Use the Tip-of-the-Iceberg Theory in Conversation to Look Smart
In social situations people generally don’t have enough time to draw well-informed conclusions about your intelligence. What they are left with after a five or ten minute conversation at a party or over a casual encounter with coffee, is an impression. The Tip-of-the-Iceberg theory of Intelligence is exactly what creates good impressions, and that is often enough, because who is to know your intelligence is all surface, and that there is no substrate?
How does this work? Its very simple really, you just let people see the tip of what they assume is a large underwater edifice (metaphorically speaking). In reality there is no such thing. Say your boyfriend takes you out to Bill’s Donut Shack on Main (get the pumpkin & ginger); you bump into some members of his ultimate frisbee team and they bring their coffee over and crash your Sunday morning love-fest.
Some of them are a little on the bright side — remember this is ultimate, not football — and talk turns to politics, books, (gulp) archaeology (OK, in today’s intellectual climate I admit this does sound a bit rarefied, like a morning only to be had in Harvard Square). This is a perfect opportunity to dazzle them with a few one-liners about the New McCarthyism, or the runners-up for the Pen Literary Prize, or even the news of a newly-discovered Old Kingdom temple in Upper Egypt. Pretty soon everyone has shown their mettle, paraded their intellectual goods, and talk relaxes and returns to the usual things…who is sleeping with who, music, and someone’s weird wart-like-things on their feet.
If you’ve survived this assault of the brainiacs, its only because you’ve mastered the Tip-of-The-Iceberg theory, and persuaded those disc-hurling buddies of your main man that you are phenomenally bright. The message here — if one is to give an impression of intelligence — is that one should be a dabbler; know a little about everything, and a lot of something. Being able to casually throw out references to many things, like an Ultimate expert casually hurls the frisbee, means browsing shallowly in the wetlands of human intelligence, dipping into wildly divergent fields… a little ancient philosophy, a little eastern religion, a little chaos theory, a little macro economics.