Cognitive Mechanics – The effect of Emotion upon Intelligence

Here is a post that is always relevant to human living. It is about how emotion effects upon intelligence. Firstly, lets recap intelligence.

Intelligence is the extent of the expanse of awareness divided by the degree of fineness to which one can discern differences and recognise the relationships between them. Or in other words, intelligence is the degree of fineness to which one can discriminate and generalise.

The ability to discern differences and recognise the relationships between them manifests through intellect (and then through action) as creativity and problem solving ability.

As a very crude analogy, intelligence may be likened to a piano keyboard, with its range of seven octaves divided by its 88 keys or distinctions of pitch. An individual with a high or fine degree of intelligence may be likened to someone who can press the keys with his fingers and sound every note. Whereas an individual with lower or coarser intelligence may be likened to someone without fingers who can only press the piano keys with his palms and therefore can only press three or four keys together; he does not possess the ability to press single keys and make finer distinctions of pitch.

Similarly to the piano keyboard analogy, intelligence is the degree of fineness to which we can distinguish differences, observationally and conceptually, in any mental format and within any medium or subject matter.

Just as we are different to each other in every capability and measure of ourselves, so too, we are different to each other in the degree of fineness to which we can discriminate and generalise. One person’s intelligence can make finer distinctions than another person and can more readily recognise the relationships between distinctions.

We often think of IQ as being a measurement of how high or low intelligence is, but it is actually a measurement of how fine or coarse the intelligence is, with the higher the score representing the finer intelligence.

In an IQ test, in which the differences between the distinguishing units within each item progress through the test battery from coarse to fine, we will each reach our own measurable limit of ability to distinguish differences and similarities. In other words, we reach the fineness of our ability to discriminate and generalise. If the test material is fundamental, that is, consisting of visual-spatial shapes and basic concepts and requiring minimum education, then it will more readily measure the underlying general intelligence factor, which pertains to any medium to which it is applied, and is not the individual’s education but the potential to be educated.

Some related posts on intelligence here.

Where emotion impinges upon intelligence, intelligence is reduced.

The reader may have had the experience of trying to make a point of distinction to someone and they have not seemed able to discern and grasp the distinction. They may have assumed you are saying something that is beside your point. When you tell them that you are not saying that, then they may assume you are saying something to the other side of your point.

In such a case you may be making a point of distinction that is too fine for their intelligence to easily discern, or more commonly, you are making a point within a region over which they possess an emotional preference and their emotions have diminished or even nullified the function of their intelligence in that region.

An individual has their degree of optimal intelligence which is their functioning intelligence when emotion is not impinging upon it. When and where emotion impinges upon intelligence, discerning ability is reduced and hence thought becomes less fine, chunkier.

Emotion is not just an irrelevant feeling, but is a feeling of some type of liking or disliking, want or not-want, a desire or preference for or against a thought, option or segment of reality.

When that emotional preference is sufficiently strong it diminishes or prevents discerning ability across the region of intelligence relevant to that preference. In other words, a span of distinctions and potential options and possibilities become indiscernible, all overridden by the only option which the emotion allows, be it an emotion of rejection or attraction.

As emotions are reactions to a presented thought, concept, option or segment of reality, and as emotions exist in pairs of opposites (being likes and dislikes, attractions and aversions, feelings pleasant and unpleasant, desires for and against) then emotion that has imposed itself over the intelligence is paired with its opposite, thus preventing discerning ability in the area impinged upon by emotion, allowing only the perception of the two emotionally based options for and against.

(Related post, The Emotional Pendulum)

As emotions are paired as opposites, and as someone who holds an emotional preference tends to see only their own preference and its emotional opposite, so such a person will tend to believe and accuse someone who does not agree with them of holding the emotionally opposite opinion to their own.

When emotion is active, the intelligence in the region of the scope of awareness relevant to the emotion is diminished, and this is because intelligence by definition is the expanse of awareness divided by the differences discerned and multiplied by relationships recognised, enabling through intellect and mind, the selection of aspects of options and adding them together to create previously imagined and anticipated results, which is creativity and problem solving ability, and emotion is a feeling of preference or prejudice that impinges upon this process.


Following are some commonly observed gross examples of discernment diminished by emotion impinging upon a span of an individual’s intelligence.

  1. The extreme animal rights fanatic who has intelligence sufficient to manage her daily affairs and yet when it comes to the subject of humans owning animals, she can discern no benefits to humans or animals from animals having been or being domesticated by humans. She can discern few distinctions across that broad subject other than her one vast emotional fixation that animals should not be domesticated by humans. Outside of that subject she may possess functional intelligence, showing an ability to differentiate, recognise and choose to reasonably fine degrees.
  2. The bitter and hate filled feminist, also able to perceive distinctions and make use of her intelligence in many areas of life, but can discern or recognise few if any of the admirable abilities and virtues unique to men, yet she can list dozens of admirable abilities and virtues unique to women. She perceives everything feminine as good, and everything bad as masculine, but she cannot discern any examples on the opposite side of her emotionally fixated outlook, for in those regions her intelligence is barely functional.
  3. The fundamentalist atheist humanitarian who fancies himself a scientific and rational type, and even prides himself on his intelligence. And yet he cannot discern, recognise or accept any of the benefits that the Christian Church has provided western society. To suggest or name such individual and social benefits, laws and customs, off-shoot organisations and institutions may annoy or anger him, or cause him to cringe and deny. His intelligence is blind to such things, blinded by his hatred. He is stuck on an emotional view that the Church and all that has come from it is bad and oppressive. If he can bring himself to say otherwise, it is often only a learned and begrudged passing statement to try to show himself as balanced, before he reverts quickly back to his emotional position. And yet in areas aside from his hatred of the church he can demonstrate admirable intelligence and perceptive ability.

These are, of course, samples of significant emotional impingement on intelligence. We may observe many more examples, greater and lesser than these, within others and our self.

Naturally it is easier to observe emotional depreciation of intelligence in others than it is to observe it in our self. We may be able to notice it in our past self by recalling old emotional erroneous attitudes and opinions and comparing them to our improved and more rational present outlook. That is if indeed we have improved.

As students of truth, we are studiers of self, gradually becoming more aware and knowledgeable of our own consciousness, and of our psychological mechanism and its operation. By becoming conscious of our intelligence and of the operation and functioning of our mental and emotional layers, then with knowhow and practice we can minimise the effect of emotion upon our intelligence and intellect.

This entry was posted in Cognitive mechanics, Intelligence. Bookmark the permalink.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s