Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid

I drop in on my dusty blog to make a quick comment about “Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid” by Yale Press. Cool Book!

Chapter Two: Beliefs That Make Smart People Dumb

Some people believe that intelligence is innate. You are either gifted or you aren’t. Smart is a property of who you are. Others believe intelligence is malleable.

The first crowd is scared of tasks that cause hard work because expending effort implies you are dumb. If your intelligence is innate, and you want to be intelligent, then you will tempted to be defensive about the state of your intelligence. Not only will you tend to avoid tasks from which you could learn (because the effort expended might make you look/feel dumb) but you may also handicap yourself from success by purposely not putting forth all of your effort. If you tried and failed, but didn’t really care, then you cannot be faulted for being dumb.

The second crowd is more likely to see failure as a chance to learn and gain intelligence.

Motivation is the key to creative contributions. Many great geniuses, often thought of as prodigies, did not make their great contributions until after years of hard work and training.

Important not to only praise kids for their obvious intelligence when they achieve good results. This will tempt them to judge their intelligence and perhaps even worth based on easy success. Instead, praise the effort, motivation. Encourage them to challenge themselves and risk falling down.

“…being smart is a long process of self-development and self-discovery.”


This is all very interesting to me. I think I am that person who is internally fearful and defensive with regards to some perceived innate intelligence. I feel encouraged to try harder and worry less when I fail. There will always be someone around to mock when my efforts fail. So what? Just keep trying. Good things will come.


3 comments so far

  1. Ellen on

    Intelligence is not the same at “smart”.

    My daughter has the IQ of a near-genius. Common sense of a fruit-fly.

    Intelligence is what you have…smart is how you use it.


  2. bobbyorr on

    Ellen, LOL. May your daughter have a long and rewarding life, and may her “smarts” approach closer and closer to her intelligence 🙂

  3. […] “Howdie’s Theories“: Some people believe that intelligence is innate. You are either gifted or you aren’t. […]

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