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聪明未必是件好事 高智商也有不幸

更新时间:2019/10/22 10:33:38 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The surprising downsides of being clever
聪明未必是件好事 高智商也有不幸

If ignorance is bliss, does a high IQ equal misery? Popular opinion would have it so. We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, or Lisa Simpson – lone stars, isolated even as they burn their brightest. As Ernest Hemingway wrote: “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

如果俗话说傻人有傻福,那反过来高智商就意味着不幸?很多人都这样认为。我们的看法是天才往往受焦虑、挫败感和孤单困扰。想想弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫(Virginia Woolf)、艾伦·图灵(Alan Turing)、丽萨·辛普森(Lisa Simpson)——他们就像一颗颗孤星,但即使在他们燃烧最耀眼的时刻也倍感孤独,正如海明威曾说的那样:“聪明人拥有幸福——这样的事我几乎从未遇到。”

The question may seem like a trivial matter concerning a select few – but the insights it offers could have ramifications for many. Much of our education system is aimed at improving academic intelligence; although its limits are well known, IQ is still the primary way of measuring cognitive abilities, and we spend millions on brain training and cognitive enhancers that try to improve those scores. But what if the quest for genius is itself a fool’s errand?

这似乎只是关于一小部分人的小问题——但是它可能会给很多人带来启发和影响。我们的教育体系很大程度上是为了提高学术智力。尽管存在很多众所周知的缺陷和局限性,智商测试仍然是衡量认知能力的主要方法。我们在大脑训练和认知提高方面投入了大量的金钱,试图提高参与相关测试的分数。但是,假如对才能的追求本身就是一场徒劳呢?

The first steps to answering these questions were taken almost a century ago, at the height of the American Jazz Age. At the time, the new-fangled IQ test was gaining traction, after proving itself in World War One recruitment centres, and in 1926, psychologist Lewis Terman decided to use it to identify and study a group of gifted children. Combing California’s schools for the creme de la creme, he selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the “Termites”, and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day.

早在近一百年前就有人尝试寻找以上问题的答案。在那时,美国爵士乐正处于黄金时代,智商测试作为一个新生事物开始引起关注。此前,在第一次世界大战的征兵中心,智商测试已得到验证,1926年,心理学家路易斯·特曼(Lewis Terman)决定用智商测试来找出天才儿童,并对他们进行研究。通过对加利福尼亚州各个学校的地毯式搜索,他挑选出了1500名智商在140以上的小学生,其中80人的智商超过170。这些学生后来被称为“特曼神童”。时至今日,对他们人生跌宕起伏的发展轨迹的研究仍在进行中。

As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites’ average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman’s expectations – there were many who pursued more “humble” professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists. For this reason, Terman concluded that “intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated”. Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average.

和预期一样,很多“特曼神童”都获得了财富和名声——最著名的是杰西·奥本海默(Jess Oppenheimer),20世纪50年代经典情景喜剧《我爱露西》(I Love Lucy)的作者。的确,当他的电视剧在CBS电视台上播出时,“特曼神童”们的平均薪水已经是普通白领平均薪水的两倍了。但并不是所有人都达到了特曼的期望——有很多人选择了比较“平凡”的工作,如警察、船员、打字员等。因此,特曼总结道,“智力和成就之间并没有完美的相关关系”。此外,高智商也没能让他们过得比常人更幸福。在他们一生之中,离婚、酗酒和自杀水平和国家平均水平大致相当。

As the Termites enter their dotage, the moral of their story – that intelligence does not equate to a better life – has been told again and again. At best, a great intellect makes no differences to your life satisfaction; at worst, it can actually mean you are less fulfilled.

当“特曼神童”步入晚年时,他们故事的寓意——高智商并不等同于更好的生活——已经被人们重复了无数遍。在最好的情况下,他们会认为高智商顶多让你的生活满意度与常人无异;而在最坏的情况下,他们会说实际上意味着你怀才不遇壮志未酬。

That’s not to say that everyone with a high IQ is a tortured genius, as popular culture might suggest – but it is nevertheless puzzling. Why don’t the benefits of sharper intelligence pay off in the long term?

这并不意味着,只要拥有高智商,就必然要遭遇磨难,尽管一些流行的观点这样认为。但这确实令人困惑。为什么从长期来看,卓越的智商并没有带来应有的回报呢?

A weighty burden

沉重的负担

One possibility is that knowledge of your talents becomes something of a ball and chain. Indeed, during the 1990s, the surviving Termites were asked to look back at the events in their 80-year lifespan. Rather than basking in their successes, many reported that they had been plagued by the sense that they had somehow failed to live up to their youthful expectations.

一种可能是,知道自己是高智商反而变成了束缚自己的锁链。的确,在上世纪90年代,研究者请那些仍在世的“特曼神童”回顾他们过去80年人生中的大事。他们不仅没有从自己的成功中感到满足,反而感觉自己似乎没能实现年少时曾经被赋予的期望,并深受这种失败感折磨。

That sense of burden – particularly when combined with others’ expectations – is a recurring motif for many other gifted children. The most notable, and sad, case concerns the maths prodigy Sufiah Yusof. Enrolled at Oxford University aged 12, she dropped out of her course before taking her finals and started waitressing. She later worked as a call girl.

这种负担——特别是再加上他人的期望——往往是许多天资儿童的共同困扰。其中最著名、也是最令人难过的案例便是数学神童苏菲亚·尤瑟夫(Sufiah Yusof)。她在12岁时被牛津大学录取,却中途退学,当了一名服务员。后来她成了一名应召女郎,边做爱边背诵数学公式来取悦客人。

Another common complaint, often heard in student bars and internet forums, is that smarter people somehow have a clearer vision of the world’s failings. Whereas the rest of us are blinkered from existential angst, smarter people lay awake agonising over the human condition or other people’s folly.

在学生酒吧和网络论坛上常常听到另一种抱怨:聪明的人对这个世界的缺点看得更加清楚。与目光狭隘的普通人不同,聪明人时刻保持清醒,为人类的现状感到痛苦,或是为其他人的愚蠢感到悲愤。

Constant worrying may, in fact, be a sign of intelligence – but not in the way these armchair philosophers had imagined. Interviewing students on campus about various topics of discussion, Alexander Penney at MacEwan University in Canada found that those with the higher IQ did indeed feel more anxiety throughout the day. Interestingly, most worries were mundane, day-to-day concerns, though; the high-IQ students were far more likely to be replaying an awkward conversation, than asking the “big questions”. “It’s not that their worries were more profound, but they are just worrying more often about more things,” says Penney. “If something negative happened, they thought about it more.”

事实上,持续的担忧也许是高智商的标志——但其原因并非是那些书斋式的哲学家们所想象的那样。加拿大麦克埃文大学(MacEwan University)的亚历山大·潘尼(Alexander Penney)就各种各样的话题,对学校里的学生进行了采访。他发现那些智商更高的学生的确更容易感到焦虑。而有趣的是,他们的大多数烦恼都是日常琐事。高智商学生更可能重复一段令人尴尬的对话,而不是问一些“宏大的问题”。“事实并不是他们的担忧就更加深刻,而是他们担忧的东西更多,担忧的程度也更深。”潘尼说道,“如果某件消极的事情发生了,他们就会比别人想得更多。”

Probing more deeply, Penney found that this seemed to correlate with verbal intelligence – the kind tested by word games in IQ tests, compared to prowess at spatial puzzles (which, in fact, seemed to reduce the risk of anxiety). He speculates that greater eloquence might also make you more likely to verbalise anxieties and ruminate over them. It’s not necessarily a disadvantage, though. “Maybe they were problem-solving a bit more than most people,” he says – which might help them to learn from their mistakes.

进行进一步研究时,潘尼发现这也许和语言智力有关——即智商测试中以文字游戏形式进行的测试。相比之下,这些担忧和与空间有关的智力关系要小一些(事实上,空间智力似乎能减少焦虑程度)。他认为,高超的口才可能让你更容易把焦虑变成语言,并进行再三思考。不过,这未必是一个缺点。“也许他们比常人更擅长解决问题。”潘尼说道——这或许能帮助他们从错误中吸取经验教训。

Mental blind spots

心理盲点

The harsh truth, however, is that greater intelligence does not equate to wiser decisions; in fact, in some cases it might make your choices a little more foolish. Keith Stanovich at the University of Toronto has spent the last decade building tests for rationality, and he has found that fair, unbiased decision-making is largely independent of IQ. Consider the “my-side bias” – our tendency to be highly selective in the information we collect so that it reinforces our previous attitudes. The more enlightened approach would be to leave your assumptions at the door as you build your argument – but Stanovich found that smarter people are almost no more likely to do so than people with distinctly average IQs.

然而,残酷的现实是,卓越的智商并不等同于明智的决策。事实上,在有些情况下,高智商反而会让你的选择更加愚蠢。过去十年间,多伦多大学的基斯·斯塔诺维奇(Keith Stanovich)一直在设计有关理性的测试,他发现,公正、无偏见的决策往往和高智商无关。由于存在“主关偏见”——即我们在搜集信息时往往会进行特定的选择,以此来加强我们此前的观点。在进行辩驳时,更明智的做法是将你自己的假设置于一旁——但斯塔诺维奇发现,聪明的人做到这一点的可能性并不高于智商只有平均水平的人。

That’s not all. People who ace standard cognitive tests are in fact slightly more likely to have a “bias blind spot”. That is, they are less able to see their own flaws, even when though they are quite capable of criticising the foibles of others. And they have a greater tendency to fall for the “gambler’s fallacy” – the idea that if a tossed coin turns heads 10 times, it will be more likely to fall tails on the 11th. The fallacy has been the ruination of roulette players planning for a red after a string of blacks, and it can also lead stock investors to sell their shares before they reach peak value – in the belief that their luck has to run out sooner or later.

这还不是全部。事实上,那些在标准认知测试中名列前茅的人往往更可能存在“偏见盲点”。虽然他们非常擅长批评他人的错误,却更难认清自身的缺陷。此外,他们还更容易陷入“赌徒谬误”中去——即一枚硬币落地时,如果头十次都是正面朝上,第十一次就更可能是反面朝上。在轮盘赌游戏中,如果玩家连续得了一连串黑色,就会计划接下来押红色,而这一谬误会导致他们满盘皆输。此外,它还可能使股票投资者在股票价格见顶之前就将股票抛出——因为他们相信自己的好运迟早都会用光的。

A tendency to rely on gut instincts rather than rational thought might also explain why a surprisingly high number of Mensa members believe in the paranormal; or why someone with an IQ of 140 is about twice as likely to max out their credit card.

很多高智商的人往往更倾向于依赖直觉,而不是理性的思考,这可以解释为什么有那么多门萨会员相信超自然现象的存在,这也是很多智商140的人刷爆信用卡的几率是普通人两倍的原因。

Indeed, Stanovich sees these biases in every strata of society. “There is plenty of dysrationalia – people doing irrational things despite more than adequate intelligence – in our world today,” he says. “The people pushing the anti-vaccination meme on parents and spreading misinformation on websites are generally of more than average intelligence and education.” Clearly, clever people can be dangerously, and foolishly, misguided.

的确,斯塔诺维奇发现社会各个阶层都存在这些偏见。“在我们日常生活中存在很多‘理性障碍’现象——很多智商很高的人,却依旧会做出不理性的事情。”他说道,“那些宣传反对疫苗接种、在网络上传播虚假信息的人往往智商很高,并受过良好教育。”显然,聪明的人也可能被危险而愚蠢的误导。

So if intelligence doesn’t lead to rational decisions and a better life, what does? Igor Grossmann, at the University of Waterloo in Canada, thinks we need to turn our minds to an age-old concept: “wisdom”. His approach is more scientific that it might at first sound. “The concept of wisdom has an ethereal quality to it,” he admits. “But if you look at the lay definition of wisdom, many people would agree it’s the idea of someone who can make good unbiased judgement.”

那么,如果高智商没法保证我们做出理智的决策,获得更好的生活,我们应该依靠什么?加拿大滑铁卢大学的伊戈尔·格劳斯曼恩(Igor Grossmann)认为,我们应当将目光转向一个古老的概念:“智慧”。他的方法可能乍看之下并不怎么科学。“智慧这一概念本身就很虚无缥缈,”他坦言,“但如果你看一下智慧的定义,很多人都会同意,它形容的是能够做出正确的、没有偏见的决策的人。”

In one experiment, Grossmann presented his volunteers with different social dilemmas – ranging from what to do about the war in Crimea to heartfelt crises disclosed to Dear Abby, the Washington Post’s agony aunt. As the volunteers talked, a panel of psychologists judged their reasoning and weakness to bias: whether it was a rounded argument, whether the candidates were ready to admit the limits of their knowledge – their “intellectual humility” – and whether they were ignoring important details that didn’t fit their theory.

在一项实验中,格劳斯曼恩向志愿者们展示了一些社会困局——从我们如何处理克里米亚战争,到华盛顿邮报专栏“亲爱的艾比”(Dear Abby)中阐述的那些令人感同身受的危机。在志愿者们进行交谈的同时,一个由心理学家组成的专家小组会对志愿者的推理和偏见进行评判:他们的论点是否全面,参选人是否能承认自身知识的局限——即“理智的谦逊”——他们是否会忽略不符合自己理论的重要细节等。

High scores turned out to predict greater life satisfaction, relationship quality, and, crucially, reduced anxiety and rumination – all the qualities that seem to be absent in classically smart people. Wiser reasoning even seemed to ensure a longer life – those with the higher scores were less likely to die over intervening years. Crucially, Grossmann found that IQ was not related to any of these measures, and certainly didn’t predict greater wisdom. “People who are very sharp may generate, very quickly, arguments [for] why their claims are the correct ones – but may do it in a very biased fashion.”

结果是,获得高分意味着将来生活满意度更高,人际关系质量更好,以及最重要的是,焦虑和重复思考较少——这些似乎都是典型的传统意识里的聪明人所缺乏的素养。明智的推理能力甚至能让人活得更长——那些获得高分的志愿者在实验进行的数年间死亡几率更低。关键是,格劳斯曼恩发现,智商和这些衡量因素都没有什么关系,高智商显然也不意味着更高的智慧。“聪明人可能会很快作出论证,证明自己的论点是正确的——但他们采取的方式也许带有严重的偏见。”

Learnt wisdom

后天智慧

In the future, employers may well begin to start testing these abilities in place of IQ; Google has already announced that it plans to screen candidates for qualities like intellectual humility, rather than sheer cognitive prowess.

未来的雇主们很可能对这些能力进行测试,以取代智商测试。谷歌已经宣布计划对候选人的智力谦逊程度等方面进行测试,而不仅仅是考察他们的认知能力。

Fortunately, wisdom is probably not set in stone – whatever your IQ score. “I’m a strong believer that wisdom can be trained,” says Grossmann. He points out that we often find it easier to leave our biases behind when we consider other people, rather than ourselves. Along these lines, he has found that simply talking through your problems in the third person (“he” or “she”, rather than “I”) helps create the necessary emotional distance, reducing your prejudices and leading to wiser arguments. Hopefully, more research will suggest many similar tricks.

幸运的是,不管你的智商是多少,智慧可能并不是一成不变的。“我坚定地相信,智慧是可以训练出来的。”格劳斯曼恩说道。他指出,当我们以他人为重的时候,就很容易放下我们的偏见。他发现,如果以第三人称的形式讨论自己遇到的问题(用“他”或“她”来代替“我”),就能创造出必要的情绪距离, 减少自己的偏见,从而做出更明智的辩驳。今后的研究将有望可以发现更多类似的小技巧。

The challenge will be getting people to admit their own foibles. If you’ve been able to rest on the laurels of your intelligence all your life, it could be very hard to accept that it has been blinding your judgement. As Socrates had it: the wisest person really may be the one who can admit he knows nothing.

真正的挑战在于如何让人们承认自身的不足。如果你终其一生都活在自己智力带来的光环之下,你就很难接受你的智力实际上在蒙蔽你的决策这一事实。正如苏格拉底所说的那样:最智慧的人也许正是那些能承认自己一无所知的人。

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