When you think of someone with a high IQ, do you associate intelligence with their genetics or their development within a specific environment? Although it is generally believed that your IQ is something which you’re born with and that it cannot be changed, we now know otherwise.
Intelligence is loosely defined as your ability to learn rapidly and adapt to changing situations. In order to test intelligence, IQ tests are administered – measuring variables such as problem-solving skills, ability to reason, and vocabulary.
IQ: Nature vs Nurture
There are many instances regarding both intelligence and behaviour, which focus on the ol’ classic debate – is it your genetics that influence who you are, or are you a product of your social environment? While focusing on IQ, it’s been reported that both your genetics and environment play a role.
In terms of your genetics, it has been widely accepted that intelligence can be passed down from one individual to another. The degree genetics play has been widely studied, focusing on its heritability. For example, eye colour has a high heritability, meaning that it is highly influenced by genetics; while an anxiety disorder is generally considered to have low heritability, meaning it is more heavily influenced by the environment.
Based on multiple studies, it’s been reported that IQ has a fairly high heritability. It’s believed that 75 percent of human intelligence is based on genetics, while the remaining 25 percent is based on environmental factors. What is interesting, is that a baby’s intelligence is not fully developed at birth. Over the years, especially during elementary school, their level of intelligence changes and evolves.
If you’re a parent, it’s important to understand that you will be the greatest influence on your child’s intellectual development – up until the age of around eight or nine. You can actually improve your child’s IQ by:
- Stimulating their mind, through activities such as readings, mathematics, and music
- Exposing them to diverse situations outside of the home
- Providing optimal nutrition
- Focusing on your own level of education
- Spending as much quality time together as possible
If this is the case for children, can adults also improve their IQ? As a career-driven thirty-something year old, can you boost your intelligence as well?
What the Research Has to Say
Research has come a long way and it has now been proven that you can improve your IQ. In one study, published in the Psychology and Aging Journal, 250 adults were followed over the course of six years. It was found that individuals who were in jobs that included problem solving and complex relationships, performed better on cognitive tests over time.
This is highly interesting, as it shows that fluid intelligence can actually be improved. When administering IQ tests, two types of intelligence are measured – fluid and crystallized. Fluid intelligence is the ability to connect concepts in order to problem solve and it was once believed that it was fixed at birth. Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, is based on your past experience and knowledge in order to solve problems, utilizing your long-term memory.
Based on research conducted at the University of Michigan, it was found that fluid intelligence can be improved through memory-based training. In comparison to crystallized intelligence which relies on long-term memory, fluid intelligence is based on your working memory. Within this study, the longer participants trained, the greater their intellectual gains.
How Much Can Your IQ Be Improved Upon?
There’s a website, known as Raise Your IQ, which has gotten a lot of publicity over the past couple of years. This site focuses on brain-training through their SMART program – Strengthening Mental Abilities with Relational Training, which is said to raise IQ by an average of 23 points.
That is a major leap, considering average intelligence lies between IQ scores of 85 and 115. Once you reach 145-159, you are considered to be a genius. Although there’s most certainly evidence that backs this program up, many are critical of these radical claims.
It’s been well established that your IQ can be improved upon, but how much by? Once again, this will more than likely differ based on genetics. Remember, it’s believed that there are a number of genes which can be influenced by environmental stimuli, in order to determine intelligence.
It is more than likely that there’s a limit in terms of IQ, based on the way in which our current brains and bodies are designed. Also, the amount to which you can increase your IQ, is highly influenced by age. As mentioned, intelligence in childhood and adolescence is highly vulnerable to change. This is believed to be influenced by structural and functional changes within the brain, leading to more dramatic shifts in IQ than the adult population.
How You Can Improve Your IQ
When it comes to crystallized intelligence, there’s no other way to improve it than by working towards a higher intellect. That means, taking classes and reading books and enhancing the amount of raw data in your memory. If you want to improve your fluid intelligence, on the other hand, a Scientific American article written by Andrea Kuszewski, can provide you with some insight.
Andrea is a Behavioural Therapist, working with children who suffer from autism. She became interested in the shaping of minds, offer the following suggestions:
- Seek Novelty– When you become exposed to new activities and situations, you develop new connections. As connections increase, neural activity also improves. This is known as plasticity which reflects how much new information you can take in.
- Challenge Yourself– If you do not challenge yourself physically, you will never make progress in terms of building muscle mass or losing weight. The same is true for your brain – you need to challenge yourself. Once you master one activity, move onto another.
- Be a Creative Thinker– Although painting and writing are creative outlets, they do not solely demonstrate creative thinking. Being creative means that you make associations, generate ideas and think in a direction that isn’t you. For those who are sculptors, creative thinking may mean that they explore science or calculus. Learn to analyze and use your imagination.
- Avoid Shortcuts– We all do it, that moment you can’t remember the name of a song you like. Without really thinking about it, we have Google to spit out information. It’s important to do things the hard way once in a while, really forcing your brain to become active.
- Be Social– When you are with other people, you naturally expose yourself to new concepts and opportunities. It’s important to mingle and network, gaining varying perspectives and gaining insight.
In reality, it’s challenging to spike your IQ. If it was as easy as one, two, three - Einstein wouldn’t have been viewed as such a remarkable man. However, the point is that it is possible to improve your IQ. What was once believed to be impossible, is now being viewed as something that’s attainable. The human brain, especially in terms of cognitive functioning, is an area that is highly complex. As research continues, we’ll uncover more and more, better understanding this remarkable organ and what it is capable of.