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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 1997
  • Online publication date: November 2009

4 - Social intelligence and success: Don't be too clever in order to be smart


Consequences of behaviour and meta-learning, and social intelligence

Don't be too clever in order to be smart

Our title alludes to Clever and Smart, comic figures created by Ibañez, which contrast in the behaviour they use to reach goals. Whereas Clever shows much refinement, Smart acts without many detours, and succeeds as often as Clever. This result would be surprising to common sense or to analysts of social interaction, Machiavellian intelligence and cognitive competence (Handel, 1982; Hinde, 1983; Anderson, 1985). Indeed, the analysis of the cognitive prerequisites of social interaction would normally lead to the conclusion that sophisticatedly planned and performed behaviour is the means to achieve social goals. Yet there is a caveat. The point we want to make is that the consequences of behaviour, not the degree of underlying cognitive complexity, determine social success. Straightforward action—reaction behaviour such as reciprocity (an eye for an eye) may be as efficacious as subtle diplomacy. For example, reciprocity may be well suited to stop overt physical aggression such as a child's temper tantrum. Watzlawick et al. (1967) tell illuminating stories of unsuccessful communication resulting from either endless recursive mindreading or ignorance of quite simple interaction rules (a man who needs a hammer imagines that his neighbour may be unwilling to lend one, and after a lot of thinking on the neighbour's possible motives, knocks angrily at the other's door shouting that he would never accept even a donated hammer). Watzlawick et al. call on interactants to communicate on their communication rules (to meta-communicate) to resolve problems, and like Dennett (1983), think that we can manage only few embedded propositions.