Film and TV loves to talk about people who have difficulty with this despite or because of their high intelligence. Is there anything in the cliché? An analysis of four longitudinal studies speaks against it. Scientists ’conclusion about Matt Brown of the Institute for Autism and Developmental Medicine in Lewisburg (USA):»Higher cognitive skills are generally beneficial – Practically harmless. “
The basis was data from about 50,000 people, all of whom completed cognitive tests in childhood or adolescence. The oldest sample consists of about 10,000 young people randomly selected in the US state of Wisconsin and graduated from school there in 1957. The most recent sample was born in the United States between 1980 and 1984 and has been interviewed 17 times since then. Another American group born around 1960 has provided information 26 times. The British sample included more than 16,000 people born in 1970, each of whom shared their lives between the ages of ten and forty-six.
Scholars have used educational qualifications, income, job satisfaction, physical and mental health, social connections, and volunteer work as measures of a good life. They specifically looked for areas of life in which low or average cognitive performance was more beneficial than higher intelligence. But they only found six of the more than 200 potential negative effects, including, for example, sleep habits and job satisfaction. However, the effects were weak and did not appear in all samples and age groups.
Safe even at high doses?
In most cases it is as expected: the higher the cognitive performance, the better for life, for example level of education, income and health. Brown and colleagues believe that a positive relationship is unlikely to reverse at some point. “We have no indication of any kind of disadvantage or a limit beyond which higher values are no longer useful.” Accordingly, the following also applies to excellent thinking skills: More does no harm.
So why do many believe that high intelligence has a downside? Researchers consider this a fallacy: if talented people fail in life, their intelligence will be blamed because it stands out so much. With average intelligence, other characteristics may be used for interpretation, such as lack of empathy.
The authors acknowledge, of course, that intelligence is not a guarantee of a good life. Other characteristics such as pronoun, environment and coincidence are also shared. In addition, the available studies did not differentiate the effects of different cognitive abilities, and were samples from the normal population, with a relatively small number of gifted people.