People have idolized Einstein for centuries because he was so smart, but not many know that his personal life was less than ideal. He wrote letters to his first love while married to his second, and had relationships with other women during his second marriage. He was not cool and remote, however, as revealed in his private letters, which were released in 2006, twenty years after his daughter’s death. He cared for his children just as many fathers do.1
A fairly recent sitcom called “The Big Bang” portrays physicists as inept socially, even to the point that one is portrayed to resemble a person on the Autistic Spectrum. Another series on television (Scorpion2) portrays a group of misfit geniuses that work for the government to solve crimes. It is a little more accurate because it shows that there are different types of intelligence (psychological, mechanical and photographic memory), hence more types of giftedness. However, the series is dedicated to Walter O’Brien, who is portrayed as socially inept and awkward at approaching the love of his life (Paige), or even being aware of his and her feelings. She is the token “normal” person with a gifted son, who gets along well with the group. In all of these examples of socially inept geniuses, there is a lack of understanding of what it is like to be a genius.
Just because a person has a high IQ, they do not necessarily lack social graces. There can be some difficulties adjusting to others, as a friend told me twenty years ago. Her son’s IQ approached 190, and he would complete assignments that did not fulfill the teacher’s requirements. She would patiently explain to him why he should change it, and he would patiently explain to her why it had to be done his way. I don’t remember if he had an understanding teacher.
Highly gifted individuals are more sensitive, which can lead to unusual reactions to everyday circumstances. They can be hurt more easily and are more deeply hurt, they can be more sensitive to body language, they can worry more about natural and man-made disasters, they can experience existential depression by the overwhelming awareness of the suffering in the world. But many highly intelligent people get along quite well when they have a supportive network of both similar and dissimilar peers. Those peers may be of different ages or backgrounds, but may meet the needs of the gifted adult or child as no others can. When society begins to imagine geniuses accurately, we will make a huge step forward into understanding the incredible diversity of the human brain.