Thursday, March 10, 2011

Attitude toward brightness

While attitudes toward brightness are, on the whole, more favorable than attitudes toward dullness, they are by no means uniformly favorable but differ from group to group to group. They differ, for example, from one school to another and from one group within a school to another group. In a school that puts high value on going to college, the attitudes toward bright students will be more favorable than in a school where most of the students take jobs as soon as they graduate. If the popular members of the class put low value on intellectual achievements, the general social attitude toward bright students is likely to be negative.

In the middle and upper socioeconomic groups, brightness is generally more highly valued than in lower socioeconomic groups. Superior intelligence and academic achievement are generally less valued among girls than among boys, and social attitudes toward bright girls are less favorable. As one bright high school girl explained. If you’re taller than the boys, it’s bad enough, but if you’re brighter, it’s fatal.

In general, brightness is more valued in adolescence than in childhood. Recognizing that education and vocational success are closely related and that higher education is limited to those who are bright enough to get into college, most adolescents place a higher value on intelligence than they did earlier. In fact, most adolescents place a higher value on intelligence and intellectual achievement than they are willing to admit. This is evident when they state that academic achievement is one of their major “problems” and when they rate intelligence high as a criterion in choosing a life mate.

Social attitudes are less favorable toward very high intellectual ability than toward moderate brightness. While peers may admire those who are bright, they often regard those who are very bright as “threats”. They feel uncomfortable with the very bright because, by comparison, they themselves feel stupid and dump. Furthermore, acceptance of the cultural belief that high intellectual ability and abnormality go hand in hand makes the peer group suspicious of everything the very bright person says or does.

Knowing that they are considered “different” or strange, the very bright are uneasy about what others think of them. This makes them feel inadequate in social relationships and thus intensifies the popular belief that they really are “strange”. Furthermore, having little in common with their peers, many very bright children and adolescents concentrate their energies on intellectual pursuits. This they do, in part because they find such pursuits more satisfying than the play of their peers and, in part, because they hope to win social acceptance in a peer group where intellectual achievement is highly valued.

As adults, those who are viewed by the social group as “intellectuals” or “eggheads” are aware of the unfavorable cultural stereotype of the unfavorable cultural stereotype of the very intelligent. Some try to disprove the stereotype because they feel socially isolate. Others become intellectual snobs as a form of compensation. This attitude leads them to engage in unsocial behavior, which tends to increase their unfavorable social image.

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