A. The term genius, often applied to a person attributed with superior intelligence in a particular area, can also be used to describe a polymath: a person demonstrating a high level of skill in a multitude of areas. In the real sense of its definition, genius status denotes superior mental ability, Albert Einstein being the archetypal illustration of this, though in a more informal use it is often used to describe an individual with superior talent in an unconventionally defined academic area; Beethoven in the sphere of music, for example, or even a high achiever in the world of football, such as Ronaldo.
B. Many geniuses, by the academic definition, are often identified at a young age, becoming recognised as child prodigies: that is, a minor who displays expertise or depth of thought at a young age which far out measures the usual thought processes and capabilities of their peers. In the same way, musical geniuses often exhibit their skills from childhood; the composer Mozart, for example, was said to have been writing music from the age of four. The cognitive explanation for excellence in this field is the individual’s ability to be able to process a number of different melodies in their mind at once, whilst the average person is able to focus on only one.
C. A child who displays outstanding intellectual ability, however, may also face a number of difficulties of a social or emotional nature; these issues have also been observed to exacerbate in direct relationship to the level of cognitive ability possessed. Child prodigies are often set apart from their contemporaries, in that children of their age group are unlikely to share their interest in advanced levels of thinking or analysis of problems; resulting, on occasion, in the child becoming withdrawn and isolated on a social level.
D. Research studies suggest that in adulthood, similar difficulties in socialisation may occur. Since it is the nature of human beings to be drawn to others and form friendships with people of similar intellectual ability, it has been suggested that geniuses may find it more difficult to build social circles including others similar to themselves, as the number of people in their bracket is limited. Membership of high IQ societies, organisations which offer membership only to those of a given intelligence bracket, not only allows geniuses to form relationships with others for academic purposes, but also facilitates interaction with others with similar characteristics. MENSA International, formed in 1946 by Roland Berrill and Dr Lancelot Ware, is the oldest and perhaps most well known of such societies.
E. A stereotypical character weakness of a genius is that, while they are able to analyse and comprehend at a high level, they are said to often show a lack of common sense and empathy with others. Their behaviour is also often thought to be obsessive by those around them, as they become entranced in their project while other concerns are forgotten. However, some argue that the latter, rather than being a negative attribute, is a necessity, in that an unbroken train of thought and unwavering dedication is necessary for geniuses to achieve the ground breaking work and research that they do.
F. Various experts have offered definitions of genius and have identified what are, in their opinion, the outstanding traits. Arthur Schopenhauer, for example, holds that the behaviour of a genius differs most from an ordinary person in that their will is more highly dominated by their intellect than would be the norm; demonstrated in the way that such an individual may become lost in their work and overlook their own basic needs of sleep, sustenance and company. Immanuel Kant states that geniuses are set apart from the rest of society through their ability to philosophise and gain an insight into concepts that an ordinary person would only understand through being taught; for example, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity may be understood by others through learning. However, development of the concept from scratch takes quite a different level of thought process and analysis. In agreement with Kant, Howard Caygill emphasises their ability to break new ground with their non-imitative original theories or offerings whereas others in society may copy ideas rather than pioneer them.
G. Certain neurobiological disorders have been observed to, on occasion, come hand in hand with levels of intelligence beyond the norm. For instance, many individuals, though not all, with Asperger’s syndrome, often marked by inability to communicate on a social level, have been known to have extraordinary skill in a particular area; such as memory or mathematics. Characteristics of the syndrome include: obsessive behaviour, low levels of ability to understand or empathise with the emotions of others, difficulty dealing with change and extreme sensitivity to stimuli such as sounds, tastes and smells. According to Professor Fitzgerald, author and diagnostician of Asperger’s syndrome, sufferers have a tendency to be controlling of others, have a preference for their own company and are extremely persistent and focused. Some experts in the field draw similarities between individuals with Asperger’s syndrome and those defined as having genius status, some going as far as suggesting that key figures known for their superior intelligence, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart all exhibited key behavioural traits typical of the syndrome.