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The Truth About Intelligence: Is It Genetically Inherited Or Earned?

According to the dictionary, intelligence is the ability of acquiring and applying knowledge and skills. However, it's not that simple, since intelligence is a notion that is often misunderstood.

Some people believe that intelligence is the knowledge you gain through education, while others believe it has nothing to do with education, but it is the sum of experiences you gain throughout your life.

Once I was having a talk with an economics professor about the US education system. The main question I had for him was if the current system provides us with necessary knowledge. His response was that everything we learn through books and school is useless until we learn how to apply it.

Allow me to reference the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Those who have read books about brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes or watched the blockbuster movies are familiar with a dialogue between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, where the former accuses Mr. Holmes about not knowing enough basic information about world, like how the Earth revolves around the sun.

Holmes rebuts by saying he only retains information that can be useful for his work and any other kind of information would be useless for him.

Of course, it does not mean that simple information about the world around us will be waste of time and brain capacity; we should know how the world around us works.

Even Bill Gates doesn't just stick to tech practice and computer coding in his free time. On his website, he often writes about the books he is reading and says,

“Many people accuse me of not showing interest for classic literature, but I do enjoy reading novels. However, I'm mostly interested in books relating to sociology, psychology and economics since they help me to understand the world and society I'm living in.”

Therefore, we cannot say that everything we read and learn is useless information since sometimes it gives you a sense of how everything is organized, from human body to society.

We can conclude that intelligence is not only knowledge and skills that you can apply, but it also helps you to make sense of things that are happening around you.

So is intelligence something you can inherit through your family, or does your ethnicity somehow affect it? Maybe it is something that depends on you?

If you want to know what stands behind the successful and intelligent people, I suggest you read “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. By the end of it, you'll be looking at success differently.

Do you inherent your intelligence through your family? A study by psychologist Robert Sternberg concluded that the skills and knowledge you have are the result of your family. However, it is not a genetic relation, but rather, an educational one.

Children inherit practical intelligence, which is the knowledge that comes from the way your parents communicate with you. According to the study, middle-class families spend more time with their children than lower-class families.

During that time, they teach their children how to speak and interact with other people, how to treat them and how to solve social problems.

This establishes and develops self-esteem, a quality that works in your favor for a lifetime. Varying factors like parents working more than one job, the amount of free time they can spend with their children and relative location to quality school districts affect children who come from lower-class families. By that sense, family background can have an influence on your intelligence.

In order to analyze the relation between ethnicity and intelligence, I'm going to refer back to Gladwell's “Outliers.” Have you ever wondered where the stereotype of Asians being good at math and science came from?

Gladwell explains it this way: “In many cultures it is believed that whatever you do, the results always depends on the fate or on God's will.” Thus, it implies that how much you work does not affect the outcome.

On the other hand, most Asian cultures believe that everything depends on you and your hard work. The harder you work, the more you get, and if you do not succeed, then you must not have tried hard enough. So, yes, your ethnicity does matter for you to be a successful or intelligent person.

Overall, the lesson to be learned here is that you shouldn't let your intelligence and/or lifestyle be the slave of your genes. Everything depends on you. Certain aspects do affect this, but it is only the attitude that injects you with the drive to do or not to do.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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Leyla Abdullayeva

Contributor

Intellectually curious Sociology department student and peaceful human being who enjoys reading, writing, dancing, swimming, traveling, film photography and guiding people.
Intellectually curious Sociology department student and peaceful human being who enjoys reading, writing, dancing, swimming, traveling, film photography and guiding people.

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