Friday, April 4, 2008

Strong vs. Smart

Imagine yourself sitting with your best friend, and you attempt to lift a chair and move it to the other side of the living room, to see how it would look. And as you try to heave it up grunting, your friend says to you:
"Stop, you might hurt yourself, its too heavy, you're not strong enough, I'll help you lift it."

You'd happily accept their offer. And thank them.

Imagine however if the situation did not involve moving a heavy sofa, but was about something that requires some high mental abilities. Say wisdom or intelligence. for example: You're trying to figure out your accounting figures for your small business. Or trying to solve some mathematical equation for a statistics class. Or maybe even trying to figure out how to diplomatically work your way out of a sticky argument at work with some stubborn manager. Take any of these examples or think of one of your own, and imagine that you're failing in dealing with it, and you're telling your best friend about it, clearly in need of help. And the friend says something like:
"Stop, the way you're handling this is wrong, you're not smart enough, let me offer you some advice."

I don't know about you, but the "not smart enough" bit would very likely piss me off.

So, what's the difference between these two situations? both involve your deficiency, and both involve someone else criticizing you in that lack of ability. The first is a muscular ability, the other is a brainy ability.

But we're way more sensitive to criticism when it is directed at our intelligence than if it is towards our athletic prowess.

Lets go down to a childish level. Kids do tease each other based on physical abilities all the time.
"I can easily outrun you and run circles around you. You're SO slow! wahahahaha"

But now as grownups, if someone sneered at how slow you ran, you'd point them out to your friends and laugh at how irrelevant the comment was. "what's this crazy person on about?"

But if the remark mentions anything about how stupid or unwise we are, even if the intention of the remark was friendly and genuine, most likely we'd be very offended and defensive about our mental abilities.

We're all too willing to concede that black athletes are more proficient in speed, jumping height, strength and so on. But dare to mention any hint of academic achievement or mental ability differences between blacks and whites, and you're likely to get scornful and chastising stares from all around you. just incase, here are some references:
The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability
Chapter 11 of The g Factor fully documents that, on average, the American Black population scores below the White population by about 1.2 standard deviations, equivalent to 18 IQ points. (This magnitude of difference gives a median overlap of less than 15%, meaning that less than 15% of the Black population exceeds the White average of 50%).

So my question is, Why?

Why are we more sensitive towards our mental capabilities, but not so much towards our physical ones?

I'm guessing one possible answer could be that in this day and age, being smart is more important for prosperity. If you're smart and handicapped, you still can get a PhD and be an overpaid consultant. If you're strong and dumb you might end up a janitor on foodstamps.

So was the situation reversed in hunter/gatherer communities 1000's of years ago?

Stone Age Muscular Joe says to his Thinker friend Archimedes : "Oh man, Archie, you're still fiddling with that round rock with the hole in the middle? why don't you get off your ass and hunt some more deer with us? I hate to be so crass and rude, but its sort of straining my family's food supply to always have to trade a deer's leg for the bone hair clasps you make. Don't get me wrong, my wife likes using them to hold up the wet laundry and even hold up her hair, but give me a break, you can't really feed them to your kids now can you. Poor baby timmy even tried and almost choked on one of them."

So what do YOU think?


Big Pearls said...

the pic 5ara3tni! I'll read ur post now.

Amethyst said...

I'm okay with people sneering at my physical abilities because I acknowledge the fact that they suck. I'm short. I'm weak. Shasawi ya3ni?

But I am smart. Ma artha a7ad yegouli ena I'm not. I deal with things the way I want to deal with them. Mental abilities should be respected. There is a red line people should not cross when giving advice.

Ms. D said...

i wont mind if someone pointed out my "mental incapability/S" yes i can have plenty.. given they steer u to the right direction.. mo bs 6naza..

as a person, i think im still in my formative years.. trial and error is what makes humans.. ERROR.. meaning we`r not all brilliant..

i dont understand why some find it offensive when someone crticized their smarts.. cuz to me, its just fine.. bil3ax ill learn how to be better! cuz when it comes to brain u can always make urself learn how to do it right.. but physically... y3ny akaser thahry 3ashan adez el6awla! 3asahaaaa mataz7ze7aat! i cant break my body.. body is vulnerable.. it can easily crash and collapse.. see, on the other hand.. brains dont break or collapse *unless god forbids something serious happens like head trauma or hemorrage or accident*...

am sorry am really bad at making sense.. i really hope i did make some today ;D

brown-suger said...

mmmm... actually i dont like beaing weak physically or mentally... i get defensive if someone tries to prove me wrong in any way of those.. oo specially if its a man who's ( you can't open that lid leave it dont break ur nails) lol =) bs i feeling underestimated in both..

Anonymous said...

criticism is always welcome both positive and negative. I think it gives you way to improve and become better!

falantan said...

big pearls: its a funny ad, here's the link Geico Caveman Commercial

amethyst: I think you may have pointed out a possible reason. If you get criticized for something that you can NOT change, you get furious because there's nothing you can do about it. its not YOUR fault. is that what you mean?

I can see it. but still:
1- You can make yourself smarter by studying and educating yourself more. the brain is very similar to a muscle. you train it, it gets better.
2- Even if you can't do much about something you lack, you can still get criticized for it. You have to be good at what you do otherwise you need to let someone else do it more efficiently.

Ms.D: if you really don't mind, then that's very admirable. we should all be as humble as you are. But also, don't underestimate your own smarts. You're very funny and very consistently, and comedic people are usually called "geniuses" :P

brown-sugar: well, we have to acknowledge our weaknesses. "shokran liman ahdaa ilaya 3oyoobee" :)

amu: 3alaik noor. but my question is, why are we waaay more sensitive about our stupidity?

Anonymous said...

we are sensitive cuz that comes in us from our society.... the people around us have created such an environment..correct me if i am wrong??

nQ said...

Honestly, I don’t get offended when my close friends offer to help me when I fail to come up with an answer or solution. I mean, they’re my friends after all, if they are better in one thing, I’m better in the other, and that’s how we complete each other. When it comes to physical capabilities, I think, we do strive to be better. I do. Like when rock climbing, and 3azizo climbs harder levels faster, it upsets me :( *and get a weaker rock climbing partner*

falantan said...

amu: well, there's really no need to BLAME it on society, its a real phenomena and I'm simply trying to explain it. I think we do care about how other people (society) think of us. And as you said maybe if society values brains more then we value it more.

I guess this can extend to other qualities, like if a woman thinks that society value her beauty and youth so highly, then she'd be very offended if someone suggested that she got older or is not too hot.

nq: welcome to the blog sistah! and ok, try to imagine if it was said by a not so close a friend, say someone at work, or a friend of a friend. I'll bet you'd be FUMing angry if they said you're stupid while if they said you were weak you'd simply shrug your shoulders.