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Are intelligence and rationality different?

How can someone so smart be so stupid? We’ve all asked this question after watching a perfectly intelligent friend or relative pull a boneheaded move. 

“There is a narrow set of cognitive skills that we track and that we call intelligence. But that’s not the same as intelligent behaviour in the real world,” Stanovich says. He’s even coined a term to describe the failure to act rationally despite adequate intelligence: “dysrationalia.” How we define and measure intelligence has been controversial since at least 1904, when Charles Spearman proposed that a “general intelligence factor” underlies all cognitive function. Others argue that intelligence is made up of many different cognitive abilities. Some want to broaden the definition of intelligence to include emotional and social intelligence.

Time for a pop quiz. Try to solve this problem before reading on. Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

Yes No Cannot be determined

More than 80 per cent of people answer this question incorrectly. If you concluded that the answer is cannot be determined, you’re one of them. (So was I.) The correct answer is, yes, a married person is looking at an unmarried person.

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Stanovich’s book, What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, proposes a whole range of cognitive abilities and dispositions independent of intelligence that have at least as much to do with whether we think and behave rationally.

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