By Michael Araki

Polymathy traditionally means “wide-ranging knowledge”. However, Sriraman(2009) and Michael Araki Polymathy_ have proposed that polymathy can function as a trait. Based the idea that polymathic people distinguishably seek to develop breadth and depth of knowledge as well as novel and useful integrations arising from it, we developed the Trait Polymathy Questionnaire, a self-report instrument. In a preliminary study, we found the following relationships between trait polymathy dimensions and neurochemically-based temperament traits:

  1. General polymathy is positively associated with cortical temperament traits—plasticity(PL); probabilistic processing(PRO); and intellectual endurance(ERI)—as well as sensation seeking(SS) and self-satisfaction(SLF), and negatively associated with neuroticism(NEU).
  2. The depth dimension alone shows no association with SS, nor plasticity or SLF. Thus, polymathy requires more novelty-seeking, speed of mental integration and self-satisfaction than specialism.
  3. The breadth dimension alone shows no association with intellectual endurance and a stronger association with SS. Thus, an aspiring polymath without sustained attention will likely become a dilettante, not a polymath.
  4. The integrativity dimension shows a stronger negative relationship with neuroticism and and association with motor tempo(TMS), possibly indicative of stronger dopaminergic system.

Polymathy seems to originate from a unique set of traits working synergistically. Mainly cortical systems coupled with security about performance when faced with uncertainty.

Journal of Brief Ideas references

Attachment: Trait_Polymathy_and_the_Functional_Ensemble_of_Temperament_together.png (638 KB)


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Michael Araki



Published: 15 Nov, 2019

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