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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Understanding Differences as a Sign of Intelligent and Scientific Thinking



The ability to understand differences between similar objects has always been a sign of intelligence. Science itself is based on the idea of investigating the differences and similarities of objects to create a full picture of a phenomenon. When done well, we can create hypotheses, models and theories that help to explain and predict our environment. Our adaptation and full development as a person is based on recognizing and appreciating differences.

Simplicity and definiteness make for great followers but hardly constitutes leadership. Intelligent people look deeper at issues to see if they can find differences or similarities that help them understand and create working models to use in other places. Persons who lack the will to put forward effort, or the faculty of intelligence, to understand complex ideas jump to quick conclusions.

The issue of categorization is a significant problem. Broad categories are simple and easy to use. Examples of simplicity include discrimination, racism, bigotry, etc. that cannot differentiate between members of a general category. They are not able to understand that sometimes the general category doesn’t represent anything but what is going on in the perceivers head.

Intelligent people rarely say, “All people are like this….or “Those people all do this….). Then have the insight and intellectual faculty to see differences between people and events by looking beyond the obvious. They are not easily fooled into believing false information or opinion without some proof to back up the claims. They are societies intellectuals and thinkers.

Maslow and Rogers described the fully functioning person as extensional. Rogers wrote in his paper Towards a Theory of Creativity, “The creative person, instead of perceiving in predetermined categories is aware of the existential moment as it is, and therefore he is alive to many experiences that fall outside the usual categories (As cited in Hayakawa, 1958, pp. 62).”

In essence, intelligent people are more scientific in their thoughts and avoid putting items into quick heuristic categories. They think about differences, view the multiple ways in which a thing or event can be categorized, and then are open to the possibility they are wrong. Beliefs and rules are adjustable based upon new information.

Such people are aware that the world around them is not so simple, and they become accustomed to ambiguity and using their cognitive fluidity to adjust their understandings. As a fully developed individual, they can use science as an enhancement to discriminate among different elements in their environment while understanding that scientific findings are always in flux. What we believe today may be different than what we think tomorrow.

The next time you are SURE you know something…..consider re-evaluating the facts from a different perspective. Jumping to conclusions is almost never beneficial as simplicity of thought limits what we see in any particular situation.

Hayakawa, S. (1958) Symbol, Status and Personality. pp. 62 New York:HBJ

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