Intellectual Fluidity

Ruminating on (someone else’s) theory that people can effectively communicate/bond with others who are within about 20 IQ pts of themselves. I’m not sure how 20 was determined, nor would I expect any particular # to hold for everyone, but let’s just run with the general idea.

One of the implications (which is rather obvious anyway, but I like imagining it so I’m sharing it) is that intelligence, like a liquid sloshing around in your brain, may be applied more or less to different problems. We normally call this “concentrating,” but we can also think about it on a long-term basis as getting really good at something through lots of practice.

The amount of liquid sloshing around may be basically fixed, esp. by adulthood, (or slowly decreasing as you age, fuckfuckfuck,) such that given a variety of tasks and normal circumstances, you perform however is normal for you. But given incentive, you can divert mental energies away from their normal tasks to understand or do something harder than normal; this caries a certain cost, as it makes doing other things more difficult, but you can do it. This allows people to communicate with a variety of others, smarter or dumber than themselves, but not infinitely; since the fluid is limited, you have only so much to devote.

One of the implications of this theory is that some people have a much easier time making friends/communicating than others. An average person, IQ 100, can effectively befriend people from 80-120, which constitutes the majority of the population. Someone with a 140 IQ, by contrast, can only effectively befriend people between 120 and 160, a very small % of the population.

A reasonable critique is that this may just be excuse-making on the part of people who are bad at socializing and have over-inflated views of themselves. And I am sure this is sometimes the case. But I also suspect there is something to the theory. Speaking as someone who is probably reasonably intelligent, I know that I don’t really fit in with or make friends with normal people. Not out of any sort of malice or purposeful dislike; not because I sit around thinking about how terrible and beneath me those other people are (intelligence is generally only something that occurs to me in retrospect). If anything, I’ve devoted a fair amount of energy to developing normal socializing skills, like looking at faces and asking questions and making conversation on normal topics. But this does not make these conversations interesting. It is generally with disappointment that I realize that someone who I thought might be interesting uses a lot of bad logic and has a bunch of bad ideas that are entirely predictable based on their class/age/tribal affiliations.

But I don’t think I am just a disagreeable jerkface; there are a few people whom I like quite a bit (actually, I think I generally like people better than they like me; my spouse says I am too optimistic about people I meet.) I feel fairly comfortable on blogs devoted to science and reason, and generally in communities that tend to attract fairly high-IQ people.

3 thoughts on “Intellectual Fluidity

  1. I wouldn’t say true friendship is impossible when there is a large IQ gap but it does make it more difficult. Just like interethnic and intersex friendships. These factors don’t preclude friendship but they complicate it.


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