Intelligence and Perceptions of Intelligence In Groups

By Lance Winslow

J.P. Morgan had a very interesting quote; “Know much, say little” and that was amazing for him, because he didn’t often say much. Obviously, a very intellectually endowed gentleman, and someone who listened, and collected information but always played it close to the vest. Perhaps, his business competitors misinterpreted his low-key nature and silence for a sign of lack of intelligence, but those who did certainly learned their lessons later on, don’t underestimate J.P. Morgan. Okay so, let’s talk.

Now then, why is it that one would underestimate someone how spoke less often. Have you ever heard that quote; “if you are afraid that people will think you are stupid, don’t say anything lest you remove all doubt.” You see, for some reason we seem to elevate the outspoken people as smarter and more knowledgeable, we see extroverts as wiser often, even though that is not always the case.

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There is an interesting research paper worthy of note on this topic published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; The article is titled; “Perceptions of Intelligence in Leaderless Groups: The Dynamic Effects of Shyness and Acquaintance,” by Delroy L. Paulhus and Kathy L. Morgan from the University of British Columbia.

Why is this paper relevant, well, consider this excerpt of the abstract with regards to LDGs or Leaderless Discussion Groups;

“In Study 1, students completed trait-shyness questionnaires and met 7 times in groups of 4-5. After Meetings 2 and 7, participants rated all group members on state shyness and intelligence. Trait-shy participants were initially judged to be less intelligent on both self- and peer ratings. At Time 2, however, trait-shy participants were no longer derogated by peers,” And “Thus, the bias against quiet individuals, originally inappropriate, gradually became a valid cue for low intelligence.”

While it may be true that those who are not intelligent withdraw from interaction, or have determined that the consequences of participating and being told they are stupid are not worth it, generally unintelligent people or those who cannot access their memory quickly don’t make it to college. Thus, these results might be somewhat skewed if we were extrapolate them to the entire population. Nevertheless, in the college setting this seems perfectly legitimate, and ultimately reveals an inherent bias doesn’t it?

Perhaps, it tells us more about ourselves and the way we think than those we rate as second tier when in reality many of them rank above the more extroverted types by a significant margin, yet we may never know it without engaging them. Please consider all this and think on it.

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