Interpersonal Intelligence and Mental Violence

This is a text by Rauno Lindström that has now disappeared from its original URL. I don’t agree with all points in the text, but I store it here for easy reference. The definition of ‘interpersonal intelligence’ will remind you of “EQ“.

Arguments for the existence of a kind of intelligence which codes how a person understands the feelings, the responses, and the behavior of the others, was brought forward by Gardner (1985). He defends extensively this ability which he calls the interpersonal intelligence but he does not give any definition for it. I argue for one meaning which the definition should contain. My insight is based mainly on experience, very little on the psychological literature because I am a physicist. I try to illuminate my ideas by a few examples from everyday life. My view of the interpersonal intelligence consists of similar aspects as the social intelligence by Barnes and Sternberg (1989). They defined the social intelligence as consisting, in part, of the ability to accurately decode social information. The testees were given two tasks. First, they had to judge whether a couple pictured in a photograph was real (genuinely in a relationship) or fake (two strangers). Second, they were asked to judge which of two people in a photograph was the other’s supervisor. However, I wish to emphasize that the interpersonal intelligence does not really become apparent in the test items where the testee is to react only to the behavior of another person. In fact, testees possessing quite different interpersonal intelligences would response in a very similar way. The interpersonal intelligence becomes discernible when the testee self is involved in the matter. It shows the extent to which a person is willing to take into account the viewpoints of the other persons versus his or her own viewpoint. I think that it is possible to predict very well this kind of behavior of an individual if one has known him or her for a long time.

Mental violence is a concept which people realize in very different ways. My proposal is that it is originated from the differences of the interpersonal intelligences of people and that the degree of experience depends on the two particular persons involved in a case.

The very important impact for this writing comes from the essays of G.M. Towers in the journals of high IQ societies. Especially, I appreciate the essays which deal with the problems of social adjustment. My own experience in Finland is that very many of those people who have joined Mensa at a mature age and stayed as members, have sought for an explanation why a genuine communication does not form or why it breaks up. Towers (1988) realized that it may be explained by means of the concept of communication range. He defines it using the IQ points on tests with a standard deviation 16. It refers to communication on the level of abstract thinking, not on an emotional level.

Towers’ thesis:

  • There are virtually no communication difficulties between us and our companions when the IQ difference is 10 points or less.
  • Some communication difficulties exist between 10 and 20 points.
  • Constant, but still bridgeable difficulties occur between 20 and 30 points.
  • Beyond 30 points, communication on an abstract level begins to breakdown completely.

My experience is that this works. After almost 30 years in universities I went to teach at a gymnasium. During two years I have done short tests loaded with fluid intelligence and the results support Towers’ findings. The most apparent feature is that those pupils who have close IQ scores, tend to be companions. In Finland we had previously a system where the pupils were selected according to their talents in mathematics and foreign languages for their own classes for three years before gymnasium. The pupils at gymnasium are approximately from the age of 16 to 19. Four years ago the selection was forbidden and since the school achievements have been declining. I think that it may definitely be explained by means of Towers’ findings. An all destructing envy is easily arised.

One of the consequences of Towers´ theory is that an ordinary man with an IQ 100 will see anyone with an IQ 30 points or more greater than his own as incomprehensible. He perceives an IQ 135 in exactly the same way as an IQ 150 or even 180. On the other hand, I think that a person with an IQ 180 separates the others although he or she may not be able to realize why it is so difficult for the others to understand abstract relations. I believe that Towers’ theory is also valid in the areas of special intelligences. Within this framework one can easily understand e.g. the conflicts in the world of classical music. A critic may have a much higher musical intelligence than the artist although his kinesthetic ability may be poor.

It has long been pondered what kind of a man was Adolf Hitler. From the study of Gilbert (1948) at Nuremberg Trial we know that Hermann Göring had an IQ 138. The pecking order in the leading Nazi group was clearly the order of IQ’s. Thus Hitler had, probably, an IQ at least as high as Göring. Nevertheless, an ordinary person often calls him stupid. I think that it may be explained by means of Hitler’s interpersonal intelligence. In this field Hitler was stupid, in fact an ultimate case. I base my theory on him and I quote Darwin (Ochse, 1990) who suggested that it is legimate and sometimes advisable to look at extreme cases where the effects are magnified. Those who knew Hitler well, characterized him as a man who had no ability to settle himself into the position of another person. Eva Braun wrote “When he says that he loves me, he means it only at that moment”. This forms my basis for the following partial definition of the interpersonal intelligence. Interpersonal intelligence consists of an ability to settle oneself into the position of another person. I think that one may find an innate (fluid) factor and another (crystallized) factor which is mainly due to education. For more specific statements I shall assume a normal distribution for this ability with a standard deviation 16. One may now suggest by extending Towers’ theory that Hitler had an interpersonal IQ at least 30 points lower than an ordinary person. Those who were his nearest companions could be considered to be within 10 points from his score.

Next I wish to describe a few examples where the interpersonal intelligence becomes perceivable. It is easier to find those examples which show a low interpersonal intelligence, because persons who have a high ability of this kind do not usually present what they have done. I wish also to discern this ability from empathy. There are people who are willing to give anything to help a person out of a miserable condition although a long term solution would require abstinence. Further, I believe that there is no correlation between the interpersonal intelligence and the cognitive intelligence in accordance with what was found by Barnes and Sternberg for the relation between the social intelligence and the cognitive intelligence. The persons in the following cases have a fairly high conventional IQ. I believe that this is the most important range because these persons tend to be leaders and examples for the other people.

  • Case 1: Dr. Letlive
    Dr. Letlive had two visitors whom he invited to his summer cottage. He said “Let us fish so that we get more food”. When the nets were taken up, only one fish was found and it was prepared properly. When people sat down to dinner, Letlive said “Because we got only one fish, I will eat it.” It is certain that if anybody else would behave similarly, this person would remember it for ages. There is a continuous stream of similar occasions.Very many of the co-workers have left for a better quality of life. But there are also people who have no problems with this fellow.
  • Case 2: Director Our John
    Women call him as Our John. He has insensibly broken several of marriages of his subordinates. He considers as his privilege to have affairs but does not allow his wife the same right. He considers himself as a high-class person. But who could say like him: “I am close to your wife — here is a relationship to begin” and offer a financial compensation for the wife. The traffic regulations are for the others, not for him.
  • Case 3: Penis Postcard
    A few years ago several leaders of the Finnish labour market sent a feminist a postcard where a woman was parachuting on a field filled with erected penes. There was a text “Let us concentrate to the essentials.” It caused a big sensation and the folks was divided into two camps. Many people, especially men tried to calm by saying that it was only a joke. The other camp consisted mainly of well-educated, high-level women expressed “Not that way”. One of the leaders apologized but before soon he expressed that if a woman goes with a man to a hotel room, it implicitly means a sexual intercourse.
  • The following case displaying a high interpersonal intelligence is sometimes found in the novels and one could also encounter it in everyday life in Finland some 40 years ago but it is a rarity nowadays. </p> Case 4: Aljosha
    Aljosha offers a sum of money to a man who is in a desparate need of it. The man refuses to take it. The next day Aljosha renews his offer and now the man accepts it. Aljosha knew that the question of honor had been responded on the preceding day. </li> </ul>

    As an example of a person with highly developed interpersonal intelligence Gardner (1985) mentions Mahatma Gandhi. Apparently Jesus may be estimated even higher.

    It is my experience that those persons who have a very low interpersonal IQ are characterized also by the properties of greediness, envy and jealousy which Berke (1988) considers as the basic substances of the evil. This kind of man does not see another individual as a separate person, only as a continuation of him- or herself. A spouse is necessary for well-being but if this person happens to fall in love deserting the spouse does not cause a problem. I have met fellows who can offer a permanent job, but who in one week may even forget to tell the employee his or her change of mind although the offer has caused the employee to transfer across the country. It is not difficult for this person to fire people without any reason, or lie if it seems to bring benifits, and all this with a pure conscience. Nevertheless, he or she is very vulnerable of criticism. Hitler’s desire of Lebensraum, a space to live, transforms into a mania for travelling. Another repeated phrase, Leben und leben lassen, live and let people live, in this context means that this person only should be able to live without too many restrictions. In the ultimate case one encounters an obsessive slanderer who in old Greek was called Satan. Hate was Hitler’s source of power. A Swiss diplomat told that he had never met a man who could create so dense an atmosphere of envy, slandering and malice (Berke,1988).

    On the other hand, those persons who have a very high interpersonal IQ, are characterized by the properties of generosity, thankfulness and empathy which form the basics of goodness. I do not suggest that a high interpersonal intelligence is a typical feminine ability.

    Now I return to the concept of mental violence. I suggest that the degree of the experience depends on the magnitude of the difference of the interpersonal IQ’s of the two persons who are interacting. The person who has a higher interpersonal IQ, feels mental violence, because he or she usually take into consideration the feelings and behavior of the companion. By the extension of Towers’ theory we may now state that if the difference is more than 30 points, the circumstances become by time intolerable. If the difference is between 20 and 30 points, the partners may tolerate each other but they try to minimize the contacts. If the difference is between 10 and 20 points, they accommodate to the situation although they know that things could be better. If the difference approaches nil, the partnership becomes into a harmony despite of how high or low the shared attitudes are.

    It is well-known that the average difference in cognitive IQ between spouses is ca.13 points (Jensen, 1980). This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a happy marriage. One can easily imagine that if the other one is a total jerk, the relationship will not last. The interpersonal intelligences should also be close enough.

    It is obvious that if the mental violence arises from this basis as I believe, it cannot be written into the legislation. The only thing that can be done, is to teach children continuously. The chances are diminishing because the super teacher, TV, creates an enticing illusory world into which it is easy to escape. It is well known that the population norms of the conventional IQ testing show a constant improvement. It is due to the changes of crystallized intelligence which is ascribed to the influencies of increased education, the norms for fluid intelligence have not changed. On the other hand, I believe, the average level of the interpersonal intelligence is decreasing. This is due to the crystallized part. It is a common complaint that many children have no manners and it is ascribed to free raising. It is obvious that one has to speak to those people who have a low interpersonal intelligence, in their own language before they believe. In a class room it is not a nice procedure at all but it is the only way. In the world class we have a conversation with Saddam Hussein and we have to use the same procedure. The analysis of the collapse of the former system in East Europe can be accomplished within this framework. The system collected by time a leading gang with low interpersonal intelligence with which people got fed up. Mental violence often precedes physical violence. People in Yugoslavia ask where all this evil came from. I think that it was there. The present war is only a way to share the privileges once again.

    I think that would be a very difficult task to design a test of the interpersonal intelligence. But a good test would really help the mankind to evolve to a more human direction which is often desired. This is a subject which I would like the readers of In-Genius to comment or develop further.

    I wish to thank Professor Asko Aurela for suggesting the case 4. I am obliged to many people who want to stay anonymous, for several discussions. I am also grateful to Grady Towers for correspondence on general intelligence which explicitly and implicitly has influenced on this writing.

    Barnes, M.L., & Sternberg, R.J. (1989). Intelligence 13, 263.
    Berke, J.H. (1988). The tyranny of malice. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    Gardner, H. (1985). Frames of mind. The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books Inc.
    Gilbert, G.M. (1948). Nuremberg Diary. p.19. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.
    Jensen, A.R. (1980). Bias in mental testing. p.388. New York: Methuen.
    Ochse, R. (1990). Before the gates of excellence. The determinants of creative genius. p.38, Cambridge: University Press.
    Towers, G.M. (1988). The margins of mind. Vidya (The Journal of the Triple Nine Society) 95, 3-7.
    Towers, G.M. (1988). IQ and the problem of social adjustment. Vidya 98, 5-9.
    Note: The article was originally published in In-Genius 87, Sept 1993. In-Genius is the journal of Top One Percent Society (TOPS). </blockquote>

    Text taken from sigmasociety (now gone)

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