both learn at the rate of “adult”. Instead, a 40 year old with an IQ of 125 is considered to learn at 125% the rate of an average adult. This is as opposed to comparing the intelligence of an average 3 year old to an average 5 year old. An average 3 year old with an IQ of 160 learns at the rate of a child that is at least 5 years old, this is a significant difference in intelligence and development. The mental development, skill sets and behavior of a 3 year old and that of a 5 year old are quite different, resulting in age comparison in correlation to IQ as valid when examining the intelligence of children. For adults we examine their intelligence in relation to all other adults, as the intelligence and learning capacity of most adults peaks at a certain age, making comparisons between adults of different ages irrelevant.

I’m sure that the puzzle I’ve created would provide insight into more specific areas of intelligence if it asked the test taker to provide the missing arrangement in the diagram themselves, in full, rather than providing them with a selection of possible answers, one of which being the correct answer. It’s a little easier when you know that the answer is right in front of you. Some people would never be able to draw the answer because they simply have no idea what would fill in the space and recognize no patterns. Others would have many ideas of possible solutions, but will instead focus on minutia and get hung up trying to determine if there is an absolutely specific arrangement to each piece of the puzzle (color, rows, columns, numbers, position of elements in relation to one another, etc…) and never be able to actually make a decision on which to choose, and in the end either leaving the answer blank or guessing. Still others would draw something in hopes that they “get it right”, this is the same as a multiple choice guess, but with less chance for luck. Finally, some of you would draw the correct answer. You would do this after either having made the realization that there may be multiple ways to configure the pattern (there are not multiple valid answers in the multiple choice) and decided on one that fits the bill, by drawing the first correct response that assembles itself in the mind, by pure luck or you were able to trial and error different patterns and stumbled across one that works, which you verified. Yes, asking you to provide the answer from scratch would have been much more telling, but we’ll focus on what we’ve got… for now

So… have you chosen an answer yet? Did you try to figure out the puzzle before you started reading? How long did you work on the puzzle before beginning to read the text? If you haven’t taken the time (at least a minute) to look over the problem at the top of this page and honestly tried to find the correct answer, please do so now.

So, assuming that you have actually examined the puzzle, I’d like to discuss it for just a second

There are 4 situations regarding this problem that you you may be privy to right now:

  1. You are absolutely certain of the answer, including the reason why you arrived at that conclusion.
  2. You have eliminated some choices and may have partiality towards one or more remaining choices, your logic works but you just can’t seem to pinpoint the answer this time, sometimes you can solve this type of problem, sometimes you cannot
  3. You have tried a few different substitutions and some trial and error and perhaps (most likely) with a little more time and some dedication and focus you could solve the problem
  4. You have absolutely no idea

There are variations and mutations of those situations, but for those most part, these are the different stages of progress when it comes to the status of having solved this problem. Now, depending on how long you worked on the problem you may be at a very different stage than someone else. Some people were able to instantly realize the pattern, it’s the first thing that they saw, they answered and they moved on, dismissing the question as somewhat simple (at least to them). That does not, however, mean that the next question would be equally as easy for them, the same as it does not mean that if this question presented a challenge that the next question would be at all challenging for you. The situation may very well be reversed for next question, as you may breeze through it and the person who answered the last question so quickly may get hung up and may not even be able to answer the new question at all.

So, for most people, they will be able to answer some questions and will not be able to answer others. Some questions will seem easy to a person but impossible to others and vice-versa. They will move throughout the test, slightly unsure of some of their answers, but feeling a sense of some ability. This is what we call average. You will score relatively on par with everyone else.

The above average person can quickly assess the answer and move onto the next question and most likely do the same each time. They will quickly progress through the test, missing a few questions, but answering enough correctly to score highly. The questions they do not answer correctly are mostly those which either take too long to determine the answer, they do not engage the test taker in a way that stimulates that part of the brain or they test an area in which the test taker is not particularly strong. This person’s score may vary from high average to medium-gifted, depending on the test.

The high-gifted and genius scorers answer each question with some quickness, are sure to explore each question as much as time allows and miss only a few questions, if any. The questions they do not answer correctly may be questions that the average test taker answers immediately, then again, they may be advanced questions that hardly anyone gets. Again, these tests provide a subjective evaluation which is highly subject to the outside conditions affecting the test taker at the time of evaluation. This test taker will score reliably high each time, regardless of the test. Any low scores are probably flukes and any stumbling blocks with particular questions could be easily eliminated with a little discipline and some effort, or maybe the test taker just needs to be having a better day next time. Case in point, this person will repeatedly display their intelligence when tested.

Now that we have identified a few staple points about the different levels of progress when it comes to determining the answer to a question, introduced a few profiles of test takers and have defined what it is that these types of tests are supposed to tell us, let’s move on to the good stuff!

There is a significant amount of ground to cover, so I’ll give you a sneak peek at some of the exciting topics we’re going to be exploring together! (Try to understand that the last half of that sentence was written with some very dry humor, something along the lines of me over-sensationalizing a simple thing, then try to imagine the slow-morning, nice-day voice of a game show announcer to explain the details of a “fabulous prize” to the contestant) Please, also keep in mind that this writing is in no way intended to be a comprehensive explanation of the various fields and extensions of learning and intelligence, but rather a concise and honest explanation of our understanding, implementation and recognition of intelligence (of course, there’s also a point and some finger-waving coming), that provides (when needed) the necessary background, explanations and small explorations into the some specific concepts that are imperative to the integrity of this writing and your understanding of it. (Slow down there elitists, I know you don’t need any help understanding this, you’re “intelligent”, and don’t be offended by the quotation marks, I am dissecting our definition of intelligence here, so bare with the rest of the class while they catch up.) I understand that there are many micro-focused areas of study involving deep concepts, research, creative problem-solving, theory and interpretation and you can trust that they are held in the utmost esteem in my favor. Unfortunately, this isn’t my manifesto on reality and “all that is (or isn’t)”, but rather my experience-driven “quick” opinion on being “smart” and what that means in our world. However, I am constantly reading, studying, writing, drawing and creating, so expect some type of ridiculously long and mind-bogglingly enlightening media project from me sometime in the semi-near future. So, without further delay, I present to you, a partially complete bullet-point list

I’ll be discussing topics such as:

  • Repetitive learning
  • Math, logic and reasoning
  • Vocabulary
  • Verbal comprehension
  • Verbal appreciation
  • Art
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • History, media and information
  • Programming
  • Conversation, language and communication
  • Memory
  • Social interaction
  • Morality and ethics
  • Comedy
  • Research, facts and proof
  • Science
  • Religion
  • Philosophy
  • College, degrees and labels
  • Emotions
  • Common sense

I know, it seems like a lot of topics to cover. Some early-warning “really long read” indicator has probably gone off in your head by now, your face is most-likely red and steam may be rushing out of your ears while a high-pitched whistle lets everyone know that there’s a problem. I picture this scene much like a cartoon where the character has eaten something far too spicy. Fortunately for you, I’ve got a cartoon bucket of water right here to cool you down. You can hoist it up above your head with both hands, pour it on your face with a big splash and drink down the contents with one giant gulp. Afterwards, you can sit there with a huge smile of relief on your face and billowing remnants of smoke coming out of your ears. OK, so maybe it’s not a lot of comfort, but each of those topics is only relatively lightly touched on, as they are being discussed for what they represent and the role that they play in intelligence, rather than to educate you on the intricacies of so many specific topics.

Alright, so let’s take a quick glance at our checklist and see if we’re prepared to move forward. (“checklist” being a comedic device which I just introduced for the purpose of providing a light-hearted, mildly imaginative way to review and summarize what I’ve written up until this point) This checklist is to assure that what comes next (which includes some very interesting material) is taken in the proper context, comprehended properly, related to other concepts in a manageable way that minimizes confusion.

Alright, so back to the IQ test question. To be clear about my explanation, I want to define the components of the problem.

  • Configuration: a collection of nine circles of varying colors. For example, each answer (A, B, C, etc…) represents a complete configuration.
  • Main Row: Each main row consists of three configurations; the left, center and right. There are three main rows; top, middle and bottom.
  • Main Column: Each main column consists of three configurations; top, middle and bottom. There are three main columns; left, center and right.
  • Row: Each configuration has three rows; top, middle and bottom. Each row consists of three circles; left, center and right.
  • Column: Each configuration has three columns; left, middle and right. Each column consists of three circles; top, middle and bottom.

While there exists more than one possible configuration that would qualify as a correct solution, only one of those configurations is provided as a choice. There also exist many ways to examine the problem. I suffer from the lingering condition of being able to answer these types of questions relatively quickly and accurately.

At this point, I’d like to discuss the problem-solving process for this puzzle. I will try to explain it in a clear way, but it is a complicated analysis and needs to be paid close attention to.

A person may look at the diagram and waste a little time trying to figure out if any of the colors have specific pattern throughout the puzzle. Next, they may get the idea to count the total number of each color and come up with: 15 red, 17 blue and 16 green. An assumption may come to mind, that perhaps the solution is to find the configuration which balances the values of all of the colors. Knowing that the maximum you can add to the total of any color is 3, because any configuration that is provided as a solution contains a maximum of 3 of any given color and you may choose only one configuration, a person knows that the most of any color they can have is 20 blue, as blue already has 17 circles represented. However, no configuration would be able to balance the count of the colors, because to match red and green to the total of 20 blue, you would have to add 5 red and 4 green, which of course, no configuration provided as a solution can do. This concludes that our answer cannot have 3 blue. While this only eliminates A, we also know that we cannot have 2 blue in our configuration because it would still be impossible to match a 19 count of blue. Our answer must have only 1 blue circle representation. This limits our choices to configurations C, G and D. Now, a person may do some trial and error and find that a configuration containing 3 red, 2 green and 1 blue circles would balance the color count. That reduces the options to C and D, but this color route isn’t going to determine, for sure, the answer. We are left with C and D as possible solutions. At this point, the person may examine other properties of the problem and the solutions and try to supplement their previous deductions. Once in a while, a person will use another method to verify their logic or to try and solve the problem and may find that their logic in this process eliminates all choices except A and G. This is usually directly contradictory to the previous conclusion that the answer must be C or D, and will confuse the test taker and make them reconsider their logic and examine other aspects of the problem. Others will simply guess based on their best instincts. If they correctly answer the question, their score is increased even though they do not have a clear understanding of the solution. However, some tests weight each answer, depending on the typical amount of logic required to reach the solution that the test taker chose to give them credit for the abilities that they do have.

So, what is the solution? Well, either immediately or after exhausting other methods, a person may realize that each main row contains two configurations with one row made up of circles, all of the same color as well as one configuration with one column made up of circles, all of the same color. The top two main rows are both made up of configurations that fit this “2 horizontal, 1 vertical” (2H, 1V) pattern. The bottom main row of the problem is (1H, 1V), so it needs another horizontal row of circles, all of the same color. That reduces our choices to A, B, D, E and F. Not a final answer, but it’s a start. At this point, a person may be inclined to decided if the location of this solid row is top, middle or bottom is relevant to the answer. They may examine the puzzle and put this on hold for later while they pay more attention to the colors. Perhaps the color of this row could be important? In the problem, we see 2 green rows, 2 blue rows, but only 1 red row. Our configuration must contain a red row. We are left with E, B and D. We could have also used the main columns to come to this conclusion, as their pattern is (1H, 2V) and is just as useful in determining the type and color of the row contained in the correct solution as the rows. Now, depending on if we’d done that previous color count logical elimination, our next step could very simple or very complex. If we have not done the color count logical elimination, then we have to figure out how to decide between E, B and D without it.

Choices B and D both have the red row as the bottom, some people may get stuck wondering if this is significant. In this puzzle, it is not, but it may be in others! Perhaps some of you may be able to determine some patterns of significance in various parts of the puzzle that could be used for logical eliminations, however since I designed this problem… I know which answer I designed to be correct and applied no other intentional patterns. If there are any patterns (say a naturally occurring, Fibonacci-type of phenomenon) buried in my work, go ahead and attribute it to my brain being some amazing device that can form complex patterns in everything that it creates. (Can you smell the sarcasm?) God forbid that the white squares had anything to do with this!

So, how do we figure this thing out? Well, using the same elimination technique as we previously did, we can see that each main row (and again, this would work for columns as well) contains a pair of 2 circles of the same color, side by side, in a (2H, 1V) pattern. A quick look tells us that the third row is missing a configuration that contains a horizontal row. This leaves us at: A, B, D, E and F. Of course, we know that E, B and D are the only valid choices, due to our previous elimination, so this logic hasn’t helped us much yet. So, we will look at the color of the 2 circles needs to be. Again, we see that we have 3 sets of blue, 3 sets of red and only 2 sets of green, so our solution configuration must contain two green circles. This leaves only C and D. Knowing that C is not a valid choice, D is the only option left that satisfies all of our elimination conditions and is almost certain to be the correct answer. We can answer D and move on.

Now, if we had already done our examination of the count of each color in the problem, we could have skipped the second elimination based on the 2 circle sets, because we know that E and B are both eliminated because they both contain 2 blue circles, which violates our previous “balance of color” rule. This leaves only D. Notice that while color count examination alone reduced our answers to C and D, C is missing from our colored row logical elimination. Leaving only D as the answer that exists in both of our logical eliminations and we would need to go no further, we could say, with much certainty, that D is the correct configuration to satisfy the solution.

Oh, and to qualify with some of you, yes, there are other ways to arrive at the correct answer.

Those people who can answer these types of questions correctly and with justification in a short amount of time do all of these tests in their head very quickly, while others visually recognize the answer without needing any logic process at all. It is subjective to each person.

Now, sometimes when a person guesses, they may be very close to finding the answer, but feel that a different question needs attention and decides to move on without being sure of their answer. Other times, they will perform quick logic in the correct order, by chance, and be sure of their solution. Still other times, a person may immediately make those connections one after another, not having to sub-vocalize the process (in this context, meaning to have to “speak” out the process in their head), but rather being able to instantly recognize patterns. This can happen for anyone, especially when a problem is presented that fits into a category for which that person has a propensity. A person may be very quick with pattern recognition, slow with number sequences and fast with word analogies. This just happens more often and more consistently in all areas for people with a higher general IQ. A person with an average IQ may be average in all areas, or below average in some and above in others. A person with a slightly higher-than-normal IQ may be average in most areas and above average in a few. A person with a high general IQ typically is far above average in most or all areas.

So, what does all of this tell us? Well, not a whole lot. If a generic sampling of the population were to take an IQ test alongside me, I would most likely score far above the average person. Of course, that’s not said to be arrogant, I’ve just taken enough tests in my time (between Stanford-Binet, Wechsler and various other tests) to have a fairly accurate prediction of my IQ. (For those of you curious, I can safely say that a prediction between 155 – 165 isn’t very far off, not that this result makes me any more intelligent than you) Now, if I sat down one-on-one with someone and we both took an IQ test together, I may score a 160 once and a 129 another time, depending on the test, what’s on my mind and how patient I’m feeling. They may score a 134 the time that I score a 129 and consider themselves more intelligent than me. Is this a valid assumption? Perhaps I missed the question I just explained to you. Not out of lack of ability, but out of stress or pure accident. Perhaps this happens on a few questions that day. I’ve taken IQ tests where I received a 104 IQ rating and I’ve taken others where I’ve been rated at 167. So, where’s the middle ground? Does the result of any number of IQ tests tell us how “smart” we are? Does the speed at which we can solve these types of problems determine our intelligence? Am I any less intelligent for being able to determine the correct answer after an hour vs. being able to determine the answer within a minute? If I were to gather together a few of my friends, some “average”, some “smart” and a few members of my family and we each take the same IQ test, I would say that most of the time I would have a score near the top, and with a little more discipline, always at the top. Does that make me smarter than them? If two or three of them outscore me, does that make them smarter than me? I can imagine what it would be like to be “the smart one” and then get outscored on an IQ test by someone else. There would be an immediate assumption that the person with the higher score is the more intelligent. Is this true? Would “the smart one” be able to consistently score higher if they studied and worked their mind more? Is an IQ test score also a measure of determination and discipline? Does a high IQ automatically mean that someone’s opinion is more valid or more trustworthy? I know plenty of people with a 120 IQ whom I consider more intelligent than some people I know with a 145 IQ and plenty with a 100 IQ who are far more intelligent than some that I know with a 125 IQ. A person with a high IQ may not be able to understand or do everything that a person with a lower IQ is able to, but that again, is subjective. There are people with an IQ of 110 that can do calculus and become an engineer and there are people with an IQ of 145 who cannot do those mathematics, but may apply their genius to another field such as philosophy or art, although more often than not, the higher-level IQ holders can do high level work in most any field.

Finally, we get to the meat of the post: What is intelligence and can we increase it?

After all of this, I’ll ask again, which configuration is the correct answer to the problem? I know that I explained logically that the answer is D, do you agree? Did I go far enough in my examination? I know that’s cheap, since I created the problem, so perhaps I should ask… did you go far enough in your examination? Or did you just trust that there was nothing more to it and that my explanation was correct?

Sample IQ Test Question Alternate

There. Does that change things? The circles are squares, the helpful colors are gone, but the same question remains. Welcome to… the matrix. No, not that matrix, the other kind. The math kind. Sorry to get you all excited. Now, without this becoming a course on matrices and their manipulation, I will say that there is a mathematical way to solve this involving matrices, as well as a substitutive method for assigning point values to different elements of the configurations. In short, there are many completely obscure, esoteric and brutally self-supporting ways of justifying your answer. What matters on a test, though, is that you arrive at the intended “correct answer”. So, will this fancy matrix stuff also result in the same answer as the other logical eliminations did? Or will we find a completely different, yet valid, solution? How does it go again? Oh, that’s right… artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use lies to cover it up. Mathematician vs. Musician anyone?

More to come soon… I’ll be finishing this post in segments.

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