Saturday, 7 February 2009

'In your Head, in your Head, Zombie, Zombie...'

I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands these last few days, but instead of making any inroad into my pile of unread books from Amazon, I have been wasting time arsing about on the internet. Once again I have been looking for online questionnaires that test your IQ, tell you how multiply intelligent you are (or aren’t) and where you stand on the introvert-extravert continuum. I have done these dozens of times before, so there were no surprises. I haven't changed.

IQ is quickly dealt with. I have the same IQ as the banana I sliced into my Weetabix this morning. I cannot do IQ tests. I can stare at a series of numbers for ever but the next one in the series will not be obvious to me. Same applies to those rows of abstract shapes, where one of several choices supposedly completes a pattern. Even when presented with the correct answers, all I can think is ‘OK, if you say so’. My lack of success could be connected with the fact that I find it hard to give a fuck which number or shape comes next. Maybe if coached for a while I could improve my score – it couldn’t in any case be worse – but for the time being I can rationalise it, yeah, could do it any time, just don’t feel like it right now.

For those of us with the IQ of grocery, Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence is heartening, even though I have a nagging suspicion it might just be bollocks. Here’s part of the Wikipedia entry on M.I.:

‘Gardner's theory argues that intelligence, as it is traditionally defined, does not sufficiently encompass the wide variety of abilities humans display. In his conception, a child who masters multiplication easily is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles to do so. The second child may be stronger in another kind of intelligence, and therefore may best learn the given material through a different approach, may excel in a field outsidse of mathematics, or may even be looking through the multiplication learning process at a fundamentally deeper level that hides a potentially higher mathematical intelligence than in the one who memorizes the concept easily.’

That’s more like it. I’m not stupid, just differently brained. The first time I did one of Gardner’s tests about twelve years ago, I scored zero for mathematical intelligence and top marks for linguistic intelligence. Neither result came as any surprise. My intrapersonal intelligence (understanding of self) also got top marks, but my interpersonal intelligence (understanding of others) was dodgy; only middle of the range on that one. I was surprised that I got a high score for musical intelligence, since I don’t play an instrument, and analyses of symphonies in CD booklets mean nothing to me: ‘...these are not just introductory, but modulate unobtrusively from the preceding Moderato’s C minor to the Adagio sostenuto’s E major…The musical argument will be readily apparent.’ Not to the likes of I, it bain’t, but I did get a good score on Gardner’s test, so that’s OK.

The problem with the MI theory is that it is tempting to rationalise one’s failures as evidence that one simply has a different kind of intelligence, and you can thus excuse yourself for performing badly in any area. As a kid I loathed maths and sat uncomprehending for hours through lessons of ball-aching tedium. I was so spectacularly bad at it that I must have been the only kid in the history of the school, maybe of the County, to be allowed to drop it before ‘O’ levels and go and study Spanish on my own instead. At the time, this was a huge relief. When I heard of Gardner’s theory twenty five years later, my number-blindness seemed to be explained, but now I’m not so sure. I think I just refused to work on things I didn’t like. I didn’t DO maths, darlings, just as I didn’t do football or have any truck with Heavy Metal and the Bum and Tit magazines other fourth form boys were so obsessed with. It was a pose and a form of rebellion, not a want of the right neurones.

No surprises on extroversion-introversion either. Whenever I do those quizzes where you tot up your score then see what it says about you, I get ‘you are a miserable bugger’ every time. True. I get very uneasy in gatherings of more than three people and I’d sooner fake my own death than go to a party. They say that the brains of introverts are measurably noisier and more active than those of extroverts, and so the former seek to reduce stimulus from outside, while the latter seek out stimulus to compensate for the lack of inner fizz. Well, my cerebral cortex is always jumping. I wish I meant by that that it is full of fire and creativity, but I don’t – I just mean racket. Words, snatches of song, prattle, nonsense, memories, rubbish, burble burble – it never lets up. So yes, my candle lit, incense scented, blanketed and cushioned flat is designed to keep external stimulus to the minimum, and I spend a fortune on wax ear-plugs.

One mental phenomenon that drives me scatty is Music-on-the-Brain. I have a good memory for music in the sense that I can decide to listen to, say, Sibelius Symphony no 7 in my head, and I will be able to hear it pretty accurately. The problem is I won’t be able to turn it off. Pieces of music just get stuck there and then it is like having a noisy neighbour. If it is a piece of music I like, it is tolerable, but for Christs’s sake, I recently had Marie Osmond belting out ‘Paper Roses’ at all times of the night and day, and considered ending it all. It is also very frustrating when I am trying to recall a tune heard only once or twice and it keeps getting mixed up with another one. This week, thanks to Bo, I heard for the first time the beautiful ‘Daylight and the Sun’ by Antony and the Johnsons. When I was trying to recall it to listen to in my head while away from the computer, the melody would segue again and again into ‘I belong to Glasgow’.


‘Look, I'm just wondering, is there going to be a conclusion to this post?’

Er, no. Got shit-loads of washing-up to do now, so that will be all. Run along.


Anonymous said...

Wasting time on the net, especially blogging is considered the sign of a dedicated blogger as opposed to an addiction...


Mariana said...

I'm just like you! I don't take IQ tests because I'm sure they'd say I'm stupid although I'm not. I'm not worried that telling oneself "I'm just differently brained" is a soothing lie. I do believe anyone can learn anything, and not being able to understand something is a mental block that could be overcome. I sometimes wonder if I'm missing out on interesting things because of my inability to understand math, but I'm much more interested on working on my people's skills, and overcoming this contradictory thing of being in a people person who is afraid of people and is reclusive.

I too hear music, and juggle lots of ideas in my head at once. I like that and it doesn't disturb me, but I think a great deal of it is about loneliness and lack of interesting interactions with other people. If I don't amuse myself, who will?

Shahrazad said...

Gosh you're so funny habibi !

A truly wide sense of humour ..

As for songs ringing in your head -and I thought I was the only one lol..Sometimes I find myself asking the song to actually stay clear of me (when I'm not in a good mood ;-)))))other times we're pretty compatible !I mean how more crazy can one be ???

Vilges Suola said...

Glad it amused you! 'Daylight and the Sun' is stuck in my head right now. I have ordered the CD, hope I won't be fed up of it by the time it arrives.

Sarah McKellen of McKellen-Messiniaki Properties said...

Put a smile on my face! Nice to know that we aren't mad since obviously there are quiet a few of us out there with similar 'problems'. Anthony is brill and I also love Hercules and Love Affair; anthony sings a couple of the tracks on the album - he has a very distinct voice!

ellyodd said...

Google dyscalculia.

vilges suola said...

ellyodd, yes, I have already. I need to calculate so rarely it hardly seems worth worrying about.


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