How do you know whether a person is intelligentHow do you know whether a person is intelligent and what criteria is used to determine intelligence?  

Expert Answers
boblawrence eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, I believe that the vast majority of people one meets are normally intelligent.  It is only the rare person who stands out as being not so smart or intelligent.  Some of these are mentally retarded.  But a few are simply not so intelligent as the vast majority of us.  IQ testing aside, here is how I would describe the rare person who is not mentally retarded, but lacks what most would consider normal intelligence.

The person exhibits little curiosity.  She makes the same mistakes over and over.  She has little or no insight...never realizing the causes and effects in life.  She wonders what happened when things go wrong, when it is obvious to her friends that she caused the problem herself.  She has a poorly developed sense of humor.  She never seems to get jokes...especially ones that require an awareness of double meanings, and language or slang nuances.  She is unaware of current events.  She often seems unaware of the significance of events around her, and may act inappropriately happy or sad.  She does not pick up on subtle clues such as sarchastic responses, tone of voice or body language.

In short, the subintelligent person is incapable of normal and usual responses to conversational and social interaction.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Intelligence is a knotty field these days. Certainly memory is a part of intelligence. Comprehension of higher order sentences is a part of intelligence. Analytical reasoning is a part of intelligence. There are different kinds of intelligence covering different fields and aspects of thought. For instance, Sir Walter Scott once said of Jane Austen that while she did not have the highest kind of intelligence, she certainly had the rarest. Education and intelligence are not synonymous. Creativity and intelligence are not synonymous. Intelligence seems to be an innate quality that develops differently in different people over different lengths of time. The ability to understand, read, and produce multi-concept sentences seems to be a key indicator of intelligence, as is the ability to find initial and underlying causes and to recognize logical fallacies and inconsistencies.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All of the above posts are contributing to supporting the conclusion that there is no one definition because there is more than one form of intelligence and there are a multitude of means of evaluating different aspects of thought and behavior that might be considered as being a part of intelligence! (Yes, that run-on sentence is complicated - being able to interpret it may be an indicator...!)

Seriously, there is no one simple means of evaluating an individual's intelligence. You can measure how good a person is at taking tests, you can analyze conversation and thought patterns and decision-making processes and all the rest, but intelligence is not a tangible item that can be defined and determined based on one straight-forward measurement.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would argue that it is simply impossible to objectively tell if a person is intelligent.  The reason for this is that, like Howard Gardner, I believe that there are many different ways in which to be intelligent.  Just to take one example, how do we define who is more intelligent a person who is amazingly gifted with language, or one who is amazingly gifted mathematically?  There is no way to objectively state that one or the other of these people is more intelligent than the other.  I think, then, that we cannot know with any scientific certainty who is and is not intelligent because we have no solid criteria on which to judge the issue.  As the link below says, "nobody has adequately defined what intelligence really means."



brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've had thousands of students and met who knows how many more, and one of the better barometers, to me, has been the caliber of the questions people ask.  The fact they ask questions period shows an intellectual curiosity that seems to closely accompany intellect in general, but those who are both curious, willing to listen and learn, and can articulate and engage in high level questioning and debate is, in my opinion, one of the more obvious indicators of intelligence.  That being said, I do believe there are MANY forms of intelligence, including those humans in general neither recognize nor value.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a hard question and I suspect that not one test or measure will be enough to determine a person's intelligence. What we would need to do to have a good shot at measuring intelligence is to take many different types of tests and spend time with a person and observe how they work through various problems. There is simply no easy way. Also we need to keep in mind that at times people are late bloomers. This means that a person's intelligence can jump at one point in life.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One standard measure of intelligence is a standardized and normed Intelligence Quotient test. While it is only one measure, it has stood the test of time as a reliable measure of a person's intellectual strengths and weaknesses. Tests such as the ACT or the SAT don't have the same objective and would not be as reliable in terms of their indication of smarts -- just potential for success in higher education.

wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator
First ask yourself why you want to know, why you want to quantify it. The question deserves more thought, and a more comprehensive expression. Whenever we start to quantify human traits, we dehumanize them, turn them into scientific objects and that tendency cuts away at our distinct-ness. We are the immeasurable, the possibilities.
bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I prefer to actually talk with people. A good conversation that may cover a few varying topics will tell more about a person than many standardized tests. Of course, there is a great difference between intelligence and knowledge, and if you are searching for a person's IQ, you might need more than clever conversation. 

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that a definitive definition of intelligent would be needed. Many times, intelligence is defined in two different ways: book smart and street smart. While generalized testing may provide a good baseline, these types of tests are not always error-proof.

wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In reply to #9: Hello. There is something provoking about this question, as if we are giving automatic value to intelligence; how about a discussion about where we are going as a species? Affectionately, wordprof
dhyutinimmagadda | Student
You ask them questions regarding things they can't answer with facts. Things they have to think about. How do they feel about certain things? What are their goals in life? What are you interested in? Things like that. If they give thoughtful answers that make sense, make you change your mind about something you think strongly about, they are probably intelligent Also, if you want to know if they are as intelligent or more intelligent than you can play some games fames with them. Games like Quarto - a simple to learn and difficult to master game developed by the mensa folks. Play that with them. If they are more intelligent than you, they will win almost evey time. also, chess is a measure of intelligence because you have to think many steps ahead to wi
oxfbarra2 | Student

To be an intelligent person, one does not have to be brilliant at a certain subject. In fact they could be absolutely rubbish at all subjects. However, this would not result in them being un intelligent. To be intelligent you must have athirst for learning, ask questions and try to answer questions. You do NOT have to be a brain box in order to be intelligent.

geek10 | Student

A quick method to understand wheather a person is intelligent or not is  by listening to the way he/she speaks or makes a conversation.You can understand that by the way they reply to witty questions,the way they pose a question etc.

For this there is no need for IQ test or something like that!!=)

roland535 | Student

I believe that intelligence refers to the way a person carries himself in every day life....what I mean is that if a person knows his way of life and respects, obeys, and cherishes who he is.......then that's using your intellect to live life. But either at work or school, your intelligence is based out of the information you have learned and apply it in your own words or work which reflects the intellectual capacity of your brain. then using this information to develop new ways of improving your work, study, or projects. So, our intellect will eventually be based on your desire to be and feel alive and how much care you build for everything that you do in life.

drahmad1989 | Student

Intelligence is relates with present-mind or sharpness ?

We can judge Intelligence from EYES , as Jane Austen point outs:


brightness of Eyes is related with bright mind . so this one also criteria to judge. But conversation on general topic can give you a very good idea for intelligence of another person who is in conversation with you. Manners also have some points in this topic.

samjazael123 | Student

 agree that people have different intelligences, mines History, Literature and religious studies, but anyone can be intelligent its just that some lack many facts. My sister made a statement "the turkeys are invading Iraq". So she wasn't so bright by that, yet to measure intelligence you must know that person. I know that girls are alot more mature than guys. So girls tend to be intelligent much quicker as a guy we can't multitask because we will go nuts. While girls are able to have more than one job"my mom is an example." I can say intelligence starts by how you react in the world, but it changes as you grow and gain the knowledge to siurvive.

suesan | Student

It is an interesting question. First,ask this person about the things (s)he reads, listens and people he follows.How does he spend his free time.Finally, have a conversation without asking but focusing on the topics you would know.

senioreeto | Student
just talk to him.if he talks more about his good qualities and less about other's good qualities,he is not an intelligent person but if he talks more about the good qualities of other people and talk less about himself,he is certainly intelligent.:-)