Intelligence: Benefit or Burden?

Posted on Posted in Psychology, Sociology

Hald brain and light bulb inside a head

Ever since I was a little girl, intelligence was lauded over other attributes. I was an overactive kid who ran around outside all day, but it wasn’t until I did well on tests or other equivalents that got some attention. Rightfully so, being able to catch others in a game of tag isn’t as important as learning to add and subtract. While most of society regards intelligence as a favorable trait, it carries with it some downsides that seem to be ignored.


IQ vs. EQ

First, a distinction should be made between IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient). IQ deals with hard facts, and it is often notable when we scrunch our face desperately searching for a name or date lost in our memory. Adversely, EQ allows us to understand our fellow human beings. It gives us the ability to share in experiences and ultimately empathize. Usually, one with a high IQ tends to have a low EQ and vice versa. If you know of the straight-A student who doesn’t have “street smarts” then you have seen it first hand.


Social Difficulties

It doesn’t take much for kids to identify differences among peers. When one child knows answers that others don’t, they are singled out. They get the not so flattering “know-it-all” tag. A famous literary figure that experiences this behavior is Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. In the first book, she is initially disliked and mocked. Additionally, she has no friends. She eventually joins Harry and Ron through circumstance, rather than a mutual interest in each other and a desire to spend time together.

Those with a high IQ find it difficult to relate to others. A good example is Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He doesn’t understand people. He has the emotional maturity of a grade-schooler. However, his contributions to science would likely be unparalleled, and arguably those contributions will benefit in furthering our society. His friends in the show are others with a high intellect, but they’re plenty of moments they leave him by himself, especially when his arrogance pushes his friends away.


The Pain of Knowledge

It is human nature to seek validation. We take comfort in knowing we are not alone in our thoughts or feelings. However, if our thoughts and feelings go beyond the comprehension of our conversation partners, it will leave us feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and alone.

Those with high intelligence can see beyond the simple black and white descriptions of concepts. An example on the morality scale is cheating. Without much hesitation, people would say cheating is wrong. What if your partner is knowingly cheating too? Cheating is still wrong, and you should dump their butt. What if your partner has been in a coma for five years? Well, it’s still kind of wrong, but understandable. Once you add circumstance and fill in the grays of a black and white concept, our perceptions change.

Imagine seeing the whole world in shades of gray when others see it in black and white. Then add the fact many are unwilling to see beyond their preconceived ideas. Intelligence can be painful because of understanding and knowing things that other people can’t, feels like a burden. We must act in ways that we believe is right and in doing so, we sometimes hurt those that don’t understand like giving a child their immunization shots, which hurts us more.



Contrary to popular belief, intelligent people still need to study to get A’s in school. The difference is they are capable of earning the A. Also, it might take less time to accomplish the same task that it takes someone else to do.

Job seekers look for intelligent people. They want to find those capable of learning the job and doing it well.

Like any other attribute, intelligent people connect with other intelligent people. They can enjoy both fluff and deep conversations, and they have the option for both.


So is intelligence a benefit of burden? I’d much rather have it than not, but it’s not without its challenges.

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