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UTSC student competes to be Canada’s Smartest Person

Alisia Bonnick was a contender last weekend on CBC's Canada's Smartest Person. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Canada’s Smartest Person is a lofty title to aspire to, but UTSC student Alisia Bonnick took a pretty good shot.

Bonnick says she treated her appearance on the CBC show Sunday as a new life experience. “I just wanted to have a good time,” says the fourth-year psychology student and teaching assistant. “I like experiencing different things, and at some point down the road, I’ll be able to say I did this.”

Bonnick’s episode, which aired on Sunday, is part of the nine-week show that tests 32 contestants to see which one is Canada’s smartest, using the concept of multiple intelligences as the determinant. The theory, developed by the Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner, posited there is more than one form of intelligence, and people possess them in various combinations.

The winner of the competition will be the one that demonstrates the best combination of six types of intelligence: musical, physical, social, logical, visual and linguistic. Each quartet of contestants is given tests in these areas and they are graded on the results, with the winner moving on to the final.

“They want to change our notion of intelligence,” says Bonnick, who, as a published novelist, is certainly comfortable with linguistic intelligence. “We were given tasks that we had to figure out in the moment, and there was no way of knowing what we would be up against.”

She was matched with a firefighter from Mississauga, a stay-at-home mother from Vancouver and a retail salesman from Prince Edward Island. Initially, she was nervous, but she became accustomed to the pressure.

“Getting to know all the people I was working with, including the make-up artists and the wranglers, made it less nerve-wracking than I thought it would be,” she said.

Bonnick’s nerves didn’t show during the on-camera competition. She won a coin-counting challenge and double intelligence test to earn one of two spots in the final challenge, where she was narrowly defeated by the firefighter.

“It was a great experience,” says Bonnick. “My focus is still on school, so knowing that I would be going back there afterward kept me grounded.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough