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To What Extent Is Emotion Dependent On Intelligence?


June 4, 2016 by jayeren

The trip to Qingdao to support education for exceptional children was truly inspiring and meaningful. However, there was one scene that triggered my emotions; and I will certainly not forget it. I was in charge of teaching music classes. Before the class began, each one of us introduced ourselves and gave out a performance to show the kids our strengths in music. I sang Edelweiss, which is a touching song with a sad tone. When I reached to the end of the song, I saw two children sat in separated positions started crying, one after another. After I finished the song, one of them told me that the song was so touching and made him want to cry.

I was shocked and astonished by their reaction. It failed to meet my expectation that exceptional kids would have incomplete, or slightly insensitive perception of emotions compare to normal people. Nevertheless, they recognised the emotion and the setting of the song by listening to the rhythm. I am sure they don’t know English, so it is mainly the rhythm that conveyed the emotion of sadness rather than the language of the song.

Therefore, I come up with the knowledge question of to what extent is emotion dependent on intelligence?

Since children reacted immediately, their emotional reaction of being sad, and physical reaction of crying were caused by intuition, where reactions are more of gut-feelings instead of being rational. These exceptional children at a low age with underdeveloped intelligence, would not necessarily have the process of reasoning or thinking. However, the underdevelopment intelligence did not hinder emotion conveyed by the songs.

There are several ways of knowings that help with children’s cognition and perception of the song. Sense perception comes first. It is privileged to other ways of knowing since they are the tools we use to receive information from outer world. Children used hearing to perceive the rhythm and recognise the soothing melody and touching emotion.

Emotion emerges as another way of knowing, and it drives their own creation of emotion. Emotion often present convincing feelings of people, where in this case children were moved by the song. According to The Bhagavad Gita from the 5th century BCE, emotion has the advantage of being open to all, the weak and the lowly, the illiterate and the scholar. This indicates that emotion is mostly independent and immune to other factors. At the same time, 19 Century Darwin supported the view that emotions are purely physiological and experienced across all cultures. These children are raised in Chinese culture, but they pick up the emotion of this English song even without understanding the lyrics. The emotion of rhythm can be conveyed to people from all around the world. Therefore this case illustrated that emotion is universal and independent of many other factors.

The similar thing happened on the day that we were leaving, and the children performed a Chinese song on stage to show their thankfulness to us. Children cried on stage. I heard that these children gave the same performance to the last group of students like us last year when they were leaving. Despite the fact that they may understand the meaning of the song, memory worked as a way of knowing. The song reminded them the scene of farewell, and they knew that we were leaving them too. Current research shows that vivid sensations can lead to vivid memories, but that retrieval of specific experiences can be triggered by emotional cues that match the ones in the recollection.

Now that I broke down the factors that may influence the convey of emotion, none of those related to intelligence. According to my observation on these exceptional children, intelligence did not affect these factors strongly, as they all have regular sense perceptions, normal emotional reactions and collective memories. If the fact is that intelligence does not affect the creation of emotion, then intelligence should not be the reason for people to treat them in a different way. I hope their teachers, and the people around them are patient and nice to them all the time because these children are sentimental and have normal emotions.


  1. jessicayang says:

    I agree with your point of the creation of emotion does not related to intelligence. In fact, their emotion is more pure than us. They show their emotions physically once they feel something. They sometimes cannot control their emotion like us. This leads me to a question that does the ability of controlling emotion have any kinds of connection with intelligence?

    I still remember a girl in that school. She has no problem with her intelligence. When I was teaching in her class, I was surprised that she is as smart as the kids in her age. Her teacher told me that she has a kind of disorder which makes her super emotional. It seems like I can reach a conclusion that the ability to control emotion has nothing to do with intelligence, but as I mentioned before, the special kids show their emotion to others easily, then how can we explain this situation? Is it because their intelligence doesn’t allow them to learn how to control emotion? Then why people who have high intelligence don’t have the ability to control emotion too?

    I am still struggling about the questions that I brought out, how about you?

    • jayeren says:

      Whether if different levels of intelligence restrain or provoke emotion is out of my knowledge, but I am sure that normal people has one extra step of processing emotions, that is reasoning. Though reasonings are usually in conflict with emotion, it still plays a key role in people’s reactions. Which of them wins out depend on each person’s rationality. As you said, some people with high intelligence don’t have the ability to control emotion, maybe it’s because they have a lot of pressure and has to have a vent. At that time the reasoning process of taking care of other people’s feelings and other rational thoughts are refrained and took over by their strong emotions. On the other hand, the children do not have or have less of this reasoning process, maybe out of biological reasons, but these two groups of people share the same outcome.

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