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steph @ 9.38 AM : comments...
By Jenn Stroud Rossman, Ph.D.
The goal behind this painless four-step plan is to seem smarter without having to read any books, listen to classical music, or depend on crutches like word-of-the-day toilet paper. By making a few minor modifications to your behavior, you will give the impression to those around you that you are smarter--not only smarter than you were before, but, more importantly, smarter than they are.
1. Say Less
Talkative people rarely seem smart. Think of the adjectives that describe them: chatty, garrulous, loquacious. Garrulous has several meanings, including "given to excessive and often trivial or rambling talk"; loquacious means, in part, "apt to blab and disclose secrets." John Dryden wrote of impetuous youth "who think too little, and who talk too much," who are "loquacious, brawling, ever in the wrong." In fact, you can often say more with a gesture or a nod than an entire paragraph replete with quotations from the mid 17th century.
2. Active Listening
This step is a natural extension of Step 1. It involves only a small adjustment to your listening style. When listening to another (talkative, hence less smart) person relate an anecdote, you may find yourself inserting a murmur or an "uh-huh," encouraging the speaker without intruding upon what they're saying. Instead, replace "uh-huh" with a brisk nod and the word "sure." Practice this dialogue with a friend:
FRIEND: So, I was at the mall yesterday. . .
FRIEND: . . . and I thought I'd head over to Abercrombie & Fitch. They were having a sale, plus I find myself drawn to their homoerotic advertising imagery. . .
"Sure" serves much the same conversational purpose as "uh-huh," while suggesting that you're already familiar with life's trivialities and do not need to have things explained to you. Once you've become comfortable with "sure" and its usage, you may also substitute "of course."
3. Deflect Literary Questions
If a particular work of literature comes up in conversation, you may be asked whether you've read it. This is quite likely to happen once you have implemented the first two steps, because people will have begun to regard you as a smart person and will look to you for affirmation of their own intelligence and sophistication. When asked, reply in your now-characteristic economical style: "Well, not in English." You may wish to accompany this remark with a slight snort. This will serve the dual purpose of implying that you are, of course, familiar with the work while deflecting any potentially embarrassing follow-up questions about characters or themes by shaming your questioner with your multilingual abilities.
Even if you are familiar with a particular book, restaurant, or law of physics that comes up in conversation, do not rush to share your knowledge. Remember, say less.
4. Sports as Metaphor
It goes without saying that, as a smart person, you should not appear to be interested in sports. However, it is acceptable to be familiar with this or that sport, as long as it's for metaphorical purposes. (See the baseball writings of George Will for examples of this technique.) Here is another dialogue to practice:
FRIEND: So, I think Bill's been seeing that woman from the health food store. You know, Twigs and Berries? So I confronted him about it, and he said I'd driven him to it with my "incessant nagging."
YOU: Well, the ground can't cause a fumble.
FRIEND: I'm afraid my marriage is over.
Beware of false promises on your path to seeming smarter. Some instructors will tell you that all you need to do is surround yourself with idiots. This is pure snake oil. Like the nonprescription glasses that were fleetingly popular in the early 1990s, the attempt to seem smarter simply by accessorizing is shortsighted. The same can be said for quick fixes like speed-reading or listening to NPR. You deserve a comprehensive program with lasting results.
A Short History of the Scientific Evaluation of Intelligence
In the 19th century, French surgeon Paul Broca tried to gauge intelligence using craniometry. He measured the length ratio of the radius bone to the humerus bone (the forearm to the upper arm). A higher ratio, or longer forearm, is a characteristic of apes; therefore, he reasoned, a smaller ratio should reflect higher intelligence. Using this criterion, the average intelligence of whites rated below that of several darker-skinned races. Broca quickly switched to a new parameter--cranial capacity--according to which white men ranked higher. By making a correction for stature, he was able to "prove" that the French were smarter than the Germans. Broca later made important scientific contributions--including discovering the brain's speech center--but his craniometry research continues to be highlighted in such distinguished publications as the Web site of white-supremacist bigot David Duke.
In the early 1800s, Philadelphia scientist Samuel Morton tried to rank the intelligence of races according to average brain size. His method involved stuffing the cranial cavity with mustard seed or lead shot to determine the volume of the brain once held by the cavity. Morton's analyses confirmed what most of his colleagues suspected: The American intellectual pyramid had whites on top, American Indians in the middle, and blacks on the bottom. Objective science, working for us all.
A student of Broca's, Alfred Binet, reexamined his mentor's techniques and discovered that measurement error (inaccurate readings, discrepancies between different experimenters' results) exceeded the differences between "smart" and "not smart" specimens. Binet went on to develop a test that measured subjects' abilities to sequence, arrange, and match, then compared the results with a standard for each subject's age. This led to the concept of an intelligence quotient, or IQ, based on the ratio of mental age to chronological age.
The international passion for testing ignited by Binet's work led to the development of many tests with scoring measures based on limited data. For example, tests based on Binet's standards were used by the U.S. Army to rate World War I recruits. However, the questions were based on current events and general knowledge rather than the mental tasks used by Binet. After long periods spent in training facilities and overseas, in isolation from popular culture, the recruits scored poorly, and were further embarrassed when the results were released after the war. As with Broca's and Morton's scales, the testers themselves scored very well.
If Paul Broca's theory of cranial capacity had not been laughed out of scientific literature, it's interesting to consider how some of today's cultural icons might have scored. Although actual cranial measurements will not be available until these stars have burned out, in the spirit of Broca, our "guesstimates" are based on our own How To Seem Smarter methodology:
Jerry Falwell - Low
Falwell breaks the first rule of seeming smarter with impunity. Still, he manages to get quoted by major news media on a regular basis. Prefers God to sports as metaphor.
Oprah Winfrey - Fluctuating
Oprah's craniometry readings are off the charts. Sadly, she too is a member of the Say More school: daily TV show, magazine, Web site, cable network. When we tried to monitor her active listening skills, looking for "sure" and "of course," we saw no evidence of any listening whatsoever. Winfrey frequently interrupts her guests to tell a personal, tangentially related story, which is always more interesting than anything that has happened to the guest.
Alex Trebek - Average
Though an active listener by profession, Trebek is a poster boy for desperation to seem smarter, without success. Alex, we know the answers are written on the little cards.
George W. Bush - Average
A man of few words, Dubya certainly has saying less down cold. The fact that many of the words he uses do not actually exist may seem like a liability, but it harkens back to the neologistic conjurings of brilliant wordsmith James Joyce.
Tiffani-Amber Thiessen - Genius
Are you kidding? Look at the size of her head!
Charlie Brown - Extremely high
Despite our suspicion that Linus is actually the intellectual center of the Peanuts universe, we acknowledge Brown's ability to distill great emotion into few words (e.g. "augh") and his apparent interest in only the metaphorical implications of football (futility).
steph @ 11.15 AM : comments...
She's all yours. She's all black.
steph @ 12.03 AM : comments...
i dont know who writes these newsletters, but i want to know them and collaborate and get them to write for me in some way shape or form. i want to write to THEM but am quite fearful as to how they may respond... although fearful in a good way... i'm not quite sure what to do. Mommy?
steph @ 1.59 PM : comments...
Okay now REALLY for real...
steph @ 11.23 AM : comments...
steph @ 6.43 AM : comments...