Accession Number:



Your Smarts Aren't Like Mine: Understanding Intellect Across Cultures

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Research Note]

Corporate Author:

USMC Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Appreciating how intelligent behavior can be perceived so differently across cultures can help Marines recognize the values of a culture and enhance their ability to understand and effectively engage, work with, or train local nationals. Assessments of human intellect or smarts cannot be separated from their cultural context and understanding what is regarded as intelligent behavior within a particular culture can be a challenge for warfighters. Wrong assumptions may impede relationship development and mission fulfillment. When I was deployed in Iraq as a contracted operations research analyst 1, I learned of one such incorrect assumption about intelligence regarding the now-infamous contraband explosives detector, the ADE651. This device was a large black wand, whose vendor claimed could detect drugs and bombs, among other things, at a significant distance and was easily charged by creating an electro-magnetic relationship just by marching in place. What a boon for Iraqi police at checkpoints. The Americans I engaged were astounded that Iraq is could believe that this device worked as claimed, and some went to significant lengths to illustrate its ineffectiveness to their Iraqi counterparts. It made no difference the police kept using it. So did this mean the Iraqis were not smart Whether shocked, frustrated , or amused, the Americans tended to conclude that the Iraqi police who used the device were not too sharp. To me, however, this conclusion was a misleading assessment about the police because it failed to account for the cult ur al context of this behavior. Having witnessed Soviet-style leadership 2 in Iraq, it was much more likely to me that the organizational culture of the Iraqi Security Forces ISF was responsible for the loyalty to the apocryphal ADE651.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology
  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]