Sunday, March 5, 2017

Intelligence and Wealth by Professor W.B. Pillsbury 1921

Intelligence and Wealth by Professor W.B. Pillsbury 1921

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One form of selection is through success in some particular occupation. In every large business there is a constant stream of men who rise from the ranks, and a large proportion of the successful men, who acquire wealth and position and thus become prominent in society or in politics, are chosen in this way. These are made up, in part, of men of high intelligence who for some reason dropped from school early. Many undoubtedly have capacities that would not have led to academic success but are valuable in business. How many of the latter type there are, and what constitutes the means of selection or the measure of ability is, most probably, value to the business in the opinion of the immediate superior. In many departments we find in the amount of business secured or in the actual accomplishment in the individual's own business objective measures of ability. All of these embody tests of energy, of push, and of social capacities that are not involved in the university work or are not important in the same degree. We know only that intelligence is required for a high degree of business success, but courage and energy may compensate in some degree as they cannot in the higher school work. What relation there may be between success of this type and what we call intelligence as measured by scholastic work, is not definitely known. Probably successful business men are a mixture of those who succeed because of good intelligence, mixed with a certain amount of persistence and fighting qualities, of those who have considerable fighting ability and less intelligence, and of those who know how to get on by taking their opinions and aims and methods from successful men about them. One of the most successful of modern manufacturers showed in a recent court examination that he would not be able to pass at all one of the tests most relied upon in the best known series of mental tests, that of making definitions of abstract terms. Of course, the tests are not so well established that we can regard that as evidence of his defective intelligence rather than of the unreliability of the test. Certainly, if we are to prove that certain of these men lack intelligence, a large part of the population would regard it as a proof that intelligence is an undesirable characteristic.

Very interesting would it be to raise the question whether intelligence is closely correlated with wealth. On the whole, there can be no doubt that the two are connected. We find an occasional exception in individuals of markedly low intelligence who have accumulated considerable wealth, and we have the testimony of Charles Francis Adams that the men of wealth are on the whole stupid. As statistical evidence is the fact that several surveys of the well-to-do neighborhoods indicate that the children there are mentally a year older than are the children of the slums of the same chronological age. This of course, is a comparison between the poor and those of average wealth, but has a bearing upon our problem in so far as it indicates that the well-to-do are more intelligent than the poverty stricken. On the whole it would seem that while a modicum of intelligence is necessary for great wealth, other factors are important as well. Some of these are beneficial to society, others not. Among the most important of these qualities are initiative, persistence, social address, acceptance of conventional ideals, and in many cases an emotional defect or defect of imagination that impairs sympathy for the victims in those instances in which wealth is won at the expense of others. Many intelligent men think that acquiring wealth is not worth the effort required and prefer to apply their energy in other directions; many lack the immediate opportunity, and still others are disturbed by the thought of the men who may suffer in the process. This last attitude is well illustrated by a student who explained his failure to succeed on a summer canvassing tour for an article of luxury, by his inability to talk enthusiastically when he knew that the people to whom he was trying to sell really needed their money for the necessities of life. Men selected for great wealth are above the average in intelligence, but wealth is not a direct measure of intelligence.

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