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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Is Your Country Making You Stupid?

Stupid is as stupid does together

There are smart people, and there are dumb people.
Some races are smart and others are not so smart.
People in some countries are smarter than others.
Or so we may assume.
The truth is far more complex than popular depictions of intelligence suppose.
In fact, the scary thing is that your country can make you retarded. Quite literally, as in the place where you live can retard your intelligence. No, this is not a thread of Irish jokes, Polish jokes, or other politically incorrect humour. Instead I am going to show you how your mind is literally belittled by the world you live in, and you probably don’t even know its happening.
First, in order to understand what I am saying, let’s take a look at what really makes people, smart – or stupid.
In his brilliant little book The Making of Intelligence, Ken Richardson completely decimates mainstream dominant models of intelligence, and especially the idea that people have an innate and unchangeable IQ which is controlled by genetic factors. In doing so, Richardson has developed his own five-tier model of intelligence. Richardson does find a place of genes, but he identifies another four important factors which influence intelligence. Here I am going to tell you what those five factors are. Yet even Richardson does not go far enough. Based on my own exploration of the mind at a first person level, and from my research into the subject, I am going to add another factor of my own.
There is a genetic basis of intelligence. Nobody disputes that. Yet just how much of a role does it play? Most researchers put it at about 50%, but some put it at no more than 20%.
Genomic factors
We must also take into consideration what happens during the development of the individual. So, physical/environmental issues in the environment might come into play here, such as pollution, nutrition, and the quality of nurturing.
Epigenetic factors
Here Richardson refers to intra-generational change. It is well known that IQ scores go up at about the rate of 3% per generation.  This is known as the Flynn effect, and it is probably due to the fact that key concepts have been commonly accepted into society. Examples might include natural selection, the paradigm, and the idea of perspective itself.
Cognitive factors
The way people use their brains in the world affects their intelligence. If a person is a writer like me for example, they have to exercise their ability to think analytically and logically. It’s normally a ‘left-brained’ process, although, as I have written elsewhere, I deliberately incorporate the intuitive mind as I write and research.
Socio-cognitive factors
Here Richardson is referring to the way people work together to be smart as a group. Some forms of intelligence can be expressed within a group, or with the help of others. Cultures can also suppress intelligence where the society refuses permission for its expression.
It is interesting to note that “China” produced both the brilliance of the 2008 Olympics, and the insane tragedy of the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, which led to about 45 millio0n deaths. There are reports of starving Chinese peasants in the far provinces praying towards Beijing and Chairman Mao to save them, tragically unaware that their ‘saviour’ was the one who had created their suffering. Same country, same gene pool; different policies/culture, different expressions of intelligence.
Ken Richardson’s is a layered system, where each level adds to and expands upon the lower levels, with each acknowledging increasing environmental/social influence. As Richardson notes, many traditional western models of intelligence embrace only a few of the levels. Classic IQ theory is often restricted to genetic and genomic considerations and sees intelligence as being purely or predominantly inherited.
Richardson’s thesis indicates that intelligence is not explicable purely in terms of brain physiology and genetics. The development of society and culture is the primary reason for the massive surge in human intelligence over recent centuries, as reflected in advances in society, technology and the vast expansion of knowledge.
 More to the point, why don't they try? 
The answer, in part, is because of culture.
I believe that Richardson is correct. It is clear that the various cognitive components of intelligence can only fully express themselves where a culture permits that expression. The great advances in the expression of human intelligence that we see in the contemporary world’s fantastic works of technology are all functions of social and cultural imperatives. High school students studying calculus was unthinkable at the time of Newton – but is completely normal in modern western culture that emphasises the importance of science, mathematics and technology. Even your capacity to decode the written symbols upon this page is a function of  your culture, which values that same codified form of knowledge over other possible modes of knowledge communication.
Ken Richardson’s model is expansive, but does not go far enough, in my opinion. There is the need for the addition of a further layer to his five-tier model.
Integrated Intelligence (Transpersonal factors)
The incorporation of integrated intelligence into our understanding of how intelligence operates can garner an appreciation that knowledge from extra-sensory, collective and spiritual sources are involved in the on-going evolution of human intelligence. In this sense the information received at the transpersonal level acts in a similar way to Richardson’s social/environmental factors. For the majority of human beings who are unaware of this transpersonal level, the effect is unconscious. Yet this is not much different from the other five factors. Most people are not aware of the additional cognitive skills that make them smarter (on average) than their parents, for example (as with the Flynn effect).
Notably, in order for the transpersonal level to have greatest benefit in the development of intelligence in the individual, it has to be acknowledged by that individual. In turn the individual is most likely to acknowledge this level when it is  permitted by the society. In this sense it is dependent upon the “lower” levels of the system. Of importance here is that various domains of intelligence are acknowledged and appreciated by societies and cultures, while others are not. For example, Richardson points out that abstract logic is absent from many cultures – and thus people from these cultures are unlikely to do well in the written pen and paper tests that are so much a part of many IQ tests, because abstract logic plays an important role in these.

The spiritual and transpersonal ways of knowing are, at this time in history, a 'no-go' zone for academics, educators and scientists. Parapsychologist Dean Radin calls this the "psi taboo". It is essentially anathema in mainstream dominant discourse to take the domain of the mystical and intuitive seriously. Integrated Intelligence is a forbidden zone.

Of course various individuals have always exhibited exceptional intelligence in domains that are not generally appreciated by their culture or society. The natural intelligence’ (Howard Gardner’s term) of Galileo was hardly embraced by the Church and Italian society of the age, yet he excelled at it. Similarly, various individuals have excelled at domains associated with integrated intelligence despite social resistance. The late thanatologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is one example here. Her work on embracing death and especially the near-death experience drew considerable hostility at the university hospital where she worked.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I am well versed in the application of Integrated Intelligence. Some might call me a clairvoyant.  
Yet this was not always the case. I grew up completely ignorant of concepts related to Integrated Intelligence. A fundamental issue was the complete absence of any social acknowledgement of that intelligence, and the total exclusion of its facilitation in my education.
In order for me to come to develop my current capacity for Integrated Intelligence, I had to go through a process involving several phases, beginning around the age of 26 (some 18 years ago). The steps included:
      The slow development of an intrinsic interest in esoteric subject matters.
      My considering the possibility that I might have a potential for Integrated Intelligence.
      Engaging in disciplines which facilitated Integrated Intelligence - either directly or as a by-product of processes which indirectly expanded this intelligence.
      Being willing to transcend the criticism and ridicule of peers, friends and family, and the self-doubt it engendered.
      Overcoming the enormous fear and resistance – both conscious and unconscious – of awakening this intelligence; and acknowledging and embracing the often highly disturbing information which integrated intelligence brings to the conscious mind.
It is important to note that a key factor in the development of any intelligence is motivation - as was the case with my desire to understand Integrated Intelligence. Intelligence theorist Richard Sternberg has long pointed out that motivation is a prime mover in the expression of intelligence. In my case, a number of extraordinary events (such as witnessing UFOs and visitations from spirit guides) contributed to my desire to work with these levels of mind. Yet the prime factor in my motivation to continue to work with Integrated Intelligence has been what Carl Jung called “the sacred wound”. I carried enormous psycho-spiritual scars into my adulthood. I realised in my twenties that I would not be able to lead a satisfactory and happy life unless I dealt fully and directly with these issues. I could have chosen mainstream therapies to deal with my problems.
Yet a number of psychic experiences (dreams, visions, synchronicities etc.) contributed to a deepening understanding and perception of “issues” that existed within my psyche. I realised that my society was ‘wrong’, and I knew things that many people refused to acknowledge at all.
A key point is that these experiences, the employment of integrated intelligence, and the kinds of healing practices I employed, remained personal secrets which I only shared with people of open mind. My strong motivation circumvented the social denial and rejection of Integrated Intelligence.
In short, there are multiple factors which assist you in being intelligent, or conversely, being unintelligent. The culture in which you live largely determines the ways of knowing you use in your everyday life. How is your country helping make you, and your fellow citizens, smart… or stupid?
If you look at the massive development of China in the last 30 years, you can clearly see that it is in large part due to the implementation of permissive policies which have unleashed the creative and intellectual potentials of the Chinese people.
For those of us in other countries and cultures, the question then becomes, what intelligences are we yet to permit expression of, and what incredible shifts might they generate in our futures?


  1. As a working Medium, I would suggest that my vocation would move from 'weird' to mainstream, as people began to understand that the body is truly just a vehicle for a much greater intelligence ~ that is both eternal AND evolutionary.

  2. Terrific post, Marcus. Intuitive intelligence counts more in my book than an IQ test. People who divine patterns are working at collective levels. There's a collective intelligence that supersedes mental intelligence.

  3. Fantastic post, Marcus. Our willful ignorance of the multi-layered nature of intelligence will seem to future generations as blinkered as Victorian attitudes to sexual orientation. The refusal of the education system to engage with the whole person in his or her context is a tragic failure to seize a precious opportunity.

  4. Thanks for these 'feedbacks' (a bit of Chinglish for ya!). It's great to see people here writing and commenting about these domains of mind - and all of you actually using them in your lives. Whether you realise it or not, you are pioneers.

  5. Very provocative ideas and a good 'meaty' post. Ran across this in the NY Times:

    Nature, nurture, curiosity, imagination, freedom and so much more contribute to developing intelligences!