Starting today, I’m going to write a series of posts on “social intelligence.”
It’s a term that’s thrown around a lot, these days — so much so, in fact, that its definitions have gotten a bit shaken up. But the concept isn’t at all new. In fact, it was American psychologist Edward Thorndike who first coined the term “social intelligence” — almost 90 years ago.
Thorndike, who published articles on topics ranging from how fish learn to the aesthetic quality of urban life, was particularly interested in theories of learning and types of intelligence. He identified three types of intelligence: abstract, mechanical, and social. And he defined the latter” as “the ability to function successfully in interpersonal situations.”
Writing in Harper’s Magazine in 1920, he further noted that social intelligence is “the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls, to act wisely in human relations.”
Today, theories of social intelligence are more complex. But I like his simple emphasis on a) understanding; b) managing; and c) wisdom.