Sometime in the early nineties my mother gave me a list of Arthur Costa’s twelve characteristics of intelligent behavior. This list actually had a lot of influence in my life as I stumbled upon the trajectory toward anthropology and linguistics. It taught me that I could actually organize observations and thoughts and cause them to not only make sense out of reality, but to blend the sense-making process with the process of describing reality.
I wanted to summarize Costa’s 1988 list here and to provide a link to a full article by Costa that explains the rationale behind each of the list items.
- Persistence, persevering when the solution to a problem is not immediately apparent
- Decreasing Impulsivity
- Listening to Others – with Empathy and Understanding
- Flexibility in Thinking
- Metacognition: Awareness of Our Own Thinking
- Checking for Accuracy and Precision
- Questioning and Problem Posing
- Drawing on Past Knowledge and Applying it to New Situations
- Precision of Language and Thought
- Using All the Senses
- Ingenuity, Originality, Insightfulness: Creativity
- Wonderment, inquisitiveness, curiosity, and the enjoyment of problem solving – a sense of efficacy as a thinker [Costa: 1988]
What strikes me as important in this list, is the correlation to the task of conducting both anthropological and linguistic fieldwork. Wherever one is a stranger this list equips with the basic attitude necessary to learn to fit it, or at least to be welcomed in to a community.
This list is also manifest in anyone doing any kind of systems science. All twelve of these skills make it possible for you to collect data, analyze it, and turn it into some kind of presentable report that describes the system. This three activity cycle: collect, analyze, present is what I feel is at the core of being any kind of productively observational person.
Since this original list was published in the 80’s, Costa has revised it under the label “Habits of Mind” and expanded it to include 16 habits. Since this revised list was not a part of my path to linguistics I chose instead to list the original. However, the revised list is great and can be found here.
Costa, Arthur, L. (1988). Teaching for Intelligence: recognizing and encouraging skillful thinking and behavior. (p.22) in Transforming Education (IC #8), Context Institute. Stable URL: http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC18/Costa.htm