Now that we’ve introduced the brain in our previous post, let’s talk about intelligence or, more specifically, what makes you intelligent. In fact, the scientific community has been debating its meaning for a long time and there is still controversy over its exact definition and the ways to measure it.
The “IQ” test was once regarded as the best way to measure intelligence. However, there is now a general awareness of its shortcomings, namely, that it only tests specific branches of intelligence (see opposite). The important thing to bear in mind is that being intelligent is not only about excelling in a narrow academic field, or having a broad general knowledge, or even being good at spelling or math. All those things require a degree of intelligence but do not define intelligence. Rather, intelligence reflects a broader and deeper aptitude for understanding multiple things in one’s surroundings, for catching on, making sense of things, or figuring out what to do in any given circumstance. It’s about possessing the ability to analyze and evaluate, to imagine and invent, and, in practical terms, being able to apply and implement ideas successfully.
Strands of intelligence
There are innumerable strands of intelligence, such as the capacities to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas, use language, and learn. People’s intelligence may also be characterized by their ability to adapt to a new environment, or their ability to form healthy relationships, or their capacity for original and productive thought. Furthermore, one could point out more specific strands of intelligence. For example, a person who excels in a specific sport is demonstrating a high level of kinesthetic intelligence, whereas a person who can manipulate melody and rhythm has high musical intelligence. In that respect, both Johann Sebastian Bach and David Beckham could be regarded as highly intelligent people in their respective fields.
The IQ test
IQ is the acronym for intelligence quotient, and refers to a score given for several standardized intelligence tests. French psychologist Alfred Binet developed the first of these in 1905. He constructed the IQ test, as it would later be called, to determine which children might need additional help in scholarly pursuits. The modern-day IQ test is primarily based on three intelligences: verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and visual-spatial reasoning. The system scores you on your understanding of everyday words, simple arithmetical concepts, and the ability to recognize shapes and interpret representational pictures.
Brain training and intelligence
According to research carried out by the University of Michigan, a good brain-training program can improve working memory and boost general problem-solving ability, which can raise general intelligence. In the study, after recording the subjects’ mental agility in a variety of cognitive tests, the researchers gave the subjects a series of brain-training exercises. This mental workout was given to four groups, who repeated the exercises for 8, 12, 17, or 19 days. After the training the researchers retested the subjects’ intelligence. Although the performance of the untrained group improved marginally, the trained subjects showed a significant improvement, which increased with the amount of time spent training. This suggests that a good brain-training program is an effective way to boost intelligence.