A Cool Takedown Of The Misfit Genius Stigma
People with particularly high IQs are often viewed as difficult and socially awkward, a new survey suggests. But in reality, they're not so different from the rest of us.
BERLIN — What kind of people constitute the intellectually gifted, meaning someone with an IQ higher than 130? Are they mentally superior to others? Do they have difficulties with social interaction? Do they suffer more often from emotional problems?
Psychologist Tanja Gabriele Baudson from Germany's University of Duisburg-Essen asked more than a thousand "averagely gifted" people between 18 and 69 years old exactly those questions. She wanted to discover what society's common beliefs are towards geniuses. Besides socio-demographic data, respondents were also asked to indicate how intelligent they considered themselves to be and how they felt about intellectual giftedness in general.
The scientist published her results in the magazine Frontiers of Psychology, noting that there are generally two prevailing views about uncommonly smart people. Whereas one-third of the participants had a very positive image of the intellectual elite, two-thirds had negative ideas.
Baudson says there is a particularly persistent idea that smart people are socially awkward and emotionally unstable. This kind of judgment depended mainly on how intellectual the interviewees considered themselves to be and whether they personally knew people with high IQs.
Baudson herself believes that the public's negative image possibly stems from the way intelligent people are presented in the media — namely, as difficult, somewhat mad, geniuses.
It's also possible that those surveyed never really had any image in their minds of the super intelligent, and only started thinking about it when they were asked.
But what are they like, really? Studies show that they are "not any crazier than the rest of us," as Baudson puts it.
They are obviously more intelligent and perhaps a bit more introverted, but they also tend to be very curious and more open toward new experiences than others. And when it comes to their soft skills or psychic stability, there are no characteristic differences at all.