Intelligence Defined

This is one trait that is very often associated with those with AS. I have looked up the meaning of the word “Intelligence” on and it gives the following definitions:

  1. Capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.
  2. Manifestation of a high mental capacity
  3. The faculty of understanding.
  4. Knowledge of an event, circumstance, etc., received or imparted; news; information.
  5. The gathering or distribution of information, especially secret information, or information gathered covertly.

I will go through only the first four definitions here.

Learning, reasoning etc.

A classical situation that springs to mind is in school (especially primary or secondary). I was near top of the class in most subjects, especially maths and sciences, but other subjects like English, I struggled in. There are a few others, who also excelled in maths and sciences, and also in the subjects where I struggled. For those who were considered, for lack of a better word, the “brainiest” in the class, they appeared to have little or no difficulty understanding the material, or to put it another way, there was no need to “beat it into them”; they were able to take it in like a sponge and it eventually all made sense.

I’m sure that when you are reading this, you will recall many a situation in school, where someone fails to complete an item of homework, or an assignment, they will complain to the teacher that it was too hard, or too difficult, the teacher will reply that they were being lazy. Another situation you may recall is when someone completes an assignment turns out to be less than satisfactory, it could be from not fully understanding certain aspects of the assignment. It could be that the teacher could have explained these aspects better, the teacher might then retort by saying that there was nothing wrong with the way it was explained, just that the student wasn’t paying attention. Sometimes there are situations where a student is trying to get a grasp of what the teacher is explaining, the student will understand it as long as the teacher doesn’t rush through; in this situation, the teacher will, at some points in explaining to the student, ask “does that make sense?”.

General Knowledge

Another thing that springs to mind with regard to intelligence is general knowledge competitions, for example “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, or general knowledge quizzes that were broadcast on RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) in the 1980s: “Murphy’s Micro Quiz-M”, and “Where in the World”. The value of some questions, usually how much money you will win if you can answer the question correctly, is different from others. Usually, the harder (more difficult) a question is, the greater the money the question is if you know the answer.

But how do you define a “hard” or “easy” question in general knowledge? In general knowledge, by and large, either you know the answer to the question or you don’t. The definition I have come up with is this: The difficulty of a general knowledge is related to a measure of the probability that someone will know the answer to the question.

Probability is defined as a measure, on a scale from 0 to 1, where 0 denotes absolute impossibility, and 1 denotes certainty, of the uncertainty of the occurrence of an event. For example, if I toss a coin, the outcome is either heads or tails. The probability of getting, say, heads, is therefore 0.5. Another example is throwing a die (plural is dice), the outcome is any number between 1 and 6. Therefore the probability of throwing, say, 6, is 1/6, or 0.1666.

In general knowledge, for a question “What is the capital of France?” We can fairly assume that everybody knows it’s Paris. Therefore the probability of knowing the correct answer to this question is very close to 1 (about 0.9999). However, if I put another question, say, “Who composed the piano piece ‘Maple Leaf Rag’?”. I know the answer is Scott Joplin, but not everybody on the street will know that, unless they happen to have a keen interest in piano music. Therefore, I would guess the probability of someone knowing the answer to this question, as being in the region of 0.3 to 0.4.

To conclude, for general knowledge questions, the lower the probability of someone on the street knowing the answer to a certain question, the “more difficult” that question is.