The Myth of Rapid Calculation as Intelligence

November 23, 2012 by John Andrew Williams

There is a myth among students who get all A’s and get great scores on their SAT’s that somehow they think much faster than us mere mortals.

Consider an analogy to master chess players. In 1946, a Dutch psychologist Andriaan de Groot set out to test the mental capabilities of chess players. Like getting great grades, it’s assumed that those who are good at chess are able to consider more moves and process more information than those just beginning or those students accustomed to earning C’s.

Turns out it’s a myth. Master chess players don’t necessarily consider more moves than a novice. They just consider better moves.

As we go through our days, we make hundreds of choices. I don’t think that students who get straight A’s or people who are uber-successful think faster or have some adroit mental capability that far outpaces the masses.

The answer is more simple: they’ve developed a habit of choosing between better choices. In looking to make a fantastic final decision on how to spend your time, the most useful thing to consider is whether or not you’re exercising creativity to create great options in the first place.

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