Thursday, January 12, 2012

High intelligence vs Social Grace

Question. Does being highly intelligent excuse you from being socially competent?

Recently, I have been pondering the concept that those who are attributed higher intelligence (in the realm of genius) are somehow excused from being socially acceptable. I don't simply mean "weird" either, such as the classic image of a nerd who is awkward around women and sometimes doesn't know cultural references. I mean people who are very intelligent, very assertive and very confident (all good qualities) who cannot seem to afford the time and effort to interact with people in a polite and acceptable manner.

A good example (although highly exaggerated) is Sheldon in "Big Bang Theory", a popular show in America. This show follows the daily life of four extremely intelligent individuals and their interactions with the world around them, specifically with a girl who lives across the hall in their building. While all of them are socially challenged and a bit weird, Sheldon takes the cake. He will say and do things that are often completely factual, and yet with no regard to the opinions or sensitivities of others. The rational is that he is a super genius, and due to that and his upbringing, he is simply "unaware" of these social constraints and missteps.

Another great example is Dr. Brennan from the show "Bones", in which she is an incredibly intelligent and talented anthropologist who helps detective Booth solve crimes relating to homicide via the analysis of the victims bones and injuries (another CSI style show). She too often times says and does what can only be described as factual, but once again with little regard to the feelings of others. In addition, when placed in many social situations, she is completely inept at behaving like a normal and socially acceptable human being. Sometimes, this is due to an ignorance of social convention, while other times it is a willful disregard.

While the first condition is unfortunate and somewhat saddening, it is the second that i find myself so irritated with. It implies that, because one is highly intelligent and accomplished, that they need not concern themselves with the nuances of civil society and the opinions of others. This, i find, to be offensive and unacceptable. To be honest, I even find the ignorance thereof to be alarming and something that should be at least attempted to be corrected by the individual at hand.

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