2004-04-23 07:45


My research librarian has brought an interesting little article to my attention. It would seem that superior skill at chess is not in fact an indication of superior intelligence, merely of superior skill at chess.

Researchers found that playing chess involves solving spatial problems, which is a distinct and specialized activity that occurs in the parietal and occipital lobes. What we tend to think of as high intelligence is really abstract reasoning, which takes place in the left lateral frontal lobe, an area that remains relatively quiet and inactive during chess games.

So, since playing chess doesn’t put the left lateral frontal lobe to work, it is therefore neither a tool for developing high intelligence nor, if one is good at chess, an indication thereof.

In acting, they say that you should never say no in improv. Improvisation develops one’s ability to react to any unexpected situation. Since acting is simply reacting, and since one must always be in character no matter what happens on stage, you should always be open to what others are doing, and do what you can to participate and develop, in that character. Agree and add, that’s how you learn: yes, and—

You may have noticed there’s no script for real life. It’s all improv. Remain open; resist succumbing to the hubris of thinking you know what will happen next. You can’t. It is all guesswork, and conjecture, and nested systems in perpetual and immeasurably complex feedback loops. We are adrift on currents of causality, and there is no privileged vantage point from which we can observe the flux and say with any authority whatsoever, “Ah, this is how it is.”

I would suggest that if you wish to develop “high intelligence” beyond mere wordplay or endgames, that you try to extrapolate, and seek connections, and take your affinity for patterns (visual or conceptual) and apply them broadly to everything. Break out of the closed loops, and say yes in improv.

You can also engage in any activity that demands that you entertain many different, perhaps contradictory and abhorent notions. Like reading. You can, if you must, read about chess.

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