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Sam’s intelligence is more of a literal emotional intelligence than a logical/mathematical intelligence. Sam can to an extent sense the emotional feelings/capacity of those around him, especially his daughter Lucy, but has a hard time understanding figures of speech like similes, metaphors, etc. that require more abstract thinking. When it comes to “factual knowledge”, Sam does have the ability to retain specific bits of information like what people ordered when he worked at Starbucks and later Pizza Hut. Sam also has an infatuation with The Beatles and posses all sorts of tidbits of information regarding them. None of it particularly useful information, but information that he deems important nonetheless. Through interacting with Sam, people may get a perception that he definitely possess certain intellectual capabilities and is not fully deficient, but if he were to take a traditional intelligence test, he would most likely receive a low score due to his trouble with logical, mathematical, verbal, and abstract skills/abilities. The only real intelligence area that Sam exceeds in is emotional intelligence.
Sam’s interpersonal and emotional intelligence is characterized by extreme empathy and concern for others. Although Sam is a literal thinker and has trouble grasping abstract concepts such as figures of speech; causing him to come across as rude sometimes to “normal” people, he has a tremendous empathetic relationship with those around him. His daughter Lucy is obviously the light of his life and he gets great joy out of being around her. Another specific example is when Sam is talking with his lawyer Rita towards the end of the movie and Rita is telling Sam how she is far from perfect and begins crying. Sam hugs and kisses her in order to comfort and reassure her. This may seem excessive or an over breach of acceptable friendly behavior, but for Sam it’s normal. Sam also tells Rita to leave her husband, as he is fully aware that he is making Rita unhappy. At his job, Sam relates to people by constantly telling them their order was “an excellent choice” and going out of his way to accommodate for people’s needs. These are all indicators of Sam’s emotional intelligence.
Rita possess great amounts of logical-mathematical intelligence and general “booksmarts”. It’s safe to say she has an above average IQ given her occupation as a successful lawyer and ability to maintain multiple cases/clients at once. Despite her superb intellectual and verbal abilities compared to Sam, who has the mental age of a 7 year old, Rita struggles in the capacity of emotional intelligence. Living the busy life of a lawyer has lead her to neglect her family life, especially her young son. Whereas Sam displays deep care and concern for Lucy no matter how busy he is, Rita, through getting caught up in her work has seemingly abandoned her son at home and prompted her husband to leave and pursue other women. This is a great source of unhappiness for Rita.
Although Sam is, medically speaking, mentally retarded and only posses the mental capabilities of a 7 year old, he is still able to care for and “nurture” Lucy. Lucy may not receive the same level of intellectual stimulation in her home life that other kids receive, but through the intense love and care she receives from her father, she is able to flourish well in school. One example is when Lucy produced an insect project to bring to school and present before her fellow classmates and parents. Whereas other parents criticized and were disappointed in their child’s performance, Sam encouraged Lucy and didn’t demean her for her mistakes. This overall environment of love and care that Lucy was raised in contributed greatly to her developing as a well rounded individual. Obviously as time went on and she developed even greater intellectually than her father, Lucy would have been tasked with the burden of caring more and more for her father, which could cause significant tension and most likely stunt Lucy’s success in the outside world, as she would spend most of her time caring for her disabled father. Given the fact that Lucy was born without any disability or genetic hinderance, most of her personality is due to the environment or “nurture” she received from her father.
In the movie, Sam and his group of friends, many of whom also possessed some level of disability were very literal thinkers. They had trouble or flat out couldn’t grasp abstract concepts or a more fluid way of thinking. One such example is when Lucy wants to go and try a new restaurant to eat. Sam remains adamant that “But Wednesday is iHop day.” He and his friends are firmly entrenched in a routine, as with Video Night, and simply can’t grasp the concept of “trying something new”. It’s not that they are strictly opposed to the new proposed idea, they just don’t like deviating from an established routine. Another example of literal thinking is when Sam is in a restaurant filling out a crossword puzzle and is approached by a prostitute who fakes interest in him. Sam is unable to detect the hidden agenda of her hoping Sam will pay her and accepts her interest as genuine and continues to interact with her. This leads to his arrest (which he never fully understands) for solicitation of prostitution.
Lucy and Sam share a very tight bond and spend as much time together as possible. It would be accurate to say that most of Sam’s life revolves around Lucy. Rita and her son on the other hand are less linked. Rita is busy with her lawyer work and has little time to spend with her son. Due to this perceived neglect, Rita’s son has coming to “hate” her as she claims. This has much to do with the fact that Rita possess high levels of logical intelligence as opposed to emotional intelligence, whereas Sam is the opposite. I personally don’t believe socio-economic status has much to do with difference in parenting styles and more to do with inborn intelligence and emotional abilities, much of which is biological. The different distribution of intelligence in Rita and Sam contributes to the way they live their lives and thus parent their children.
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