February 1, 2006

IQ and the Arts

Michael Blowhard writes:

For me, nothing -- nothing -- has been more basic to my experience of the arts over the course of three decades than the fact that many talented and successful creative-types simply aren't very smart, and that many supersmart people who would like to be creative in the artistic sense simply don't have the creativity knack.

This isn't what I expected to find when I went into the arts, by the way. Like many Smart Kids, I'd been led by profs (and my own gullibility) to expect that brainpower was always and everywhere a good thing. That being so, and all other things being equal, Smart Kids would do better creatively in the arts than not-so-Smart Kids.

Wrong-o. Anything but.

I write as no G/IQ skeptic. I'm happy to agree that there's such a thing as cognitive horsepower, and that it tends to make a big difference in a person's life. But the arts seem to be a bit of an exception to many of the G/IQ-fundamentalist crowd's rules. [More]

I think it depends on the art form. Literature tends to attract high-IQ types. For example, Goethe, often considered the second greatest European writer after Shakespeare, was one of the most important botanists in history in his spare time.

On the other hand, popular music doesn't require much IQ to burn brightly for a few years. A clever performer like Madonna can use her general purpose brainpower to achieve a long career, but in the big picture, her whole body of work hardly compares to what a 2-digit IQ like Elvis Presley accomplished in about three years in the mid-50s. Similarly, my dark horse candidate for the truest genius of American popular music in my lifetime, Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone, is probably the worst decisionmaker ever in a business notoriously full of fools.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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