The difference between smart and intelligent

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein.

When it comes to intelligence, it can be divided into two broad categories. One of them is academic intelligence, while the other kind is the street smarts. Academic intelligence refers to education, training, classes, and so on. This is an exclusively theoretical understanding of facts or ideas. People do not possess knowledge from birth, but they collect it during their lifetime. Whether a person is more skilled in street smarts or academic intelligence depends on the conditions in which he or she has grown up. Academic smarts and street smarts have many similarities and differences. Street smarts help people survive while academic intelligence results in good grades. These two are definitely necessary, and they are interchangeable in real life.

Concerning analytically intelligent (or book smart) people, their intelligence is employed to judge, analyze, and evaluate information. Book smart is merely an intelligent and well-educated person who performs well academically. However, such a person manages situations (especially severe or stressful ones) from an intellectual position, utilizing facts, information obtained mainly from books. In other words, it is a traditional school type of learning when a teacher shares information and students learn it and follow all the rules. Academically intelligent people excel in classes, exams, and know all the theories no matter whether they are valuable or useless in life. They believe that value lies in possessing information and reading books so they like everything that has the right answers.

In practice, academically intelligent people are pretty good at repeating particular information, but when they have to answer questions about real-world issues they cannot think of anything to say. However, personal opinion is appreciated more than a simple retelling of impractical facts. All people can be academically intelligent in school, college, or university but this does not mean that a person with a degree will possess common sense. Constant reliance on theoretical knowledge can lead to disastrous consequences. The ability to do math can help one pass the test, but this ability becomes unnecessary when it comes to the point when a person needs to get out of a dangerous situation. It is a myth that people need to succeed in school to earn a considerable amount of money. Neither Steve Jobs nor Mark Zuckerberg studied in college, and yet they became billionaires.

Concerning practical intelligence (or street smart), it is learning through experience from real life. A person learns everything from his or her personal experience, and this cannot be taught during classes. Regarding advantages, being street smart means that a person with this intelligence type can read people and knows when someone intends to take advantage of him or her. Moreover, street smarts know how to interact with different types of people in particular with unsavory characters. They know how to reduce tension and stressful atmosphere in a lousy situation.

Many people who never went to college started numerous thriving corporations. Some examples of such influential personalities are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who quit college and became very prosperous in their careers. Their success came from a personal ambition rather than from knowledge obtained at college. The street smarts will never rely on books to teach them how problems are handled and how things work. They are strongly prejudiced and have more practical knowledge of how to act in a particular situation. They are independent and do not always look for assistance from others. Frequently they have their own approach. They can go to a remote area without Google tools and arrive at the destination place in time; they can tell a person’s character only by handshaking and keep their facial expression motionless when going past beggars. 

Street smart people rely more on intuition to plan their next steps. According to them, their life experience is their primary source of knowledge. They never attach themselves to what is written in the book.

The main difference between these two groups is in the sources of their knowledge. Book smart people receive their knowledge from theories and books, and street smart people obtain it from their own experience. Unfortunately, those who are academically inclined often lack strategy, genuine affection, and appeal.

Smart vs Intelligent

Overall, it would be a mistake to claim that book smarts or street smarts are not good. Both types of intelligence are equally significant and complementary to one another. Street smarts deal well with real-life situations while academic intelligence is essential at least for acquiring a job and breadth of knowledge. It is best to cultivate these both types.

Anton Kurapov

Anton Kurapov

PhD, a professor assistant at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Fascinated by the role of psychology in lives of people and simply astonished by the complexity of the brain and its functions.

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