The Definition of Genius: It's About Denting not I.Q.

GeniusThe good folks at Scientific American are more than just our sponsors and partners. Their periodicals have served to enlighten us quite a bit on what it takes to “make a dent the universe.”

We frequently refer to Scientific American Mind when working through our editorial process, and their “Think Like a Genius” issue from Nov/Dec 2012 has become quite dogeared.

One of the many enlightening articles in that issue is The Science of Genius By Dean Keith Simonton. in this piece Simonton provides us with the definition of genius, and we find his departure from the conventional meaning of exceptional intelligence to be of value.

Here is his take, emphasis mine:

Genius, Defined
Genius has been viewed two different ways: as achieved eminence and as exceptional intelligence. The former metric offers the more
useful definition.

Genetics and life experiences both contribute to genius. Creative contributions can occur only after a domain has been mastered, but genetics can help a person improve faster and accomplish more with a
given amount of expertise.

Genius can share certain potentially negative traits with the mentally ill, but when these traits are combined with specific positive
attributes, the result is creativity rather than psychopathology.

A scientific genius has different expertise than an artistic genius, but all creative geniuses may depend on the same general process:
blind variation and selective retention.

Note his distinction between “smarts” and achievement:

Many persons with superlative IQs do not produce original and exemplary accomplishments. One example is Marilyn vos Savant, who was once certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the highest recorded IQ of any living person. Her weekly “Ask Marilyn” column for a Sunday newspaper supplement did not inspire a new genre of science, art or even journalism. And many exceptional achievers do not attain genius level IQs. William Shockley, for example, received a Nobel Prize in Physics for coinventing the transistor yet had an IQ score well below 140. Exceptional achievement, then, seems the more useful measure.