Learn to Understand Your Own Intelligence

Three years ago I listened to a lecture on cognition that changed the way I think about intelligence. This is the crux. There are two types of cognition. The first is normal cognition. This is the ability to retrieve knowledge from memory. When you are asked a question on a test and produce an answer, that’s a display of cognitive ability. The second type of cognition is metacognition; the ability to know whether or not you know.

Have you ever been asked a question that you knew the answer to, but you couldn’t find the right word? This is called the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon and I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. You know that you know the answer, but you fail to produce it. If someone said an answer, you would know instantly if it was correct or not. In these cases metacognition exists without cognition.

In short, cognition is knowing, metacognition is knowing if you know or not. Both can exist together, but many times they don’t.

How Does this Affect Intelligence?

So what importance does this have and how is it relevant to self improvement? The fact that there are two different kinds of cognitive ability means that there are different types of intelligence.

In traditional education, intelligence is measured by cognitive ability. For some people this is works well. They can easily produce everything they know on a test. But for others it doesn’t work out so well. The people that know something cold but can’t find the right words on a test are awarded with poor grades and considered inferior.

But does this inability make them any less intelligent? They know the answer. If the question came up on a task, they could refer to a book or a quick Google search. In reality they’re just as effective as the people that aced the test. They just can’t prove it as easily.

The Importance of Knowing what you know

Unless you’re taking a test or playing Jeopardy, metacognition is more important to success than cognition. In real life, when you’re faced with a question the first decision is whether you know the answer or not. With strong metacognitive ability this is easy. If you know the answer, but can’t come up with it, you can always do a bit of research. If you know for sure that you don’t know, then you can start educating yourself. Because you’re aware of your ignorance, you don’t act with foolish confidence. The person who thinks they know something that they really don’t makes the worst decisions.

A person with poor cognitive ability, but great metacognitive ability is actually in great shape. They might do poorly in school, but when faced with a challenge they understand their abilities and take the best course of action. These people might not seem intelligent at first glance, but because they know what they know, they make better decisions and learn the most important things.

Clever but mediocre people

At the opposite end of the spectrum are people with great cognitive ability but poor metacognitive ability. These people are proclaimed geniuses at a young age for acing every test and getting great SAT scores. Unfortunately, they’ve been ruined by poor metacognition; they think they know everything but they really don’t. They are arrogant, fail to learn from mistakes, and don’t understand the nuances of personal relationships; showing disdain for persons with lower cognitive ability.

So who is superior? In a battle of wits the higher cognitive ability prevails, but life is not a single encounter. It is a series of experiments in succession, each building upon the last. Learning requires knowing what you don’t know, and taking steps to learn what you need to. People with poor metacognitive ability never realize that they don’t ‘get it’. They also don’t realize what’s important.

This doesn’t preclude them from material success. But, perhaps that’s a poor measurement of intelligence as well. There are many people who become rich and successful by their cleverness and cognitive ability, but as human beings are quite mediocre. Is the man that makes a million dollars, but is cruel and abusive to his employees and family, really more intelligent than the poor man who lives a modest and loving life? I don’t intend to demonize wealth, only to state that it should not be the measure of virtue.

Use your metacognitive ability

So what do we know and what do we not? And how can we tell the difference? There is so much to know in the world that the most brilliant human minds can grasp only the tiniest fraction. For this reason we should always be in doubt of what we know. The closed mind is oblivious to its surroundings, while the open mind absorbs them. Like a sponge, it soaks up observations, becoming fuller and more robust.

But we can’t live in total doubt. If we did we would never act, paralyzed by our inadequate knowledge. We must trust our intuition. If something makes you feel a certain way, that feeling is real and must be respected. Act based on your own convictions, not those of others, and keep an open ear for new ideas.

The most important mental power is the ability to know what you don’t know. The recognition of a fault is the first step to improvement. Don’t try to hide a lack of knowledge. People will see through it and you’ll appear foolish and arrogant. If you admit your ignorance, people will help you learn and respect your humility. For intelligent people this is the toughest lesson to learn. We are used to being right, and consider being wrong shameful. We’re afraid to lose status by looking stupid. This vain arrogance is a great weakness and the source of many problems. To crush it and embrace humility is the mark of true wisdom.

  • Greg Morneault

    Great Post John. Really gives light to my own intellectual difficulties as a young lad. My parents figured me for a colorblind because it took me so long to arrive at an answer. I later stayed back a year due to my difficulty reading and following directions. I’m beginning to understand that what was really lacking (and always has been lacking) is my own cognitive ability. Fortunately, as you know, I was able to adapt. And what began as a handicap quickly evolved into virtue as I have never felt obligated to sacrifice knowledge for ego. Starting at the bottom gives you perspective and makes you humble and you do not soon forget it.

  • http://geniustypes.com Brian

    Fascinating post, John! I never thought of intelligence that way.

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  • http://www.steve-olson.com Steve Olson

    John,
    This is fantastic. I’ve understand this perfectly. It was on the tip of my tounge. :-)

  • Joao Costa

    Great post. Its the first time I came across with this metacognition concept, and I really loved it. Now I just wish I were a bit more ‘meta’ :)

    • Sakshi

      I wish the same..I have always thot that in certain situtation I can manage to do or grasp anyting..But situations are not always right ..Its importnat to judge them and also about yourself..I definitely know now..my life would be better if I were more meta..wondering how to develop metacognition

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  • http://talentdevelop.com/ Douglas Eby

    John Hodgman has a nice related quote in Wired magazine: “What most people and societies become when they believe they know everything: incurious, self-satisfied, flabby, and prone to wearing tunics and lounging on grassy lawns…”

    That’s part of my post Stifling ourselves with the need to be right
    http://talentdevelop.com/2007/01/stifling-ourselves-with-need-to-be.html

  • http://packetguy.blogspot.com packetguy

    Excellent post. as far as cognitive abilities versus meta-cognitive abilities go, the Financial markets prove your point to the dot. Almost all the successful Commodity/Forex traders are those who are metacognitive as they know they have to research what they don’t know before taking a speculative decision. Cognitive traders, on the other hand, have short lived careers as they tend to take positions when they think they know what they are doing, and the markets rip them a new one because of their lack of knowledge.

  • http://www.personaldevelopment.ie Gleb Reys

    That’s a truly awesome way to present a great concept, John!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.stevenaitchison.co.uk/blog/ Steven Aitchison

    Great post John. I’ve come across a lot of very intelligent people with little common sense, I am guessing they’ve had low metacogntion ability.

    Very thought provoking post.

    • nhlanhla mthembu ( boya)

      yes I agree with you steven because I have also seen that in many cases those people who think they are clever in such a way that they do not give themselves time to think things through they just do what comes to their minds at that time of which I think that is what is ruining their reasoning skill even here at the university you find that a person is very gifted he or she sees things in class but he or she fail if he writes a test and that is because they do not give themselves time to study they assume the questions.

  • http://www.buildyourlifetoorder.com Mark McManus

    Thanks for introducing me to this concept – brilliant and well written too. Reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld’s:
    Known knowns
    Known unknowns
    Unknown knowns
    Unknown unknowns

  • Greg Thielen

    OUTSTANDING!! Thank you John for putting into words the difficulties I have been tormented with through my many years of challenges. I have often felt stupid for not being able to answer a question, and then realizing that I actually knew the answer once someone else had mentioned it. This article just plain made me feel good about myself….Thanks again.

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  • http://http:jeganinfo.blogpost.com jegan

    Very good post !!

    Somewhere I read – Knowledge is having two types – One is knowing what it is, other – knowing where it is.

    In the age of google, if you know more “Where it is” and less of “What it is”…it does not really matter as long as you know how to google / reach the right sources.

  • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org Donald Latumahina

    We’re afraid to lose status by looking stupid. This vain arrogance is a great weakness and the source of many problems. To crush it and embrace humility is the mark of true wisdom.

    It reminds me of Steve Jobs’ advice: stay hungry, stay foolish.

    Great, John!

  • http://positivesharing.com Alexander Kjerulf

    Very interesting thoughts John!

    In fact, I think we very often (especially at work) overestimate skills and underestimate meta-skills, ie. the skills behind the skills.

  • http://successfromthenest.com Tony D. Clark

    Hey John – Great article! When you said “The most important mental power is the ability to know what you don’t know,” you nailed one of the keys to real success in my experience.

    In order to be able to grow, you have to understand what areas need the most focus. I call it a “Growth Curriculum.” Be honest with yourself about what you know, and what you need to learn. Then gather the resources that will help you into your own personal Growth Curriculum.

    Whenever I am tackling something new, this is always my first step. It’s like the essence of the Zen story of the empty cup. It has to be empty before you can fill it up.

    • boya nhlanhla

      I you have given the good explanation but would you please give the differences between metacognition and cognition and be specific this time

  • Dr.Thunder

    This article makes some broad sweeping assumptions that an overblown ego goes hand in hand with superior cognition. This is not always the case. The whole thing comes across as an ego soother for those who do not perform well in “cognition” specific tests. Lets all pat ourselves on the back for being special in a different way. Not to say that there ins’t any validity to what’s being said. Simply that it’s not as cut and dry, nor as splendid to be a meta instead of those pompous cogs! I find it to strong a word but it’s the only one that comes to mind: propaganda.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Propaganda (gasp). I think I feel honored.

  • http://www.monicaricci.typepad.com Monica Ricci

    What an insightful and interesting post! I have always “tested well” in school, and in fact, I enjoyed tests because of my competitive nature. (don’t get me started on board games!)

    I understand the frustration that people who don’t test well have, however I also have to wonder if those folks wouldn’t be better served in the real world by improving their cognitive skills. I have to think there are various methods of brain training, and specific exercises that would improve a person’s access to the part of their brain where data is stored, which would sharpen their cognitive abilities.

    Also, at the risk of coming off rude, I have to say the following. Early in the piece you wrote:

    If the question came up on a task, they could refer to a book or a quick Google search. In reality they’re just as effective as the people that aced the test.

    I just have to ask how referring to a book or Google can be equated with “knowing” or being “just as effective” on a test. An important part of learning is being able to store and access the information you take in, to be used at a later time in your life. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want my plumber, my doctor, or my airline pilot to have to refer to Google when he needs an answer.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Doctors use Google to diagnose patients all the time. I don’t like it much either, but that’s modern life.

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  • http://www.monicaricci.typepad.com Monica Ricci

    John, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be using Google. God knows it’s an incredible tool that I’d be lost without. And I’m also not a fan of thinking I have to know EVERYTHING in the universe. I figure as long as I know how to access what I know I don’t know, I’m good. (got that?) ;)

    But I really have a hard time equating being able to FIND the information you don’t know with actually “knowing” it, that’s all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Koiotic Koi Otic

      I am not sure if you have ever read the article about Einstein where he was asked how many feet are in a mile – and he said he did not know. When asked how one of the smartest men of our time did not know even the simplest of questions – he said something to the fact of  – Why should he clutter his mind with such simple knowledge that he could look up in any book quickly to find the answer.

      This is one of the smartest things I have ever read/heard and believe the same thing. I am very fortunate to be one of those people who can “ACE” a test with little studying and did get straight A’s in school, but more because I knew how to find the answer many times within the question or I knew how the teacher wanted me to answer the question. However, I also know how to find information quickly – if and when I need to. Both of these things combined have allowed me to be an effective person both personally and professionally in my life.

      There are Equipment Operators, and ditch diggers, Doctors and orderlies. One is not necessarily “smarter” than the other – and I think that is probably one of the most important things to remember as we are all human beings and should treat each other with respect no matter what we do.

  • Roberto

    Brilliant. I’m one of those people that has about 75% congnitive and 25% metacognitive. Its obvious when i get the highest or top 3 test score without ever studying. However when i am presented with a question that i dont know off the top of my head, i cant tell the differenece if i know it or dont know it sometimes. So i was wondering if anyone knew of any website or book that could help you build both of these types of intelligences, it would be most helpful. Great article by the way, not propaganda at all, it is very true.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    That’s a great idea, Roberto, I’d love to know about improving cognition (meta or normal) as well. Though I’m not sure there is any way to boost metacognitive ability. It’s so personal and intuitive, I can’t conceive how anyone else can tell if you know what you know or not.

  • Roberto

    well i have found a book that could help possibly improve your cognitive intelligence. I would hog this finding for myself but perhaps someone will be kind enough to produce one that helps the metacognitive. This book is called “How to develop a super power memory” by Harry Lorayne. It seems like a regular self help book, but if you take the time to read even the first technique in it, you will see how relativily easy it is. It does help although i have not been able to finish it entirely. It sure beats developing a memory by shear repetition.

  • Hamym

    Its a really helpful article on human intelligence. It unveiled some secrets on ideas. I read about cognitive-psycology sometime back, how ever this is an interesting article as well. I’d like to ask Roberto how he had calculated his cognitive and metacognitive abilities in percentages.

  • Roberto

    Basically I guessed. But I am still a student and thus i take test upon test upon test. So i have a basic idea of the layout of my skills. But i would think testing yourself would be a good idea. Something along the lines of a test of fill in the blanks to test for cognitive and a multiple choice or fill in the blank with a word bank to test metacognitive. But thats just my idea.

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  • http://www.grogandvittles.com Michael Langford

    I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want my plumber, my doctor, or my airline pilot to have to refer to Google when he needs an answer.

    You very much want your doctor to resort to google when he needs an answer. Human brains are excellent at many things. Being a giant, up to date, database of all possible symptoms a human can suffer and what illnesses they probably mean is *not* one of them.

    Hubris is an *extremely* common trait among doctors. They are forced to memorize so much that their lack of Meta-cognitive ability makes it hard for many of them to swallow the need use tools in their diagnosis, such as books and computer software (such as google, but there are several medical specific tools that *also* deal with their diagnosis procedures).

    One thing I loved about my former HMO doctor is that he would go look something up when he wasn’t sure what the combo of symptoms could mean.

    –Michael

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  • Incompetence

    What a nice perspective to make stupid people feel not as stupid as they are. Your example with the geniuses on the SAT exams and w/e is severely flawed because they have both high proficiency in both meta-congnition and congnition. How do you think they become so smart, by admitting the fact they don’t know anything, then going like a retard reading every book, looking for everything they don’t know, and being a nerd until the point where they can use their congnition abilities to determine whether they know the answers or not. Contradictory? I don’t think so, they know so many theories, laws, w/e they can apply and adapt it to the task/question being asked so they don’t need to find out the specific answer because they can adapt to find it using their congnitive abilities (maybe meta-c as well).
    I would consider a better example of that to be the typical nerds you see at school who memorize, memorize, and memorize and study till the world ends and do excellent in tests and are proclaimed geniuses and are suppose to be smart while in true essence, they’re just really dumbasses.
    My opinion, matters? I don’t know, it might be a view from a smart person crushing your hopes of the misconceptions you hold about ‘us’. Or maybe I’m a retard just being heretical.
    Either way, like I said, interesting article.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I guess my point was that there is more to intelligence than test scores. This is just a way to try and understand things, its far from perfect, like any explanation. If it’s interesting, that’s the most I can hope for.

  • Anonymous

    Hello everybody,

    I stumbled across an interesting link about critical thinking. It seems to me that this concept is very much-related tot the metacognition, or it can be used as a tool for developing it. Even though the link below is to just an introductory article, you can always google and I’m sure you can find good information about this stuff.

    http://www.freeinquiry.com/critical-thinking.html

    Good reading ;)

  • http://www.dreambuilders.com.au Liara Covert

    This is a thought-provoking article. It reminds readers that different kinds of intelligence exist. For example, you may have a very competent physician with little or no bedside manner. The article explains why this may be, yet of course doesn’t justify or qualify how you should view it. How we characterize or judge people often relates to their behavior moreso than their job or contribution to society. What we think they know or don’t know also relates to what we think we know or don’t know. I agree that humility is a fundamental quality, no matter what kind of intelligence you think you have or don’t have. Being open-minded and ready to learn makes us better people because this enables us to be less judgmental and ultimately grow based on our understanding of ourselves not according to standards and baselines set by others.

  • Tim

    I don’t remember information in the way i used to but I’m well informed about where to get it if I need it.

    Further to that.
    Go to humanmetrics.com and take the the jung typology test.
    You will get a four letter code.
    I am INFG.
    Then to typelogic .com and keep reading.
    It is relevent to you re insightful post

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Thanks for the recommendation, I checked it out. I’d actually already taken a similar test, though it was called the Meyers-Briggs. I came out as an INTP.

    I’m always skeptical of personality tests, but this one is very interesting.

  • http://Non awosanya opeyemi

    Thanks so mush but right now am in the public pc so i could not read all so pls i would like if i can have a copy .

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  • Dan Dion

    Your original post was interesting but needs some clarification:

    You seem to define COGNITION as REMEMBERING; more specifically INSTANT RECALL.

    RECALL is a usefull skill, but requires little actual THINKING.

    BLOOM’S TAXONOMY is a popular instructional model developed by the prominent educator Benjamin Bloom. It categorizes thinking skills from the concrete to the abstract–knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis,synthesis, evaluation. The last three of these are onsidered HIGHER-ORDER skills.

     COGNITION: The mental operations involved in thinking; the biological/neurological processes of the brain that facilitate thought.

     CREATIVE THINKING: A novel way of seeing or doing things that is characterized by our components–
     FLUENCY:
    (generating many ideas)
     FLEXIBILITY: (shifting perspective easily)
     ORIGINALITY: (conceiving of something new)
     ELABORATION: (building on other ideas)

     CRITICAL THINKING: The process of determining the authenticity, accuracy, or value of something; characterized by the ability to seek reasons and alternatives, perceive the total situation, and change one’s view based on evidence. Also called “logical” thinking and “analytical” thinking.

     METACOGNITION The process of planning, assessing, and monitoring one’s own thinking; the pinnacle of mental functioning.

    The degree to which one is able to harness these processes represents their Intellignece Quotent / capability.

    • Karolinad9

      Dan Dion well said.. nothing could outbeat this suggestion!! Let’s all put our cat claws in, don’t overthink… if you want to know something google it, remember it and perhaps use it, (one day).

    • Karolinad9

      Dan Dion well said.. nothing could outbeat this suggestion!! Let’s all put our cat claws in, don’t overthink… if you want to know something google it, remember it and perhaps use it, (one day).

    • Karolinad9

      Dan Dion well said.. nothing could outbeat this suggestion!! Let’s all put our cat claws in, don’t overthink… if you want to know something google it, remember it and perhaps use it, (one day).

    • Karolinad9

      Dan Dion well said.. nothing could outbeat this suggestion!! Let’s all put our cat claws in, don’t overthink… if you want to know something google it, remember it and perhaps use it, (one day).

    • Karolinad9

      Dan Dion well said.. nothing could outbeat this suggestion!! Let’s all put our cat claws in, don’t overthink… if you want to know something google it, remember it and perhaps use it, (one day).

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  • bob dylan

    What shattered my worldview the most though, was the phrase, “the map is not the territory.” Meaning your “reality tunnel”/”model of reality” is not reality (Obvious in hindsight!). That phrase is an arm, that keeps slapping you, unendingly, as you keep it at the forefront of your mind.

    If you learn rationality/logic afterwards you may regain some confidence but I think people benefit from this, because it shatters that confidence they have learned so well. These are the types in your model the you call “cognition” types, probably most of the population (I disagree with the model but I understand your model isn’t scientific but practical).

  • Decheron

    Thankyou for this article, which basically sums up my life. I have always been metacognitive and fully aware of it. True to your article’s content, I am an academic failure, totally incapable of passing exams no matter how well I know the subject.

    In a world which measures people by academic achievement, I have had to accept my place as unemployable or limited to cleaning offices and houses. I’m currently mouldering away on disability benefits and living in an intellectual vaccuum.

    Rebellion against this waste of my intelligence is what brought me to this site. I’m endeavouring to improve my skills and learn new skills towards finding more satisfying work which I can do from home. Your site is invaluable to me, as finances and mobility have greatly limited my access to resources.

    As can be seen from what I’ve written here, I’m much in need of the education. I’ve added Pick the Brain to my favourites folder, so I can take advantage of the chance to improve my written and spoken English.

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  • Sjefke

    I learned from a “Mensa’ member that there are several forms of intelligence: the ones you mention, obviously, but also ‘social intelligence’: how to interact with people (E.Q.). But then there is also ‘visual intelligence’: you know the tests: which shapes match etc. And linguistic (alpha vs. beta). Even musical, if I remember well.

    I never researched it – perhaps others here can confirm?

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  • James

    Sjefke,

    I think Ms. Mensa was referring to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences .

    John, thanks for the interesting post. I have to agree with some of your commenters that you’re putting forward several fallacies. Sure, there are arrogant smart people, but I’ve met some amazingly brilliant people who are completely humble and friendly.

    Also, I think your readers would appreciate the Myers-Briggs type indicator.

  • jegan17

    He who knows not and knows not he knows not, He is a fool – Shun him.
    He who knows not and knows he knows not, He is simple – Teach him.
    He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep – Awaken him.
    He who knows and knows that he knows, He is wise – Follow him.

    -Bruce Lee

  • http://rowanmuir.blogspot.com Rowan

    Quote (previous comment): How do you think they become so smart, by admitting the fact they don’t know anything, then going like a retard reading every book, looking for everything they don’t know, and being a nerd until the point where they can use their congnition abilities to determine whether they know the answers or not.

    That maybe so, but who’s to say meta-cognitive people don’t do the same. Just when push comes to shove they can’t put what they know into words. I’m cognitive, and that’s not how I learn at all. In fact, I think meta-cognitive people are more likely to read and read and read until they have it in their head. Lots of the people I know (I think) are meta-cognitive, and often do better than me in tests because of their dedication to learning what they need to. I never study because I know I’ll pass, and I always do, but never with exceptional grades.

  • http://relationary.wordpress.com Grant Czerepak

    This added component of cognition and metacognition is interesting and I am aware from experience that the use of metacognition to access cognition can be trained. I was in a “reach for the top” competition in middle and high school where two teams were pitted against each other to rapidly answer questions across a broad spectrum of subject matter. To train for this competition required simply going through the excercise of rapidly answering questions for an hour a day. The questions were irrelevant. What was relevant was you developed trust in your metacognition to retrieve cognitive answers. All too often people build barriers mentally that interferes with their cognitive skills. You can train yourself to remove those barriers.

    Another thing I would like to add is that recall is only one of four components of intelligence. James Moffett calls recall “reporting” and lists the four types of intelligence as follows:

    1. Recording
    2. Reporting
    3. Generalizing
    4. Theorizing

    Moffett then goes on to describe how each form of intelligence is communicatied. You can look up James Moffett’s book, “Teaching the Universe of Discourse”, in Amazon. I recommend it, John, as you stated you want to be a better writer.

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  • Sreeram

    John,

    Your article is breathtakingly fresh and awe-inspiring.
    The best part of the article is the way you have attributed intelligence to spiritual self-realisation as opposed to wealth. Gives a sense of relief and vindication to all the oppressed scientists and engineers who slog it out backstage in a company being subconsciously told that they are worthless, while the more “Cognitive” CEOs and Managers walk away with the credit, fame and money. Any self respecting CEO reading this article should feel the need to bury their head inside sand like an ostrich.

    Well done.

    • JayD

      Sreeram,

      I disagree with who you are categorizing as the “Cognitive” people.  CEOs and Managers are successful because they hire people who master their respective jobs and are able to profit from their decision making.  I like the comparison to the article that someone mentioned in a earlier post about the “zen cup.”  I would propose a different thesis in that intelligence is soley “Cognition”.  People who score very well are able memorize and hold information for a long time.  On the other hand I believe that people who do not score well have a mental deficency that they can not store and recall memories.   That deficency in holding memory for a long time is actually in the real world their best asset.  The “zen cup concept” is from zen-buddahism which is short means freeing your mind to learn something new.  When the Cognition deficient person comes across a situation they know they are weak at they will fill thier mind with new information to get them through that situation and will know who the best person to reach to get the right answer.  The cognition defcient person would mostly refered to a person who is a “Jack of all trades but Master of None.”  CEO’s/Managers/People in Sales in my opinnion are Cognition deficient people but retain enough to know where they have seen certain information before and remember who are the people who are masters of this information and have the creativity to put in a formula to solve their situation and do it well.  People who have no issue with Cognition are considered very intelligent becasue they are masters of what they learned and retain it for a long time ie. Doctors, Lawyers any other profession that is hard to get into unless you have a strong memory and can recall it just as well.  Strong Cognition limits you because you become the full “zen cup” and your mind will not make room for new information that you may need which will make it difficult to solve unfamilar problems.

      John any thoughts to what I am saying?

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  • http://www.yahoo.com sarah

    this is very fanstantic things to know as learn in life,am very happy with articles that you people.

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  • Michael

    Many years I thought I have to know everything about a specific area I wish to be succesful in. I wasted precious time to learn this, to learn that, mostly everything if it was possible. Now I think it was a mistake – the lack of knowledge is not so important, rather to start and act.

  • Herb

    That helps. I’ve been working on things related and it seems everything can lead us to a higher consciousness. It’s a matter of getting in sync with the whole mind which is at least neutral if not positive, absolutely objective, no room for assumptions, makes no judgments only notes discrepencie and has already made sense of all we have learned. it relates all the knowledge we have and, as you say, I it needs more it knows it. We just have to go get it and test the output. It’s a quantum computer and you don’t argue with it. I don’t argue with my calculator, but I do check the results. It seems like an extension of relativity. When you relate to it, it means you relate to yourself, more or less, and to knowledge and people. It’s definitely the way to go. It uses the model of the body with trillions of cells all working together. We need to listen. We will because we have to and it’s so much joy. Descriptive words seem to do it, but so do love, forgivness, not judging, you know, the things that have been aroung for thousands of years. There’s nothing new under the sun.

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  • http://www.wisdomgettingloaded.com/interview.htm tracy Ho

    Thanks , it moves my mind,good point,

    Thanks a lot
    Tracy Ho
    wisdomgettingloaded

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  • Kimshi

    I clicked on the FreeIQtest link and after I took the test, I had to click on a bazillion links to ads. I finally stopped altogether. I hit “pass” on all offers.

    I did get my IQ, which it said was 91! Um, I don’t think so. Online tests can be fun but not when they’re obviously just sales ploys. I printed out a page from the web site and if I notice anything amiss, I’ll contact the BBB.

  • Dan

    A really great post! Thank-you so much for writing this. I am still in high school, and this really helped me out. Now I think I have an idea of why some very bright people I know don’t do very well in tests. I’ve never thought about intelligence in this way. Maybe the education system should consider changing the way they measure our intelligence…?
    Thanks!

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  • natrix

    Interesting article, but grammer can be improved in a couple of glaring instances. From what I can see, the author is trying to convey what he ‘knows’. However expressing it can easily get lost. The path to communicating ‘it’ is also important and important in the cognitive process for the receiver, and in turn, the sender.

  • Justin John

    Amazing thoughts, i always thought i was intelligent but never realized that i only knew a bit of everything.. from now on i’m gonna tell my brain it doesn’t know as much as it thinks it does and gonna learn more about every subject…. thanx dude!

  • http://www.foryourhealth.eu bart

    metacognition alone doesn’t explain the tip of the tongue phenomenon.

    The TOT has been studied using three different subdisciplines as approaches: psycholinguistics, memory perspectives, and metacognition. The first two are consistent with concordance and argue for direct access (a view that TOTs and word retrieval are caused by the same retrieval processes), while the metacognitive approach challenges concordance.

    Most research to date concerning TOTs has come from the psycholinguistic perspective. This perspective focuses on TOTs as a temporary breakdown in lexical retrieval. This approach has linked TOTs to other errors in spoken language, such as slips of the tongue and spoonerisms. Researchers from the memory perspective have viewed TOTs as a marker of retrieval processes gone awry. Metacognitive models focus on the role that monitoring and controlling processes play in cognition. This approach views TOTs as inferences based on non-target information that is accessible to rememberers

  • kv79

    OK, I look you aspect of looking in the brain but this is useless and can’t be proven .
    I look this like another speculation on the brain .
    Your speculation might be true but it is still useless .

    This post meant to be a for Learn to Understand Your Own Intelligence .

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  • http://metavitae.com Will

    GREAT Comment by Grant Czerepak!!!
    -I HATE that whole “out-thinking yourself”/”over-thinking” thing! -You doubt your instincts and screw yourself. -OOF!

    And also Great Comment by Michael Langford in response to Monica Ricci. How many dox give the wrong diagnosis b/c they’re arrogant and don’t have the HUMILITY to question; -not as serious as Doubt, but question. -Hello Malpractice Lawsuit!!!

    I disagree with the Bruce Lee thing.
    It is the TRULY Intelligent, High-Value guy who can admit what he doesn’t know and research.
    All the people with that ego-’tude are really people masking Self-Esteem problems with bombast, self-coddling and outward negativity.

    -Case-In-Point:”Don’t worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I assure you mine are greater.”, -Albert Einstein to his students.

    Metacognition Training: Flowcharting & Logic Puzzles.
    Metacognition is all about an Instinctive Preponderance of Pattern-Recognition.
    This takes: Memory, Observation/Data Collection, Data Sorting, Methodology/Procedurization, Generalization/Abstraction, Observation/Recognition in the present, & the Inner Faith that Grant Czerepak talks about.

    It comes down to using subatomic level memories of all those patterns previously learned in the Now. At a certain point, you’ve learned, analyzed & remembered so much that you give your present synthesis ideas a certain amount of faith.

    For me, working in Information Architecture & Product Management has really tested this. Process Flows, Gap Prediction, etc.

    So take some classes in Information Architecture, anything Logic-puzzly, Flowcharting, Procedure Analysis, etc. etc. etc.

    -Otherwise, Great Article!!!

  • Nick

    Hi
    your article described my brother and I almost exactly – at school he came first in every subject winning prizes for maths, English and History amongst others – whereas I struggled to even read a book or wite much. I left school at 16 he carried on and did A levels in Physics and Pure/Applied matematics. I was unemployed for 2 years after working on a YTS for a year.
    Then one day my father took us to a computer seminar and we both took apptitude tests – I only just passed and my brother got 97%. He said he did not want to do the course and I decided to do it.

    Best decision I ever made now I am a data analyst specialist working for a large multi national company – I actually have no idea how I am able to make the computers do what they do – I just know! My brother dropped out of uni and now works in a factory putting circuit boards together. He still thinks he is cleverer than I am and sadly so do my family who never encouraged me ever. He is still my est friend though. If you are lucky enough to have an open mind let it all in, you never know when you might need it – but when you do you WILL know.

    Bon courage

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  • http://themasterssecretkey.com Candace

    Thank you for sharing.

  • http://relationary.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/set-physics/ Grant Czerepak

    There are no problems just undiscovered solutions.

    There are no authorities.

    There are no rules.

    There is just the search.

    Persist and do not repeat and you will discover what you want.

  • http://timelesslessons.com Valeria | TimelessLessons

    Insightful article. I always thought i was intelligent but never realized that I only knew a bit of everything. From now on I’m gonna tell my brain it doesn’t know as much as it thinks it does and gonna learn more about every subject. Thank you!

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  • Sanjay

    Great post John,

    Coming across this perspective of brain for the first time, it is exciting, useful and resourseful.

  • http://mesotheliomainfo.byethost17.com/ Tariq

    Wonderful blog. I appreciate your ability to realize and explain in perfect way.

  • Steve

    great read, cheers ole boy!

  • Monica

    This is a really good article.
    But I’d have to admit that I AM a COGNITIVE LEARNER.
    Always have been. This article has explained alot as far as personal relationships go. Thinking that I was better than everyone and building bridges was not important while growing up. I am coming to realize that my type of thinking is not working for me. Its depleting me and everyone around me.
    Is it possible to further develop metacognitive ability?
    Or is it hopelessness for us mediocre people?

    • JayD

      Monica I think you have a big strength and by meta-cognition building I would recomend you read a big on building relationships with people.  Sales books are good becasue the writer understands that the world is run by relationship and having the knowledge you have will be more attractive to the recepient which will make you more successful.  I do not believe your mediocre you just don’t know how to apply what you mastered.

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  • Tiji Abraham

    Good article.. :)

  • http://how-i-look-at-life.blogspot.com/ People call me ‘Paul’

    Very good observation and articulation. keep blogging..

  • http://how-i-look-at-life.blogspot.com/ People call me ‘Paul’

    Very good observation and articulation.. keep blogging..

  • http://www.cognates.org Ruben Moran

    G-R-E-A-T-!

  • http://www.energysmartindustry.com Led Retrofit

    Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory was first published in Howard … which to understand and teach many aspects of human intelligence, learning style,

  • http://www.powerofapositivemind.com Ryan Critchett

    Great article! Yes, the closed mind does shut everything down and definitely, people who “think they know” and don’t, invariably run into barriers. I subscribe to the theory that we don’t know much, so continuing to soak up the world is the way to go! Great Work!

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  • Dharmesh

    Hey man you’ve solved the greatest problem in my life till now man.. Am medical student. Recently i failed an Anatomy examination. Wow tough time it was. I was constantly telling every1 that I couldn’t recall every name and everything, that is why I failed. Every1 started to downgrade me. But I could feel I was much much better than the aced, as you said. am not praising myself, its true. I proved them wrong when I started practicing in hospital. There decision making and meta cognition serves you the most. today am so relieved that you have solved this mystery. I have always been looking for an answer in books, internet…. Thanks a lot man

  • Jon Hurst

    A post well needed. The other day I told this woman that I her logic is sound and that I trust her judgment. She proceeded to tell me about a relationship she was in where her partner had trouble accepting her thought correlations. She complimented her observation by mentioning that her mother recently exposed her to a study. Those with smaller spans of logic/cognitive/metacognative ability were less likely to understand that they do not understand. It was the opposite for others.

    I have begun searching for that research study and this was my first stop along the way. Thank you!

    This (recognizing that you don’t know) is a clear cut example of a point of illumination. It is truly an exciting thing to discover this! Of course, Socrates was called the smartest man alive, by the Oracle because he admitted that “he knew nothing.” But, aside from that I have taken great pleasure in this anecdote since first reading it 6 years ago -

    The wise sage instructs his student to pay attention and then paints a circle on a canvas. He says to the student “thinking about this and understanding it is third best. Not thinking about this and understanding it is second best.”

  • Jon Hurst

    I forgot to add inquiry to my above comment.

    Cognition
    Meta-cognition
    Re-cognize

    Cool

  • Jon Hurst

    anosognosia

  • Mamtha

    Absolutely wonderful post, John! I never ever thought of intelligence that way and this post is really motivating!!!.

  • http://www.newagethinker.com David

    The first step towards fixing a problem is identifying it. This is why criticism is so important. We all hate to hear it, but we shouldn’t just write it off as “that person is jealous” or “she is stupid.” That’s what I see around me when people are criticized, they defend themselves and begin to criticize back.

    We shouldn’t let criticism hurt our self confidence, but rather take it as an opportunity to improve ourselves. When we can do this, we not only have intelligence, but true wisdom.

  • Rajesh

    Nice post, john. This really defines my intelligence. Right from my childhood it has been very hard for me to memorize things as such it is without understanding and considering the problem in question from every perspective. It has since lead me to many failures in my examinations, but when i grew up as an adult, i began to understand my own intelligence and made steps to utilize it to the maximum extent and to make my life successful.

  • gaurav bapodia

    Hi John,This is Gaurav. Since i am really very much interested in new words and there meaning for developing my knowledge and at same time i am also interested in improving my mind capability to a larger extent,this article was really good for me in both ways one is that that i was able to learn a very good idea of what cognition and meta cognition state of mind is all about and other to and other in their meaning aspect…..
    so overall it was really good article from my perspective…..
    thans for righting it..

  • http://google.com tonitoh

    I am looking forward to improving my thinking ability and also increasing mi intelligence quality. I have actually been motivated by the above history. I am very happy and I can not hide it that I am going to make it and I am now a genius chap. Thank you.

  • Paul

    Nice article. My suggestion for those who feel they have wrongly emphasized cognitive intelligence over metacognitive intelligence (and now wish to increase their metacognitive intelligence) would be to learn about cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are systematic errors that people regularly make when trying to solve problems–including very intelligent people.

    Many cognitive biases have been identified and named. Go to wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases to see what they are. Once you understand all of the ways that your mind can trick itself, then you can begin to have more appreciation for the skill of being able to know what you don’t know.

    I would also recommend reading the book “Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions” written by Zachary Shore.

    Finally, I think there actually may be a downside to recognizing your limitations, which related to a cognitive bias called that Dunning–Kruger effect. It describes the phenomenon of less capable people overestimating their abilities (and acting with confidence) while more capable people, who are better able to recognize complexity and their own human deficiencies, tend to underestimate their relatively superior abilities and become hampered by doubt and indecision.

  • Bill B

    None of us know anything. We only believe that we do–based on evidence and logic that could well be faulty. We do not know; we only believe. The reason I say this is that in 1963 Edmund Gettier wrote a paper that called into question the definition of knowledge that philosophers have used for thousands of years. Hence, we now have no precise definition of what knowledge is. The definition of knowledge in the dictionary is simply that knowledge is belief that is not doubted. This is nothing but firm belief. Given that there is no precise definition of knowledge, the definition of metacognition–to know when you know–is meaningless.

  • taloola

    i have a weird problem which id like someone to comment on.

    i feel like, judging by my performance in classes that require critical thinking in a short amount of time (the professor would ask a question and we’d have to respond orally) that i’m frozen with uncertainty about whether i’m right or not, and don’t raise my hand, ever.
    i feel like i have no common sense, and i get nervous when questions are asked. i can’t think on my feet, and i psych myself out and the obvious answer doesnt come to me. but when we have to write, i do a decent job, but still sometimes i feel that i just don’t think about things the right way, like my mind doesnt function like everyone else.

    its really frustrating to be paralyzed by the thought of sounding like i have no idea what i’m talking about. i never raise my hand unless i’m totally sure, which usually consists of answering menial questions that do with things pulled from my memory bank, facts and figures, but when it comes down to giving an informed opinion, i’m lost!

    • Amadeyon

      just answer to the best of your ability, and don’t worry about scrutiny… little just help you understand how others think eventually you can chose your way of thinking are the norm.. by the way all people are equally intelegent scientific  (there’s)

  • sonia

    great…thankx 4 that

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  • Sophie

    This kind of analysis only really applies to AMERICAN education where learning by heart and regurgitating brainlessly seems to be the most valued of abilities. I was educated in 3 European countries (Germany, France, and Italy), neither of which operates that way. In fact, a good memory was almost useless since we were even allowed to keep our books out for tests! Instead, REASONING was highly valued, and lessons in class (especially in math, physics and other sciences) consisted in REINVENTING everything from scratch so as to UNDERSTAND IT once and for all.

    • Arkady19us

       Hate to agree with you, Sophie, but as a product of the American education system, we are going even more in that direction-what with the SAT becoming more specific-knowledge related with even more on an emphasis on “regurgitated” versus reasoning ability!

  • v

    What a load of crap. Grow up.

  • http://customizedfatlossreview.net Jack’s Customized Fat Loss

    lucky to be able to came across this post. when i thought i feel less intelligent, well i guess i just have to know my intelligence and improve more.

    - jack leak

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A2XFFTQIKG7BY2XRNRK7MC2JGA El Marto

    Awesome, I enjoyed reading this because I’ve reflected on what intelligence and wisdom are for a while now, and I’d pretty much reached the same conclusions. I’ve been wary of whether it’s a good idea to start thinking of myself as an intelligent person, because arrogance can easily follow – which is only going to hurt you in the long run unless you have a truly exceptional mind.  I do always try and acknowledge where the gaps in my understanding or reasoning or factual knowledge are, so it’s reassuring  that you think this is the right way to be.
    I’d definitely agree that being aware of what you don’t know, or identifying where you are making questionable assumptions, is as big a part of wisdom as just bare factual knowledge.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A2XFFTQIKG7BY2XRNRK7MC2JGA El Marto

    Awesome, I enjoyed reading this because I’ve reflected on what intelligence and wisdom are for a while now, and I’d pretty much reached the same conclusions. I’ve been wary of whether it’s a good idea to start thinking of myself as an intelligent person, because arrogance can easily follow – which is only going to hurt you in the long run unless you have a truly exceptional mind.  I do always try and acknowledge where the gaps in my understanding or reasoning or factual knowledge are, so it’s reassuring  that you think this is the right way to be.
    I’d definitely agree that being aware of what you don’t know, or identifying where you are making questionable assumptions, is as big a part of wisdom as just bare factual knowledge.

  • Rudy

    Magnificent post !.  Thank you for sharing, this will help me and others I know a lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Humaun-Kabir/100002751371582 Humaun Kabir

    I you take part in certain the nice explanation but would you please let somebody have the differences concerning metacognition and cognition and take place given this moment in time
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  • https://profiles.google.com/sarafpankaj143/about Pankaj saraf

    Thank you for the all the great tips, good blogs that encompass all of these key elements are a rare find. I will definitely implement these tips on my blogs and keep them in mind going forward!

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    Interesting post.  I have moved this blog first time but you have
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    it is really awesome  blog…because after reading the  blog…i understand that how age affects intelligence….
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    • Arkady19us

       Good point, John! Have recently been through an experience where I thought I had met someone really nice, high iq, attractive,,,,was a double blow to my (admittedly oversized!) ego when she dumped me cold and rudely blew me off in public after what by all signs was a really connective/romantic first date!
      The second blow was to realize this chick is probably smarter than me, but it helps to know that I am probably a better person-what you seem to refer to as “cognition!”
      This is very comforting after such a wound!

      • Arkady19us

         Oops, sorry, got that wrong, I meant, “metacognition!”

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  • Horse Grooming

    This is one of the best blog that i have ever seen in my life because this is the blog which recognise the inner potential of the person who is reading & this helps him to motivate the person.
    Thanks for sharing with us & eagerly waiting for the next blog.

  • Nupur

    Brilliant post.. It reminded me of my own situation in college.. When I entered college i was an arrogant student coz i was high school topper.. but gradually my grades declined in college.. I realised my mistake and started being honest about my shortcomings. And it did help me improve a lot. 

  • Cylus32

    Great article. I have been searching for information on why I am the way I am (learning habits). I find myself embedded with what others call useless information. But the fact is that I find using this information in my daily life. The issue I am having is with information on my style of learning. In my mind I can break down the construction of a subject from within a few seconds to minutes. It tends to give me headaches when my mind runs at full capacity (which happens often and makes it hard to sleep). Is there anything you can help me with as far as mental deconstruction or preknowledge type learning?

  • JayD

    John, 

    CEOs and Managers are successful because they hire people who master their respective jobs and are able to profit from their decision making.  I would propose a different thesis in that intelligence is soley “Cognition”. People who score very well are able to memorize and hold information for a long time. On the other hand I believe that people who do not score well have a mental deficency that they can not store and recall memories. That deficency in holding memory for a long time is actually in the real world their best asset. The “zen cup concept” is from zen-buddahism which is short means freeing your mind to learn something new.
    When the Cognition deficient person comes across a situation they know they are weak at they will fill thier mind with new information to get them through that situation and will know who the best person/search engine/book to reach to get the right answer. The cognition defcient person would mostly be a person who is a “Jack of all trades but Master of None.” CEO’s/Managers/People in Sales in my opinnion are Cognition deficient people but retain enough to know where they have seen certain information before and remember who are the people who are masters of this information and have the creativity to put in a formula to solve their situation and do it well.
    People who have no issue with Cognition are considered very intelligent becasue they are masters of what they learned and retain it for a long time ie. Doctors, Lawyers any other profession that is hard to get into unless you have a strong memory and can recall it just as well. Strong Cognition limits you because you become the full “zen cup” and your mind will not make room for new information that you may need which will make it difficult to solve unfamilar problems.

  • Online Greeting Cards Shop

    The above   blog was really very interesting & full of inspiring one which helps the common people to realize their potential 7 helps to grow in their life.
    I thanks John for sharing us this knowledgable information which must be shared to everyone .
    If we realize 0r analyze our own hidden potential then we can do anything that we want in our life.

  • Dearlakshmi8589

    hank you for this wonderful post.. happier there are so many others out there who are having the same problems.. but have a doubt does that mean people wd poor cognitive and gud metacognitive abilities can’t become good students.. can u plz suggest ways as to how people like us Excel just like the ones with good cognitive abilities
    Lakshmi

  • D-lock

    “If you admit your ignorance, people will help you learn and respect your humility”? Are you kidding?  Everything else in this paragraph is correct, but in my experience some people see admission of ignorance as a big weakness, and use it against you.  It is true many people will help you, but it not a universal experience.  The other question I have is, how to you get others to admit what they don’t know, when they see it as shameful, and don’t want to look foolish?  The last three supervisors I had never admitted error.  When I would admit an error in hopes that they would lower their guard and admit error too, they took that to mean they had won the argument!  Also, they never forgot, and would bring it up in a later conversation, and at performance appraisals.  Do I think I am always right?  No, but I was always wrong then.  

  • Nellie

    Understanding metacognition is a great skill to foster in students, especially when teaching study skills.  Being able to separate what is known from what is not streamlines reading and study strategies.

  • Nellie

    Understanding metacognition is a great skill to foster in students, especially when teaching study skills.  Being able to separate what is known from what is not streamlines reading and study strategies.

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  • Contehluigino

    Sound post… you’re metacognitive! Luigino…

    • Neilhector

       Je connais connais,mais connais ne sait pas que je connais connais.
      I do know  know,but know doesn’t know that I do know know.

  • IamAziz

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Einstein.
    I believe this quote precisely deliver the idea.
    Thanks, John.

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  • Nyongo

    cool stuff! vert pertinent

  • Nyongo

    cool stuff! vert pertinent

  • Anshil

    One of the best articles on intelligence that I have read recently. 

  • Yo

    That is wisdom :)

  • Marcos

    Very nice John ! 

  • Zaheer Amir7

    Really appreciate your efforts and time dedicated to make it so simpler and understandable. Hats Off mate. Loads and Loads of Thanks to you t John.

  • Bthomp6743

    omg love this. I was just talking to my mother yesterday and telling her how I learn. This post describes me perfectly. Im not good on test but I always know the answer. I can tell you if it is right or wrong. If I dont know, I wont tell you I will, I will Google it and get back to you. This just makes my day to know that other people are like me as well. Its ironic because I was thinking, and typed in “What does it mean when you dont think like everyone else? And this came up. Thank you

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  • Frank Land

    The most dangerous person I know is the individual that doesn’t know what they know and acts…
    The person I put my trust in is the individual that realizes they don’t know what they know and acts to find the best answer or solution…

  • Jagoda

    Interesting information about intelligence. I haven’t thought of it this way before. While I haven’t yet read the specific theories about this model outside of this article, I suspect that the two are not quite as dichotomous as these examples make it appear. My guess is that both types of intelligence, working together, is optimum.

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    How do we shorten that gap? I think practice speeds up the time we take to produce what is no the tip of our tongue.

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    Another thing I would like to add is that recall is only one of four
    components of intelligence. James Moffett calls recall “reporting” and
    lists the four types of intelligence as follows العاب بنات