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Open AccessCommentary

Intellectual Brilliance and Presidential Performance: Why Pure Intelligence (or Openness) Doesn’t Suffice

Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 3 March 2018 / Accepted: 7 March 2018 / Published: 23 March 2018
PDF [251 KB, uploaded 23 March 2018]


In recent years it has become popular on the internet to debate the IQ of the incumbent president of the United States. Yet, these controversies (and hoaxes) presume that IQ has some relevance to understanding the president’s actual performance as the nation’s leader. This assumption is examined by reviewing the empirical research on the intelligence–performance association in political leadership, with a special focus on U.S. presidents. The review starts by discussing at-a-distance assessment techniques, a method that has yielded reliable and valid measures of IQ, Intellectual Brilliance, and Openness to Experience; three correlated even if separable concepts. The discussion then turns to the reliable and valid measurement of presidential performance—or “greatness”—via successive surveys of hundreds of experts. These two lines of research then converged on the emergence of a six-predictor equation, in which Intellectual Brilliance plays a major role, to the exclusion of both IQ and Openness. The greatest presidents are those who feature wide interests, and who are artistic, inventive, curious, intelligent, sophisticated, complicated, insightful, wise, and idealistic (but who are far from being either dull or commonplace). These are the personal traits we should look for in the person who occupies the nation’s highest office if we seek someone most likely to solve the urgent problems of today and tomorrow. View Full-Text
Keywords: presidential performance; Intellectual Brilliance; Openness to Experience; IQ presidential performance; Intellectual Brilliance; Openness to Experience; IQ
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Simonton, D.K. Intellectual Brilliance and Presidential Performance: Why Pure Intelligence (or Openness) Doesn’t Suffice. J. Intell. 2018, 6, 18.

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