I just want to clarify that I do NOT think I have a more gifted mind than average. Not at all. However, I am very existential and often wonder about the nature of basic things.

Anyway, one of my favorite books is Flowers for Algernon where a mentally disabled man named Charlie Gordon is experimented on and his intelligence is uplifted to that of a genius. Once he begins to rapidly increase in intelligence, he finally realizes that his co-workers had been constantly making fun of him and all his memories come to the forefront and it’s almost like he is “waking up” and reliving his life

Now I also know a man who is considered mentally disabled as well. He is very interested in politics and legitimately thinks he was once a council person. He also said he could make a particular candidate lose with his influence since she “betrayed” him. He really believes he can make a difference in the political world.

I also have a friend with severe Aspergers Syndrome and he believes his old elementary school teacher will come to his house and take away his favorite books.

My point is; their view of reality is so warped and they legitimately believe these ridiculous things. Both would be considered borderline intellectually functioning. I know for a fact that my friend has an IQ of 75 and the other one can’t be far off the mark. The reality they live in is so different from the one I occupy. I know that I am nothing special and insignificant to the wider universe and Einstein was able to see the way the universe works in a way that I never could.

I now pose the question. Does different levels of intelligence mean different levels of consciousness and self-awareness?

If you have the name of any study that explores my query; please share the source so I can learn more.

  • For sure no. If you see levels as being on top of each other. For sure yes if you see levels next to each other. IQ's show intelligence that is pre-defined. Scoring high can be seen a low score in another definition of intelligence. Your friends score high in the imagination test. Borderline is seen in people with a high IQ. At the moment of accompanying psychosis reality cannot be separated from illusion. Only later they become aware (I can tell...). Your friend will never be able to see the difference. His conscious level is pretty similar to yours (your friend sees experiences, hears, think
    – user53283
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 19:33
  • What do you mean by levels of consciousness? The only meaning I can attach to that is something like the range from fully awake and alert to awake but not paying attention to anything, to sleep walking, to fully asleep. Are people with lower intelligence never fully awake and alert? Or less often than more intelligent people? That doesn't seem likely, but what else could you mean by this? Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 23:37
  • Level of understanding might be a better term. I can look at a red rose and see a red rose. An Einstein could look at a red rose and see a pattern that solves the Riemann hypothesis. That’s what I’m trying to say. Perception of reality.
    – Max
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 0:17
  • So, how is it different from intelligence, then? Can you refine the question by describing two independent qualities and how you would objectively judge those qualities? If you can't, there is no reason to think anyone who answers is talking about the same things you are. Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 1:43

2 Answers 2


Different levels of intelligence do not coincide with different levels of consciousness. To clarify some terms: Speaking of "levels" implies that you're distinguishing greater and lesser degrees of some property, and drawing lines at certain intervals across that spectrum of degrees. "Intelligence" is the capacity to process information; there are different types of intelligence because there are types of information and different ways of processing them. "Consciousness" is awareness of something. So dogs are more conscious of smells than humans because they have a more discriminating olfactory sense, so they're aware of more smells than we are. So both consciousness and intelligence admit of degrees and therefore levels, but both entail multiple dimensions of those spectrums of gradations: there are different types of intelligence (e.g. spatial processing, verbal processing, emotional processing, etc.) and different classes of objects by which to determine degrees of consciousness (e.g. olfactory consciousness, interoceptive consciousness, consciousness of conceptual representations). Sometimes we speak of higher (degrees or levels of) consciousness or intelligence without qualification (i.e. without specifying type of objects of awareness or type of information-processing, respectively), as when we say Einstein was more intelligent than either of the guys in Dumb and Dumber, or when we say humans are more conscious than ants. We don't qualify types of intelligence or consciousness in those cases because it's implied that the former have a higher degree of the property than the latter across all, or almost all, or the most important, dimensions of the property. But still, the dimensions of intelligence don't align with the dimensions of consciousness, because someone with very poor information-processing capacities can be more aware of a wider array of phenomena than someone with superior information-processing capacities. Note also that neither intelligence nor consciousness implies accuracy of beliefs. So a person can know a lot about many things without being very intelligent, or be very intelligent without knowing much about many topics, or be very conscious of some phenomena without having any true beliefs about it and vice versa.


It has been said that if the true nature of the world were explained to us, we would be like a dog watching a relativity lecture by Einstein. Is this true?

"Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone" -The Evolution of Physics, by Albert Einstein & Leopold Infeld

I think of the Wired series on Youtube '5 Levels: An expert explains a complex subject in five levels of complexity', as illustrating this. Deep understanding, allows reframing for different audiences. A six year old won't be working out transfer orbits to Mercury, but the core ideas could probably be understood.

Integrated Information Theory is the beginning of, a statement of intent towards, understanding different levels of consciousness. For instance, a recent study using a less computationally-intensive proxy for 'Phi' (an individuals degree of integrated information) was able to reliably discriminate between varying levels of consciousness in wakeful, sleeping (dreaming vs. non-dreaming), anesthetized, and comatose (vegetative vs. minimally-conscious vs. locked-in) individuals.

A confounding factor is that a lot of the integration of information happens outside our brains - increasingly much, in a world of big data and computer modelling. Dolphins have a similar brain-body ratio to humans, so it's likely we think that an individual dolphin has similar intelligence to an individual human. But through compounding knowledge in tools and technology, and widely shared language, humans do something different to other animals. We have embodied intelligence in salience landscapes, through structuring our experiences to sift put signal for noise, to highlight where and how to engage in order to bring about different outcomes.

There is a way in which human knowledge and capabilities are accelerating. Not just the Flynn effect of seemingly steadily rising IQ. But in general making knowledge more accessible, more well-digested, more relatable, through integrating it.

We don't approach things as individuals, but with the communities' knowledge, inherited through what education we take up, & what networks we involve ourselves with.

I would argue a low IQ does not make a person incapable of wisdom, even if their access to education & networks is limited. Paranoia, believing in psychically influencing events, and a bad memory founded on misperceptions, are not a result of low intelligence, but of a problematic model of the world, and not checking for accuracy. When we look at IQ, we find low numbers typically indicate developmental defecits, problematic birth, poor nutrition, genetic anomolies. These should be considered separately from intelligence in general, I think.

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