Intelligence and Learning

Some Topics


Wise woman

Social Intelligence

Social organization is basic to animal life. Insect societies are remarkably coherent and suggest human organization even more than many mammalian societies. Coherent social organization is achieved by a meta-brain. Many individual brains are coordinated in a network of interacting individuals. Human invention is incremental and innovations spread from human to human because the two central tendencies of humans are to copy and compete. One of the functions of social organization is the distribution of individuals in spacetime and the regulation of their interactions. Humans are used to social regulation through speech and rules and tend to overlook the more basic and pervasive social controllers that operate from innate properties in the brain.

Animal societies are organized around activities such as mating, rearing the young, foraging, hunting, resting and seeking protection. Mammalian social organization varies with the habitat, food supply, and habits of the animal. In primate groups, individual animals are locked into in complex sets of social and kinship networks. The kin group is the most prevalent basic unit of organization and has a genetic basis. Intelligence is organized around interactions with others. Modern humans belong to many groups of different size and importance and will create a hierarchy of allegiance characterized by shifting loyalties and even reversals of allegiance. Tracking allegiances is a major task for intelligence and some people are obviously more gifted than others.  Humans evaluate and compete with each other in a continuous negotiation that involves strategy, criticism, conflict, and overt battles.

Visual information gathering is dominant in primates and specialized area of the cortex a devoted to evaluating what others are doing. Neurons in the inferotemporal cortex of macaques respond to faces and hand gestures and some neuronal groups are tuned to specific behaviors.  The most basic intelligence modules identify individuals by appearance and behavior and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of association with other individuals. Smart people are better leaders because they are better evaluators of the behavior and intentions of other members of their group and are more accurate in responding strategically to challenges from their subordinates.

The brain systems that evaluate others are not used in self-evaluation. It is easy to argue that humans, like other primates, are mostly interactive creatures, pre-occupied with what others are doing; humans have little or no cognitive ability for self-evaluation. One human relies on others to evaluate behavior and therefore, human society has built in multiple and complex evaluative procedures that operate daily as external controls.

The innate rules of association built into the brain pertain to small groups and tend to become dysfunctional when individuals try to relate as members of large and anonymous groups. Large groups are still controlled by individuals and small groups with limited ability. Enlarging organizations rely on repeating modular structures controlled from above. A large corporation has many repeating subunits linked and administered by a central office that is controlled by a small group of executive officers and directors. As the corporation grows, the executive officers do not become more intelligent, better informed and more expansive. Indeed executives in growing corporations usually become isolated in their immediate social groups and have difficulty grasping issues beyond their immediate local group and self-interest. 

"IQ" is a handy short form for overall intelligence and IQ scores could be considered as approximate measurements of a number of underlying abilities. Comprehensive IQ testing would go far beyond the relatively selective IQ tests in common use.  Comprehensive testing would evaluate at least eight critical domains of mental ability:

The ability to live in a group, to cooperate with others and, at the same time, to compete successfully for status, privileges, resources and mates.

The ability to recognize what is really going on out there in diverse situations and to act appropriately.

Information processing ability including the ability to find, evaluate and apply knowledge relevant to completing real world tasks.

The ability to navigate through different environments and to move skillfully with minimal risk of injury or death.

The ability to send and receive communications with language and other expressive modalities such as mime, singing, dancing, rhythm, drawing, sculpture, model-making, playing musical instruments.

The ability to design, make and use tools effectively.

The ability to set goals, sequence, plan and implement strategies

The ability to self-evaluate and correct behavior, ideas and strategies when they are not working.