How intelligence affects your personality

In recent years, and I use recent broadly, there’s been this idea floating around that “everyone has the same capacity to achieve well in life, though some have put in more effort than others, or even they were just lucky.”

Essentially, the idea is, almost everyone is the same, more or less, and if you haven’t done well, it’s due to the consequences of the environment you were brought up in, or due to circumstances beyond your control, i.e. you had an unfair start. Still, this inequality can be overcome, and your potential to achieve academic, financial, and cultural success is within your reach if you work hard enough, or are given the proper “equal opportunity”.

Sounds pretty noble right? I mean, I’d say so myself. Anyone that even suggests the value of one human is innately greater than another’s, they should just be dismissed as arrogant and narcissistic, right? We have no right to judge the inherent value of others.

The problem is, as much we try to deny that there are some humans that might be “better” than others, a functioning society only works if you do make this assumption. That’s what’s called a social hierarchy. That’s what all societies do if they want to actually produce people that provide real value to the world as a whole. We are to allow the more valuable humans to rise up and assume the positions of power they deserve (again there are exceptions).

And it’s not as if one human is actually better than one another, it’s more like this, some people have a higher capacity to do more complex tasks efficiently, which, in turn, that allows them to provide greater value to a wider range of people. Hence, the higher potential value associated to a person.

Now, you can make the conclusion that, if one can provide greater value, it does makes them better (which some will agree), but I want to put the whole idea of “able to provide greater value” under a different light. I want frame it as “has a greater responsibility to fulfill”. And when you frame it like this, it places all the responsibility back on the individual, rather than fueling the arrogance and narcissism of said gifted person in question. And how much “potential value” any give person has, that’s hard to measure.

But again, how does intelligence affect your personality and vice versa, how will your personality affect your ability to “apply” your IQ into a role in society that actually benefits it rather than work against it?

I could write 1000 pages about personality, and would only scratch the surface, which if you’re that interested, you can go read and learn more. There’s enough material out there, you’d never finish it in two life times. But I want to take some of the material I’ve actually spent time reading, and not only that, but condense it down into a practical, yet short, piece so you can go out and make your life and other’s lives better.

I want to focus on the two misunderstood sub-traits of the Big Five trait, conscientiousness.

To start off, let’s get a definition of conscientiousness that we can work with, and the one that I generally accept as accurate.

Conscientiousness: Standard features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviors. Highly conscientious people tend to be organized and mindful of details. They plan ahead, think about how their behavior affects others, and are mindful of deadlines.

In simple terms, it’s the ability to plan and follow a structure (an order) to achieve one’s goals. Essentially, it’s the idea of a hierarchy, that some things (tasks) take precedence over others.

To explain it in a more practical way, high conscientious people tend to enjoy follwing “to-do lists” or spend time planning for the future. But, because to do any task at all, it requires motivation, and what is it that fuels that? The answer is emotion. And with that said then what emotion or emotions is it that drives high-conscientious people?

That’s when it breaks down into two different sub-traits, orderliness and industriousness. Again, I list the generally accepted definitions right here.

  • Orderliness
    • is associated with qualities such as cleanliness and diligence, and the desire for order and symmetry
  • Industriousness
    • chiefly stresses activity as opposed to idleness or leisure

So you might say, what’s the difference? They both sound somewhat similar.

That’s true, they are similar. That’s why they both make up the parent trait, conscientiousness. But again, what’s the difference?

And this is where it gets a bit fuzzy in the psychology sphere. It’s been widely accepted that orderliness is usually highly associated with the emotion of disgust, or the tendency to avoid things that aim to take down the hierarchy. An extreme example of orderliness was Hitler. He kept calling for the Nazis goal to “purify” the world. If you look at the characteristics of how Hitler orientated himself, perfect symmetry and unison, seemed to be a huge part. He was very orderly. It was even said that Hitler bathed some 2-4 times a day to keep himself “pure”. You can make your own conclusions about that.

Now, of course, this was an extreme example,  but you’ll see that in many developed societies, there’s always some sense of orderliness, especially at the top of the social hierarchy. And going back to the idea of “cleanliness” in an orderly society, data does seem to indicate that people who embody the sub-trait orderliness, tend to be more sensitive towards trash and filth. And if you keep in mind, that those at the top of the hierarchy tend to express orderliness more innately, then it explains why wealthier neighborhoods seem to be “cleaner” than its poverty-stricken counterparts. Again, it’s more complicated than this, but orderliness does play a bigger role than we might realize.

So, orderliness, it’s mainly motivated by the emotion, disgust. What about industriousness? What is it that motivates that sub-trait?

Psychologists have no idea. There’s no other way of putting it. And it’s funny to think about this like that. How can psychologists have no idea? It’s not like they haven’t tried. If you read some of the scientific literature, it seems like all the studies they’ve done, the correlation between learned industriousness and whatever measurement tools they have put in place doesn’t exist. In the words of one of the studies, it was concluded with  “..again limited because of its correlational design.” 

So why is it included as a sub-trait to conscietousness, if it can’t be properly measured? That’s because orderliness, motivated by disgust, doesn’t seem to be the only piece in play when looking at how people act out goal-orientated behavior.

You wouldn’t say, I want to raise my kid right, because otherwise I’d be disgusted with myself, or even my child. I mean, you might, but usually, people, when they talk about the motivation to raise their kids, it seems to come from another emotion besides disgust. Again this doesn’t apply to all cases.

So what is that other emotion? That’s when this turns more into speculation, mainly because motivation itself is a fleeting feeling. You’re not always going to feel motivated to do well in life. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily feel disgusting when you aren’t doing well, though sometimes you do. But sometimes you don’t.

I, after reading Carl Jung’s works, and hearing some people talk about what Industriousness is, believe that the level of industriousness is measured in direct proportion to the level of your “shadow” you’ve integrated into yourself.

Now, you may not know what the “shadow” is, which I wrote another blog post here that goes over it decently well, in my opinion. Find Your Dark Forest

Still, I’ll briefly explain the shadow here as well.

Contrary to a Freudian definition of shadow, the Jungian shadow can include everything outside the light of consciousness and may be positive or negative. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

So, the shadow is the range of emotions, actions, and motivations, that we aren’t consciously aware, ranging from positive to negative, and everything in between. And I think, as you integrate your shadow more into your conscious awareness, it, in turn, increases your level of industriousness. You can see how this would be difficult to measure. How does one measure someone else’s shadow, much less their own?

You can also see how this level of self-awareness will motivate you to strive to want to do better in life. The thing is, is the particular emotion that drives you to continue integrating it within your consciousness, is that fear? It certainly seems to be, at times, but at other times, it’s not so obvious. You wouldn’t say Bill Gates created Microsoft out of fear? Would you? Maybe you would.

Again, you can read my post above of how you can work to integrate your shadow with yourself, but I want to continue on with my last point.

How does all of this relate to Intelligence?

Well, intelligence, it seems to correlate with all traits within the Big 5 except conscientiousness. Studies seem to suggest conscientiousness has no correlation with intelligence, and others even suggest has negative correlation. And for the most part, I’ll concede with them.

So what does this mean? I think it means, we don’t have a good way of measuring it.

But, what does this have to do with intelligence, you might ask again?

What this has to do with intelligence is that intelligence, again, correlates, to some degree, with all other traits, and all the other traits play a role in how you will be measured in all the others, except conscientiousness. So the other four, they’re all connected in some form, and that form is intelligence. Intelligence is the “glue” that holds the other traits together.

But if intelligence has no correlation with conscientiousness, then what predicts the level of conscientiousness for any given person?

That’s when I suggest the “Shadow” is the missing piece to the puzzle.

That’s when I keep telling people like Jung said, you need to face your shadow.

thanks for reading