Stephen’s Self-Assessment Arcade
The Intelligence Trap
In the book de Bono's Thinking Course, Edward
de Bono asserts that thinking is a skill. His finding has been that intelligence
and thinking skill are not directly related; the existence of this effect
is counterintuitive for most people. Dr. de Bono calls this effect the
In describing the intelligence trap, Dr. de Bono identifies the following
Not all intelligent people get caught in the intelligence trap, and of
those who do, they do not get stuck there all the time. Some are able to
avoid the trap instinctively, while others have been taught or have learned
to overcome it. However, it is always there calling, and it is something
to be aware of.
Verbal facility: Intelligent people learn that well-articulated
is often mistaken by others for well-thought-out. Since verbal skills
come easier than thinking skills, the intelligent person is tempted to
substitute the former for the latter.
Backdoor commitment: An intelligent person can create a rational
and articulate argument to support almost any position, sometimes without
even examining it. It is very easy for him to then slip into having an
emotional stake in the position, not because he has critically evalutated
it, but simply because he has pride of ownership of the argument in its
Social costs of error: Intelligent people are often heavily invested
in the self-image and social status conferred by their intelligence. This
can lead them to become very risk-averse regarding mental errors. It’s
safer to stick with the generally accepted line than to branch out and
advocate an untried point of view.
Bias toward criticism: If you advocate an idea, you make yourself
vulnerable to the criticism of others. If you shoot down others’ ideas,
you get to be the one who showed others they were wrong. This behavior
can be very seductive. It is also self-reinforcing: once you have been
the critic for a while, you visualize others doing to your ideas what you
routinely do to theirs, and are therefore even less inclined to put forward
new ideas of your own.
The “Everest effect”: Intelligent people often seem to prefer reactive
and analytic thinking over projective and synthetic thinking. In reactive
thinking the problem is there before you and you have to respond, usually
on the problem’s own terms. In projective thinking, you have to find the
problem, the objectives, and the solution space. Reactive and analytic
thinking appeals to intelligent people the way a big mountain appeals to
skilled mountain climbers: because it’s there. However, most of the important
problems in life require projective and synthetic thinking.
Speed: Because an intelligent person can reach a conclusion without
walking through all the intermediate steps, he is tempted to do so. But
some of the intermediate steps may be important and reveal considerations
that make the easy conclusion inappropriate.
Bias toward cleverness: There are greater social rewards for demonstrated
cleverness than for demonstrated wisdom. This can lead the intelligent
person to habitually retreat into cleverness.
Find Out More
Dr. de Bono has made a study of creative thinking and thinking as a skill.
Visit the Web Site
Edward de Bono has his own web site.
de Bono's Thinking Course
Look for other books by Edward de Bono
Last modified Monday, 14-Jul-2014 16:38:16 EDT
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2001 Stephen Rojak. All rights reserved.