Get to the point: Testing for abstract discernment

More than anything else, I have noticed that extraordinarily high intelligence is characterized by the ability to sort out important information from distractors. According to my model for post-140 IQ, this indicates discernment- the ability to quickly recognize and categorize abstract ideas with the perceptual faculties. The archetypal example is when a person “sees” a Ponzi scheme and begins to react to this realization emotionally before it even enters their conscious mind.

If a person has already built up all of these complex instincts as a sort of “crystallized intuition”, this indicates a high rate of complex instinct creation (“fluid intuition”) over time. Like healthy white matter production, this trait “discernment” ought to be considered a necessary but insufficient condition for the phenomenon of genius.

The sensual experience of exercising this facility is one of feeling your focus “drawn” to a specific piece of information and developing a temporary monomania until the tension is resolved. For instance, at the scene of a murder a sensible detective will be drawn to investigate the smoking gun first.

Crafting questions which test this ability appears to be a trivial extension: to provide lots of distracting information in the question. I think that the “Similarities” subtests actually do a pretty good job of measuring fluid intuition. Ex: What is the similarity between a dog and a table? When you try to answer this, you can’t do it by reasoning verbally. You have to call up the concept images and just stare at them in your mind’s eye until the answer pops out at you. Other sorts of questions which do this very well are trick questions and riddles.

The answer, by the by, is that they both dogs and tables have legs.

Clever sillies are not comfortable with this sort of cognition. Sadly, many of my aspie kin fall into this category, because we have a strong positive attraction to strict logical thinking which tends to override good sense. Thus, clever sillies do not take riddles, trick questions, or even matters of taste seriously. They believe that it doesn’t matter whether a person obtains the correct answer for such a question because they can’t be blamed for getting it wrong. How can you be blamed if there are no rules?

If they were allowed to apply this attitude to serious questions, like a business or policy decision, it would lead to heartache because determining which information is salient to the situation is the most important part. Thus, riddles have a storied history of sorting out the wise from the merely bright. I believe riddles test for crystallized intuition because they tend to rely heavily on accumulated experience, whereas trick questions are in between riddles and Similarities. Generally you want more fluid intuition in a scientist and more crystallized intuition in a statesman, but they have a tendency to run together.

One caveat- a lot of the trick questions I’m seeing on Google are actually just stupid jokes in disguise. Here’s a good example though: “One house is made out of red bricks, one house is made of blue bricks, one is made of yellow bricks, and one house is made of purple bricks. What is a greenhouse made out of?”

In conclusion, I think this could be formalized so as to properly distinguish high functioning in the two cognitive modes. Once this is achieved, I believe it may be possible to create IQ tests with a ceiling above 160. However, there is a complication in that testing this function is easily confused with “creativity”, so I will try to disambiguate them in the future when I describe how genius works. Also, it is very easy to recall the answers to such questions if you’ve already seen them, so that needs to be accounted for.

(The answer to that last question was glass. In this question, the salient bit of information was the word “greenhouse” and the rest was distraction.)

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15 Responses to Get to the point: Testing for abstract discernment

  1. Edenist whackjob says:

    Emerging theory: most of cognition relies heavily on your working memory. In the example with the dog and the table, you have to hold both in your mind’s eye. In the example with the smoking gun, you have to chunk every details into its own unit, and then pick out “gun” as the salient one (sure, you can detect salience without this kind of chunking, on a purely perceptual level, but that is much more limited and instinctintual).

    Now, off to do some dual n-back (or at least I ought to)…

    • Edenist whackjob says:

      Haha, no spelling today, I see.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >Emerging theory: most of cognition relies heavily on your working memory. In the example with the dog and the table, you have to hold both in your mind’s eye.

      Yes, I think this is true, but it’s going to be low on the correlation hierarchy, ref:

      Working memory is well-tested by backward digit span, and it is a very good five-second proxy test for IQ:

      > In the example with the smoking gun, you have to chunk every details into its own unit, and then pick out “gun” as the salient one (sure, you can detect salience without this kind of chunking, on a purely perceptual level, but that is much more limited and instinctintual).

      In the detective example, it is going to be instinctual. Detective work in particular relies heavily on instinctual pattern-matching and psychological projection. Of course, nowadays it’s all about convicting the usual suspects, but I mean classical detective work.

  2. Psychometricians need to realize that there are aspects of intelligence that IQ tests don’t measure. Figuring out how they might be included in IQ tests is a step in the right direction, at least within the context of the assumption that IQ tests themselves are necessary.

  3. Aeoli Pera says:

    Does not demonstrate comprehension. Is that a joke?

  4. atonthemelon says:

    IQ is to genius as takeoff speed is to flight. In other words, a decent IQ is necessary but far from sufficient to produce genius. Moreover, there are those who are very quick on the ground, but otherwise lack wings.

    Here’s a quote from Proust:

    To mount the skies it is not necessary to have the most powerful of motors, one must have a motor which, instead of continuing to run along the earth’s surface [is] capable of converting its speed into ascending force. Similarly the men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is most brilliant or their culture broadest, but those who have had the power, ceasing in a moment to live only for themselves, to make use of their personality as of a mirror….The day on which young Bergotte succeeded in showing to the world of his readers the tasteless household in which he had passed his childhood…on that day he climbed far above the friends of his family, more intellectual and more distinguished than himself; they in their fine Rolls Royces might return home expressing due contempt for the vulgarity of the Bergottes; but he, with his modest engine which had at last left the ground, he soared above their heads. (WBG, Madame Swann at Home)

  5. lf says:

    Interestingly, I’ve been recently heavily updating my worldview to Christianity, and pretty fundamentalist version at that. I can tell you it still takes some time after some “tangible” encounters with Real Life ™ demons and fallen angels. There’s a leap to take from atheism/agnosticism to Christianity/supernatural worldview.

    It’s interesting to find out that for example “visions” and this sort of “reality overlays” can be produced by the opposing side as well, unless you’re firmly on Christ’s side and have spiritual protection.

    And that time is apparently easily manipulatable (“gang stalking” type phenomena).

    Some interesting materials:
    — The Bible, of course
    — “The Bible, Physics, and the Abilities of Fallen Angels”:
    — Discerning Alien Disinformation: Part 1-6 (aliens = fallen angels):
    — Timeline Dynamics:

    Thanks for the blog, I haven’t been following Edenism stuff that much lately, though. Your Polymath episode might have some spiritual components to it. “Therefore put on the full armor of God…”

  6. Pingback: The anterior cingulate cortex is the seat of judgment | Aeoli Pera

  7. Pingback: Initial thoughts on training discernment | Aeoli Pera

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