For the past week, after having a brief conflict with an online stranger who equates reading a lot with being intelligent, I kept thinking a lot about the concept of intelligence. Since I am open about being an avid reader and feeling that reading has become second nature to me, I’m aware that people would be inclined to view me as ‘smart’. Actually, such statements make me cringe as I’m aware that there are many areas in life that I am still lacking and there are still many things that I’m ignorant about, which is the thought that I have formed after reflecting upon the incident that may have caused the brief conflict.
I personally view individuals who read (doesn’t matter through which medium) as having an aim to become less ignorant, but not ‘intelligent’ per se. Sometimes one who reads a lot is not critcal of what they read. Many would have a view that reading a lot means that person is ‘intelligent’, but in reality, intelligence isn’t solely measured by possesing a vast amount of knowledge. Reading could make us less ignorant about certain issues or matters by reflecting upon them, but it does not necessarily make us become more intelligent in other areas of life. Besides, intelligence is not a straightforward concept. There are many theories of intelligence that have been developed over the years.
So far, there are several theories of intelligence that are developed under different orientations. They are cognition oriented theory, mental factors oriented theory, information processing oriented theory, basic biological oriented theory, cognitive development theory, and social interaction oriented theory. By looking at those existing theories, it is evident that intelligence is not a straightforward concept. Two of the most prominent figures when it comes to theory of intelligence is Howard Gardner with is ‘Multiple Intelligence Theory’ and Daniel Goleman with his ‘Emotional and Social Intelligence Theory’. A person who is dominant in Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (one of the intelligences in Multiple Intelligence Theory) does not mean that he posseses a strong emotional intelligence.
So, does reading a lot makes a person intelligent in all domains of life? No. But it does make a person becoming more informed and less ignorant about certain things so that he/she can be well-rounded in many areas of his/her life. Being aware that intelligence is not a straightforward concept, I personally would not like to use the word ‘intelligent’ without referring to the specific type of intelligence that is manifested in a certain context based on the outcome. In fact, I try to avoid it as much as possible when describing a person because it is uncritical of me to label someone as just ‘intelligent’ when the type of intelligence could be mentioned specifically. I feel it is insulting to view someone who reads a lot as ‘intelligent’ because, does this mean a person who doesn’t read is not intelligent at all? I think this is a shallow view of intelligence. Again, one must be specific. What kind of intelligence are we talking about?