Genius: Is there a ‘Genius Personality’?

 

 

 

Genius: Is there a ‘Genius Personality’?

I am currently reading ‘Genius: A Very Short Introduction’ by Andrew Robinson which I highly recommend.

Genius A Very Short Introduction

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Genius-Very-Short-Introduction-Introductions/dp/0199594406

“As a concept genius is extremely subjective, but it is also highly intriguing and culturally important. Generally defined through individuals who demonstrate exceptional intellectual or creative powers, genius begs many questions. Is a genius born or bred?  What characteristics can we use to call someone a ‘genius’?” (Robinson, 2011)

Defining Genius:

“Not until the Enlightenment did genius acquire its distinctly different, chief modern meaning: an individual who demonstrates exceptional intellectual or creative powers, whether inborn or acquired (or both). (Robinson, 2011, p. 2)

 

“The scientific study of genius began with the publication in 1869 of Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences  by Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, the founder of psychology, who conducted detailed research on the backgrounds, lives, and achievements of illustrious individuals and their relatives, deceased and living.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 3)

Nature versus Nurture

It was “Galton who coined the phrase ‘nature versus nurture’… He was an exceptionally intelligent member of the Darwin family. It was the publication of his first cousin’s book On the origin of Species in 1859 which persuaded Galton that high intelligence and Genius must be inherited.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 6)  However, despite considerable research and as intriguing as “Galton’s eminent families are, they decidedly do not demonstrate the inheritance of genius… When Galton speaks of the heritability of ‘a man’s natural abilities’ in his thesis, what he really seems to mean is the heritability of talent, rather than genius.  As most psychologists now agree, the evidence for some inheritance of talent is considerable, thought nowhere near as convincing as Galton claimed, whilst the evidence for inherited genius is slight or non-existent.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 9)

Defining Talent:

“Distinguishing talent from genius is inevitably fraught with difficulty, since neither term has a widely agreed definition or method of measurement.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 9)  Furthermore, “hundreds of studies by psychologists, conducted over decades, have failed to provide unimpeachable evidence for the existence of innate talent.  Although there is certainly evidence of a genetic contribution to intelligence, the correlations between general intelligence and various specific abilities – such as playing a musical instrument well – are small.  No genes ‘for’ domain-specific talents have yet been located, although the search continues… Rather than genes operating alone, psychologists’ study of talent suggests the importance of other factors; passion, determination, practice, and coaching.”  (Robinson, 2011, p. 13)

 

“Galton proved it, if unintentionally, in his Hereditary Genius, by demonstrating that talent, rather than genius, seems to be partially hereditary. A genius has yet to beget another genius… By contrast, a distinguished creative family may occasionally beget a genius. The Darwin family provides one well-known example. Charles Darwin was the grandson of two eminent figures: the physician, biologist, and writer Erasmus Darwin, and the potter Josiah Wedgewood.” (Robinson, 2011, pp. 17-18)


Notes for myself / further reading / ideas to ponder:

Q1. If it so that a genius does not beget another genius but a distinguished ‘creative’ family may, occasionally, beget a genius, then why is that?  Is it the creativity of that distinguished family that enables them to beget a genius?


 

Solitude is the school of genius

“Support is a social act, which raises a further aspect of the relationship between family, friends, and genius: the question of sociability versus solitude in exceptional creativity.  The historian Edward Gibbon wrote in his memoires that: ‘conversation enriches the mind, but solitude is the school of genius’ – and it is clear that most geniuses have agreed with this.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 24)

 

“Support is a social act, which raises a further aspect of the relationship between family, friends, and genius: the question of sociability versus solitude in exceptional creativity.  The historian Edward Gibbon wrote in his memoires that: ‘conversation enriches the mind, but solitude is the school of genius’ – and it is clear that most geniuses have agreed with this.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 24)

 

According to Oche’s study geniuses “tend to be solitary in their childhood as well as in adulthood. He writes that ‘Many creative achievers were isolated from other children because of restrictions placed upon them by parents; illness; constant movement of the family from one community to another; lack of siblings; or natural shyness.  For whatever reason, it seems that creators typically engaged in solitary activities in childhood… Thus, collaboration and teamwork tend not to be a feature of the lives of the exceptionally creative – inconvenient though this fact may be for the advocates of brainstorming and group creativity in commercial companies and other institutions.  Genius does not sit well on committees.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 25)

 

“The influence of family upbringing and environment on the development of genius operates in many ways, both positive and negative, as we might expect.  Genius has flourished in the near-absence of parents as well as in their loving presence.  But other geniuses’ predilection for solitude at all ages, the influence is not susceptible to generalization.” (Robinson, 2011, p. 27)


Notes for myself / further reading / ideas to ponder:

Q2. Is there any similarity between the predilection for solitude of geniuses (in part due to their childhood experiences) and the experiences of redheads in childhood?  What do redheads say about the influence of their own childhood on their personality?

 

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