If I don't have schizophrenia, does that mean I can't be a genius?

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What is a genius? Is a genius able to figure out any logical problem without prior studies? Or is a genius someone who is able to memorize lists and lists of unrelated items and quickly recall them at the precise moment to maximize their potential use? Or are they much more than that? Hollywood and American culture have portrayed geniuses as people with these abilities on top of a whole lot more. For instance, the 2001 biographical drama, A Beautiful Mind, shows a brilliant mathematician who struggles with paranoid schizophrenia, and the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting that portrays a young hoodlum able to accomplish stunning intellectual feats without any appreciable effort. But are either of these notions accurate, or is Hollywood just duping Americans with exaggeration of anecdotes for its profits?

Well the research points to the latter.

Jonh Nash.jpg

The real John Forbes Nash, Jr., played by Russell Crow in A Beautiful Mind. He received a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994.

In the case of John Nash, an extraordinary genius (that actually existed) is plagued with schizophrenia. Thanks to this movie, and probably a more-than-healthy dose of jealousy, many Americans think of highly gifted geniuses as prone to mental illness and severely lacking in social skills, basically making them unattractive for anything but their intelligence. However, research shows that only a slightly greater proportion of geniuses are socially inept and predisposed to mental illness than the general public.

In the case of Good Will Hunting, a young Matt Damon plays a character that can solve a seemingly impossible linear algebra problem at first glance. However, research shows that geniuses in any field are not born geniuses in a particular field; they must work hard to perfect their abilities in that area. It is hypothesized that it takes at least 10,000 hours to accomplish this.

Here is the actual problem and solutions to the problem that Will Hunting solved:


4 Comments

"Thanks to this movie, and probably a more-than-healthy dose of jealousy, many Americans think of highly gifted geniuses as prone to mental illness and severely lacking in social skills, basically making them unattractive for anything but their intelligence."
interesting our society labels those with high IQs with a "negative" label. You are right - this is not the whole population of high IQ people - but because of movies like you listed and maybe someone we know - we generaize. Goes to show that it's not right to "group" people together without more evidence.

I agree that most people are not born geniuses, the hard work they put in definitely makes all of the difference. People of higher intelligence many times have a drive to be great which can further their cause. Others that are smart are lazy and will never keep up with those who work hard as well. A case such as Will Hunting will not occur just like that.

This is extremely interesting. I have always wondered what it took to be a genius, and you are also right when you say that the general public tends to think about an academic genius that lacks social abilities and even mental illness. If you even think about geniuses like albert einstein, he was rumored to have some mental illnesses. It's good to know that most geniuses aren't born with the ability, but are just as likely as anyone else to become that smart. They are just willing to put more time into becoming one.

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This page contains a single entry by bestx062 published on April 9, 2012 6:59 PM.

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