A persistent theme (or is it a theme from a persistent blogger?) of HBDsphere is that higher IQ means less charisma (a nerdish personality).
Is it true? This nerdy blogger investigates.
“Big brain but small charisma” is one of those ideas that seems like it could be true, after all nerdy types tend to be interested in “smart” things such as science and technology. At the very least, some feel that if not true, it should be. I think a driver for this belief is the nature-is-fair fallacy, the belief that nature runs some kind of balanced book, that if you have the gift of brains you must have an offsetting deficit to balance the book. Sadly, nature is not fair; on some she will lavish gifts with an open hand, while others merely get the back of her hand.
I do not believe there is anything in intelligence that guarantees a lack of charisma. Charisma, like intelligence, is distributed in a bell curve; some have little, some have a lot, and most have about the same as everybody else. This means we will end up with combinations of high charisma/high intelligence (we call these lucky bastards); low charisma/low intelligence (we call these sad bastards); and every combination in between.
The smart but nerdy belief comes from our perceptions of the various combinations. The low charisma/low intelligence types are mostly invisible, they lack the achievements or charm that makes us notice them; the same holds true for average types (most of us). High charisma/high intelligence types will tend to gain attention for their charisma, we will tend to attribute their success to their charisma more than their intelligence (e.g., Steve Jobs). It is not that we consider them unintelligent, it is just that we tend not to consider their intelligence as we focus on their charisma. Low charisma/high intelligence types (nerds) will, by their nature, have achievements in more nerdy realms (e.g., Andrew Wiles). What we notice is their intelligence, because intelligence, more than charisma, brought them success.
[I am not claiming that Wiles is some kind of asocial freak (he seems a pleasant, but perhaps reserved gentleman), merely that he is an example of one whose success is more intellectual than charismatic, the type “smart but nerdy” proponents might point to.]
While large gaps in cognitive abilities may make communication between individuals more difficult, I believe that the smart-but-nerdy idea is more about perception than reality. Most smart individuals will be able to navigate the social world with no greater problems than anyone else. Within the population of smart people, it is likely that the distribution of charisma is exactly as same as for the rest of us.
[Added: March 31, 2011]
Somewhere between planning (perhaps a slightly aggrandizing description for the shuffling of ideas in my head) and writing, I dropped this case for the prosecution (smart=nerdy). It was a genuine mistake your honor.
If there is a link between developmental time and cortex growth (slower development time leading to thicker cortex) then we might have a route for the smart-but-nerdy thesis. Delayed, or longer, puberty might offer more time for brain development but will likely lead to social stunting (being the smallest, most childish, and thus lowest status member of the group).
While the late developer is building a better brain, he is not developing social skills; indeed, he is learning to be the low status member of the pack. The constant small loses that low status imposes, place a stress burden on the social/emotional parts of his development.
Given that, along with intelligence, other aspects of personality have a heritable component, it is reasonable to speculate that the same genes that promote intelligence might also affect other parts of the personality. If such a link did exist it might be through the pathway of executive function. Executive function is as much about what not to do as it is about what to do. An over eager executive function could lead to excessively inhibited, or nerdish, social interactions.
I have no idea if Asperger’s or autism has any relationship to intelligence. I would suggest that smarter Aspie types (not real sufferers of the syndrome) become visible because they are better able to make some impact in the world; less intelligent Aspie types become either invisible, or end up labeled as “troubled.”
Lack of intelligence will tend to magnify any deficit, while higher intelligence may offset it. High intelligence will likely leverage any positive whereas lower intelligence may blunt it.