What is Intelligence, Anyway? Four Levels

Four Levels of What is Intelligence, Anyway?

Let’s explore the four levels of the essay What is Intelligence, Anyway?:

Literal Comprehension

Isaac Asimov shares his experience of scoring exceptionally high on an aptitude test compared to the average score. He perceives himself as highly intelligent, contrasting this with his assumption that an auto-repair mechanic would score lower on such tests.

However, when the mechanic poses a clever question about a deaf and mute person in a hardware store, Asimov fails to provide the correct answer. This incident leads him to question his intellect and feel like an educated fool.


Asimov’s essay challenges the notion of intelligence as an absolute and universal trait. He suggests that intelligence is not solely determined by standardized tests but is rather context-dependent.

Individuals may excel in certain areas while struggling in others, indicating that intelligence is multifaceted and varied.

Asimov’s experience highlights the importance of practical intelligence and expertise, which may not be captured by traditional measures of intelligence.

Critical Thinking

Readers may critically evaluate the implications of Asimov’s argument for how intelligence is perceived and assessed in society. The essay prompts reflection on the limitations of standardized assessments and the need to recognize diverse forms of intelligence.

Additionally, readers may consider how societal norms and biases influence perceptions of intelligence and how these perceptions impact individuals’ self-esteem and opportunities.


Asimov’s essay encourages readers to assimilate a more nuanced understanding of intelligence. By acknowledging the limitations of traditional measures and embracing the diversity of human capabilities, readers can appreciate the richness of individual talents and expertise.

This assimilation fosters humility, empathy, and respect for different forms of intelligence, leading to a more inclusive and equitable society. Asimov’s insights prompt readers to reconsider their assumptions about intelligence and value the unique strengths of each individual.

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