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You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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"One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts." —Albert Einstein

While Einstein was not a neuroscientist, he sure knew what he was talking about in regards to the human capacity to achieve. He knew intuitively what we can now show with data—what it takes to function at your cognitive best. In essence: What doesn’t kill you makes you smarter.

Not so many years ago, I was told by a professor of mine that you didn’t have much control over your intelligence. It was genetic—determined at birth. He explained that efforts made to raise the intelligence of children (through programs like Head Start, for example) had limited success while they were in practice, and furthermore, once the "training" stopped, they went right back to their previously low cognitive levels. Indeed, the data did show that [pdf], and he (along with many other intelligence researchers) concluded that intelligence could not be improved—at least not to create a lasting change.

Well, I disagreed.

You see, before that point in my studies, I had begun working as a Behavior Therapist, training young children on the autism spectrum. These kids had a range of cognitive disabilities—my job was to train them in any and all areas that were deficient, to get them as close to functioning at the same level of their peers as possible. Therapy utilized a variety of methods, or Multimodal Teaching (using as many modes of input as possible), in order to make this happen.

One of my first clients was a little boy w/ PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Delays-Not Otherwise Specified), a mild form of autism. When we began therapy, his IQ was tested and scored in the low 80s—which is considered borderline mental retardation. After I worked with him for about three years— one on one, teaching in areas such as communication, reading, math, social functioning, play skills, leisure activities—using multimodal techniques [pdf] —he was retested. His IQ score was well over 100 (with 100 considered "average", as compared to the general population). That’s a 20 point increase, more than one standard deviation improvement, by a child with an autism spectrum disorder!

He wasn’t the only child I saw make vast improvements in the years I’ve been a therapist, either. I’ve been fortunate enough to see many children grow by leaps and bounds—not by magic, and not even by taking medication, and there’s data to show proof of their gains. I thought—if these kids with severe learning impediments could make such amazing progress, with that progress carrying over into every aspect of their cognitive functioning—why can’t an average person make those kinds of gains as well? Or even more gains, considering they don’t have the additional challenge of an autism spectrum disorder?

Although the data from those early studies showed dismal results, I wasn’t discouraged. I still believed it was possible to significantly increase your cognitive functioning, given the proper training—since I had seen it with my own eyes through my work as a therapist.

Then in 2008, a very exciting study was published, Improving Fluid Intelligence with Training on Working Memory, by Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides, and Perrig. This study was pretty much a game-changer for those doing research on this topic. They showed for the first time, that it might actually be possible to increase your intelligence to a significant degree through training. What did they do different?

The subjects in Jaeggi’s study were trained on an intensive, multimodal (visual and auditory input) working memory task (the dual-n-back) [1] for variable lengths of time, for either one or two weeks, depending on the group. Following this training, they were tested to see how much they improved. As one would expect, after training, their scores on that task got better. But they went a step further. They wanted to see if those gains on the training task could transfer to an increase in skill on a completely different test of cognitive ability, which would indicate an increase in overall cognitive ability. What did they find?

Following training of working memory using the dual n-back test, the subjects were indeed able to transfer those gains to a significant improvement in their score on a completely unrelated cognitive task. This was a super-big deal.

Here’s the graph of their results, and you can read about the entire study here.

What is "Intelligence"?

First of all, let me explain what I mean when I say the word "intelligence". To be clear, I’m not just talking about increasing the volume of facts or bits of knowledge you can accumulate, or what is referred to as crystallized intelligence—this isn’t fluency or memorization training—it’s almost the opposite, actually. I’m talking about increasing your fluid intelligence, or your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill, and so on.

Now, while working memory is not synonymous with intelligence, working memory correlates with intelligence to a large degree. In order to generate successfully intelligent output, a good working memory is pretty important. So to make the most of your intelligence, improving your working memory will help this significantly—like using the very best and latest parts to help a machine to perform at its peak.

The take-home points from this research? This study is relevant because they discovered:

1. Fluid intelligence is trainable.

2. The training and subsequent gains are dose-dependent—meaning, the more you train, the more you gain.

3. Anyone can increase their cognitive ability, no matter what your starting point is.

4. The effect can be gained by training on tasks that don’t resemble the test questions.

How Can I Put This Research To Practical Use For My Own Benefit?

There is a reason why the dual n-back task was so successful at increasing cognitive ability. It involves dividing your attention between competing stimuli, multimodal in fashion (one visual, one auditory). It requires you to focus on specific details while ignoring irrelevant information, which helps to improve your working memory over time, gradually increasing your ability to multi-task the information effectively. In addition, the stimulus was constantly switched, so there was never a "training to the test questions" phenomenon—it was always different. If you’ve never taken the dual n-back test, let me tell you this: It’s wicked hard. I’m not surprised there was so much cognitive gain from practicing this activity.

But let’s think practically.

Eventually, you will run out of cards in the deck or sounds in the array (the experiment lasted 2 weeks), so it isn’t practical to think that if you want to continually increase your brain power over the course of your lifetime, that the dual n-back alone will do the trick. Also, you’ll get bored with it and stop doing it. I know I would. Not to mention the time it takes to train in this activity—we all have busy lives! So we need to think of how to simulate the same types of heavy-duty brain thrashing—using multimodal methods—that can be applied to your normal life, while still maintaining the maximum benefits, in order to get the cognitive growth.

So—taking all of this into account, I have come up with five primary elements involved in increasing your fluid intelligence, or cognitive ability. Like I said, it would be impractical to constantly practice the dual n-back task or variations thereof every day for the rest of your life to reap cognitive benefits. But it isn’t impractical to adopt lifestyle changes that will have the same—and even greater cognitive benefits. These can be implemented every day, to get you the benefits of intense entire-brain training, and should transfer to gains in overall cognitive functioning as well.

These five primary principles are:

1. Seek Novelty

2. Challenge Yourself

3. Think Creatively

4. Do Things The Hard Way

5. Network

Any one of these things by itself is great, but if you really want to function at your absolute cognitive best, you should do all five, and as often as possible. In fact, I live my life by these five principles. If you adopt these as fundamental guidelines, I guarantee you will be performing at your peak ability, surpassing even what you believe you are capable of—all without artificial enhancement. Best part: Science supports these principles by way of data!

1. Seek Novelty

It is no coincidence that geniuses like Einstein were skilled in multiple areas, or polymaths, as we like to refer to them. Geniuses are constantly seeking out novel activities, learning a new domain. It’s their personality.

There is only one trait out of the "Big Five" from the Five Factor Model of personality (Acronym: OCEAN, or Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) that correlates with IQ, and it is the trait of Openness to new experience. People who rate high on Openness are constantly seeking new information, new activities to engage in, new things to learn—new experiences in general [2].

When you seek novelty, several things are going on. First of all, you are creating new synaptic connections with every new activity you engage in. These connections build on each other, increasing your neural activity, creating more connections to build on other connections—learning is taking place.

An area of interest in recent research [pdf] is neural plasticity as a factor in individual differences in intelligence. Plasticity is referring to the number of connections made between neurons, how that affects subsequent connections, and how long-lasting those connections are. Basically, it means how much new information you are able to take in, and if you are able to retain it, making lasting changes to your brain. Constantly exposing yourself to new things helps puts your brain in a primed state for learning.

Novelty also triggers dopamine (I have mentioned this before in other posts), which not only kicks motivation into high gear, but it stimulates neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons—and prepares your brain for learning. All you need to do is feed the hunger.

Excellent learning condition = Novel Activity—>triggers dopamine—>creates a higher motivational state—>which fuels engagement and primes neurons—>neurogenesis can take place + increase in synaptic plasticity (increase in new neural connections, or learning).

As a follow-up of the Jaeggi study, researchers in Sweden [pdf] found that after 14 hours of training working memory over 5 weeks’ time, there was an increase of dopamine D1 binding potential in the prefrontal and parietal areas of the brain. This particular dopamine receptor, the D1 type, is associated with neural growth and development, among other things. This increase in plasticity, allowing greater binding of this receptor, is a very good thing for maximizing cognitive functioning.

Take home point: Be an "Einstein". Always look to new activities to engage your mind—expand your cognitive horizons. Learn an instrument. Take an art class. Go to a museum. Read about a new area of science. Be a knowledge junkie.

2. Challenge Yourself

There are absolutely oodles of terrible things written and promoted on how to "train your brain" to "get smarter". When I speak of "brain training games", I’m referring to the memorization and fluency-type games, intended to increase your speed of processing, etc, such as Sudoku, that they tell you to do in your "idle time" (complete oxymoron, regarding increasing cognition). I’m going to shatter some of that stuff you’ve previously heard about brain training games. Here goes: They don’t work. Individual brain training games don’t make you smarter—they make you more proficient at the brain training games.

Now, they do serve a purpose, but it is short-lived. The key to getting something out of those types of cognitive activities sort of relates to the first principle of seeking novelty. Once you master one of those cognitive activities in the brain-training game, you need to move on to the next challenging activity. Figure out how to play Sudoku? Great! Now move along to the next type of challenging game. There is research that supports this logic.

A few years ago, scientist Richard Haier wanted to see if you could increase your cognitive ability by intensely training on novel mental activities for a period of several weeks. They used the video game Tetris as the novel activity, and used people who had never played the game before as subjects (I know—can you believe they exist?!). What they found, was that after training for several weeks on the game Tetris, the subjects experienced an increase in cortical thickness, as well as an increase in cortical activity, as evidenced by the increase in how much glucose was used in that area of the brain. Basically, the brain used more energy during those training times, and bulked up in thickness—which means more neural connections, or new learned expertise—after this intense training. And they became experts at Tetris. Cool, right?

Here’s the thing: After that initial explosion of cognitive growth, they noticed a decline in both cortical thickness, as well as the amount of glucose used during that task. However, they remained just as good at Tetris; their skill did not decrease. The brain scans showed less brain activity during the game-playing, instead of more, as in the previous days. Why the drop? Their brains got more efficient. Once their brain figured out how to play Tetris, and got really good at it, it got lazy. It didn’t need to work as hard in order to play the game well, so the cognitive energy and the glucose went somewhere else instead.

Efficiency is not your friend when it comes to cognitive growth. In order to keep your brain making new connections and keeping them active, you need to keep moving on to another challenging activity as soon as you reach the point of mastery in the one you are engaging in. You want to be in a constant state of slight discomfort, struggling to barely achieve whatever it is you are trying to do, as Einstein alluded to in his quote. This keeps your brain on its toes, so to speak. We’ll come back to this point later on.

3. Think Creatively

When I say thinking creatively will help you achieve neural growth, I am not talking about painting a picture, or doing something artsy, like we discussed in the first principle, Seeking Novelty. When I speak of creative thinking, I am talking about creative cognition itself, and what that means as far as the process going on in your brain.

Contrary to popular belief, creative thinking does not equal "thinking with the right side of your brain". It involves recruitment from both halves of your brain, not just the right. Creative cognition involves divergent thinking (a wide range of topics/subjects), making remote associations between ideas, switching back and forth between conventional and unconventional thinking (cognitive flexibility), and generating original, novel ideas that are also appropriate to the activity you are doing. In order to do this well, you need both right and left hemispheres working in conjunction with each other.

Several years ago, Dr Robert Sternberg, former Dean at Tufts University, opened the PACE (Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise) Center, in Boston. Sternberg has been on a quest to not only understand the fundamental concept of intelligence, but also to find ways in which any one person can maximize his or her intelligence through training, and especially, through teaching in schools.

Here Sternberg describes the goals of the PACE Center, which was started at Yale:

"The basic idea of the center is that abilities are not fixed but rather flexible, that they’re modifiable, and that anyone can transform their abilities into competencies, and their competencies into expertise," Sternberg explains. "We’re especially interested in how we can help people essentially modify their abilities so that they can be better able to face the tasks and situations they’re going to confront in life."

As part of a research study, The Rainbow Project [pdf], he created not only innovative methods of creative teaching in the classroom, but generated assessment procedures that tested the students in ways that got them to think about the problems in creative and practical ways, as well as analytical, instead of just memorizing facts.

Sternberg explains,

"In the Rainbow Project we created assessments of creative and practical as well as analytical abilities. A creative test might be: ‘Here’s a cartoon. Caption it.’ A practical problem might be a movie of a student going into a party, looking around, not knowing anyone, and obviously feeling uncomfortable. What should the student do?"

He wanted to find out if by teaching students to think creatively (and practically) about a problem, as well as for memory, he could get them to (i) Learn more about the topic, (ii) Have more fun learning, and (iii) Transfer that knowledge gained to other areas of academic performance. He wanted to see if by varying the teaching and assessment methods, he could prevent "teaching to the test" and get the students to actually learn more in general. He collected data on this, and boy, did he get great results.

In a nutshell? On average, the students in the test group (the ones taught using creative methods) received higher final grades in the college course than the control group (taught with traditional methods and assessments). But—just to make things fair— he also gave the test group the very same analytical-type exam that the regular students got (a multiple choice test), and they scored higher on that test as well. That means they were able to transfer the knowledge they gained using creative, multimodal teaching methods, and score higher on a completely different cognitive test of achievement on that same material. Sound familiar?

4. Do Things the Hard Way

I mentioned earlier that efficiency is not your friend if you are trying to increase your intelligence. Unfortunately, many things in life are centered on trying to make everything more efficient. This is so we can do more things, in a shorter amount of time, expending the least amount of physical and mental energy possible. However, this isn’t doing your brain any favors.

Take one object of modern convenience, GPS. GPS is an amazing invention. I am one of those people GPS was invented for. My sense of direction is terrible. I get lost all the time. So when GPS came along, I was thanking my lucky stars. But you know what? After using GPS for a short time, I found that my sense of direction was worse. If I failed to have it with me, I was even more lost than before. So when I moved to Boston—the city that horror movies and nightmares about getting lost are modeled after—I stopped using GPS.

I won’t lie—it was painful as hell. I had a new job which involved traveling all over the burbs of Boston, and I got lost every single day for at least 4 weeks. I got lost so much, I thought I was going to lose my job due to chronic lateness (I even got written up for it). But—in time, I started learning my way around, due to the sheer amount of practice I was getting at navigation using only my brain and a map. I began to actually get a sense of where things in Boston were, using logic and memory, not GPS. I can still remember how proud I was the day a friend was in town visiting, and I was able to effectively find his hotel downtown with only a name and a location description to go on—not even an address. It was like I had graduated from navigational awareness school.

Technology does a lot to make things in life easier, faster, more efficient, but sometimes our cognitive skills can suffer as a result of these shortcuts, and hurt us in the long run. Now, before everyone starts screaming and emailing my transhumanist friends to say that I’ve sinned by trashing tech—that’s not what I’m doing.

Look at it this way: Driving to work takes less physical energy, saves time, and it’s probably more convenient and pleasant than walking. Not a big deal. But if you drove everywhere you went, or spent your life on a Segway, even to go very short distances, you aren’t going to be expending any physical energy. Over time, your muscles will atrophy, your physical state will weaken, and you’ll probably gain weight. Your overall health will probably decline as a result.

Your brain needs exercise as well. If you stop using your problem-solving skills, your spatial skills, your logical skills, your cognitive skills—how do you expect your brain to stay in top shape—never mind improve? Think about modern conveniences that are helpful, but when relied on too much, can hurt your skill in that domain. Translation software: amazing, but my multilingual skills have declined since I started using it more. I’ve now forced myself to struggle through translations before I look up the correct format. Same goes for spell-check and autocorrect. In fact, I think autocorrect was one of the worst things ever invented for the advancement of cognition. You know the computer will catch your mistakes, so you plug along, not even thinking about how to spell any more. As a result of years of relying on autocorrect and spell-check, as a nation, are we worse spellers? (I would love someone to do a study on this.)

There are times when using technology is warranted and necessary. But there are times when it’s better to say no to shortcuts and use your brain, as long as you can afford the luxury of time and energy. Walking to work every so often or taking the stairs instead of the elevator a few times a week is recommended to stay in good physical shape. Don’t you want your brain to be fit as well? Lay off the GPS once in a while, and do your spatial and problem-solving skills a favor. Keep it handy, but try navigating naked first. Your brain will thank you.

5. Network

And that brings us to the last element to maximize your cognitive potential: Networking. What’s great about this last objective is that if you are doing the other four things, you are probably already doing this as well. If not, start. Immediately.

By networking with other people—either through social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or in face-to-face interactions—you are exposing yourself to the kinds of situations that are going to make objectives 1-4 much easier to achieve. By exposing yourself to new people, ideas, and environments, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities for cognitive growth. Being in the presence of other people who may be outside of your immediate field gives you opportunities to see problems from a new perspective, or offer insight in ways that you had never thought of before. Learning is all about exposing yourself to new things and taking in that information in ways that are meaningful and unique—networking with other people is a great way to make that happen. I’m not even going to get into the social benefits and emotional well-being that is derived from networking as a factor here, but that is just an added perk.

Steven Johnson, author who wrote the book "Where Good Ideas Come From", discusses the importance of groups and networks for the advancement of ideas. If you are looking for ways to seek out novel situations, ideas, environments, and perspectives, then networking is the answer. It would be pretty tough to implement this "Get Smarter" regiment without making networking a primary component. Greatest thing about networking: Everyone involved benefits. Collective intelligence for the win!

And I have one more thing to mention…

Remember back to the beginning of this article where I told the story about my clients with autism spectrum disorders? Let’s think about that for a moment, in light of everything else we discussed about how to increase your fluid intelligence. Why were those children able to achieve at such a high level? It was not by chance or miracle—it was because we incorporated all of these learning principles into their therapy program. While most other therapy providers were stuck in the "Errorless Learning" paradigm and barely-modified "Lovaas Techniques" of Applied Behavior Analysis, we adopted and fully embraced a multimodal approach to teaching. We made the kids struggle to learn, we used the most creative ways we could think of, and we challenged them beyond what they seemed capable of—we set the bar very high. But you know what? They surpassed that bar time and time again, and made me truly believe that amazing things are possible if you have enough will and courage and perseverance to set yourself on that path and stick with it. If those kids with disabilities can live this lifestyle of constantly maximizing their cognitive potential, then so can you.

And I have a departing question for you to ponder as well: If we have all of this supporting data, showing that these teaching methods and ways of approaching learning can have such a profound positive effect on cognitive growth, why aren’t more therapy programs or school systems adopting some of these techniques? I’d love to see this as the standard in teaching, not the exception. Let’s try something novel and shake up the education system a little bit, shall we? We’d raise the collective IQ something fierce.

Intelligence isn’t just about how many levels of math courses you’ve taken, how fast you can solve an algorithm, or how many vocabulary words you know that are over 6 characters. It’s about being able to approach a new problem, recognize its important components, and solve it—then take that knowledge gained and put it towards solving the next, more complex problem. It’s about innovation and imagination, and about being able to put that to use to make the world a better place. This is the kind of intelligence that is valuable, and this is the type of intelligence we should be striving for and encouraging.

This article is adapted from a presentation I gave at the Humanity + Summit at Harvard University in June 2010.

[1.] The dual n-back test, while lumped into the "brain training" genre, is not your typical brain training game. It is specific and complicated, uses multiple modes of stimuli, and not the type I’m referring to when I say "brain training games".

[2.] "Openness" or novelty-seeking is not the same as thrill-seeking behavior. The motivation for the former is driven by dopamine, and associated with curiosity—the latter by adrenaline, and typically associated with more dangerous activities.

Works Cited:

Garlick, D. (2002). Understanding the Nature of the General Factor of Intelligence: The Role of Individual Differences in Neural Plasticity as an Explanatory Mechanism. Psychological Review, 109, no.1 , 116-136.

Haier, R. E. (2007). The Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT) of Intelligence: Converging Neuroinaging Evidence. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 135-187.

Haier, R. J. (1993). Cerebral glucose metabolism and intelligence. In P. A. Vernon, Biological approaches to the study of human intelligence (pp. 317-373). Norwood, N. J.: Ablex.

Susanne M. Jaeggi, M. B. (2008). Improving Fluid intelligence With Training on Working Memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801268105

Ramey, C. T. (1998). Early Intervention and Early Experience. American Psychologist, 109-120.

Sternberg, R. (2008). Increasing Fluid Intelligence is Possible After All. PNAS, 105, no. 19 , 6791- 6792.

Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Implicit Theories of Intelligence, Creativity, and Wisdom. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49 , 607-627.

Sternberg, R. J. (1999). The Theory of Sucessful Intelligence. Review of General Psychology, 3 , 292-316.

Weinberg, R. (1989). Intelligence and IQ. American Psychologist, 98-104.

Image Credits: Andrea Kuszewski

About The Author: Andrea Kuszewski is a Behavior Therapist and Consultant for children on the autism spectrum, residing in Florida; her expertise is in Asperger’s Syndrome, or high-functioning autism. She teaches social skills, communication, and behavior intervention in home and community settings, training both children as well as parents on methods of therapy. Andrea works as a researcher with METODO Social Sciences Institute, the U.S. branch of METODO Transdisciplinary Research Group on Social Sciences, based in Bogotá, Colombia, investigating the neuro-cognitive factors behind human behavior- this includes topics such as creativity, intelligence, illegal behavior, and disorders on the divergent-convergent thinking spectrum of schizophrenia and autism. As well as being a researcher of creativity, she is also herself a fine artist and has been trained in various visual communication medium, ranging from traditional drawing to digital painting, graphic design, and 3D modeling and animation for the medical and behavioral sciences. She blogs at The Rogue Neuron and tweets as @AndreaKuszewski.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Comments 83 Comments

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  1. 1. RossiSpeaks 1:12 pm 03/7/2011

    Wonderful, how can we move the NEA in this direction when it comes to teaching our children. My opinion is they are still using methods of the 1900′s.

    For the past 30 plus years I’ve applied the process of 5 sensing to teaching adults. Since this is the root basis of communication ‘they’ get it immediately. I call this process "Speed Learning" and the results have been excellent, especially in personal/business strategic planning.
    I applaud and your work and this blog. May I repost it on my blog?
    Keep Smiling
    Click FUN then Blog.

    Link to this
  2. 2. neuroguy 3:53 pm 03/7/2011

    More at

    Link to this
  3. 3. wolfkiss 4:20 pm 03/7/2011

    I enjoyed this article. The point about creativity NOT being about maximizing efficiency is especially poignant. This goes for Negative entropy as well. In other words, simply reducing the entropy of a system does not make it a living system, let alone creative. Many inert processes, like star formation under self-gravity, are examples of entropy reduction (assuming a closed system, of course).

    Creativity, cognition, and life are processes that balance order and disorder in a cycle of both increased complexity AND relevance to the open system. Both over and under-coherence (zero entropy and pure noise) are not sustainable states for cognition.

    It was great to hear this from a fresh and practical perspective.


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  4. 4. Wayne Williamson 5:59 pm 03/7/2011

    Parts of this I agree with and other parts I do not…I question the efficiency statement…becoming efficient at something allows you to devote more time to other activities…It also allows you time to continuously tweak them(improve their efficiency)

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  5. 5. scribblerlarry 8:31 pm 03/7/2011

    I was very skeptical when I began reading this essay. As I progressed I was able to relate to more and more of what you have written, from a personal point of view.

    Now I have a question or two.
    1- From what you say, it appears that the increase in "intelligence" could continue indefinitely with proper stimulation of the type mentioned; do you think that this is this so?

    2- If intelligence cannot be continuously increased with the proper stimulation, how do you know whether you have "increased" anyone’s intelligence or simply found a method of accessing an already existent, though perhaps latent rather than active, fixed intelligence that did not appear on tests?

    Please do not take my questions as criticism. I applaud your work and have great interest in its eventual outcome.

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  6. 6. wolfkiss 2:02 am 03/8/2011

    Actually, the time it takes to become more efficient at a distinct task or recalling a specific area of knowledge is at the expense of learning other tasks and wider expanses of knowledge. At a certain point, each incremental gain in efficiency at a given skill requires proportionally more increments of effort. It is not a linear relation. Sure, you could continuously tweak a skill, but that effort is at the expense of other possible efforts. It’s a trade off.

    Her point is about creativity; which, not only requires a broad knowledge of patterns in the world, but also the higher-order skill of comparing and contrasting these skills/knowledge. She further argues that there is a value-added in acquiring these higher-order integrative skills. This extra value is the increased capacity the creative individual is able to more efficiently acquire new knowledge that their more efficient-focused cohorts could at the same task.

    The world is about events *and* their inter-relations. Facts, objects, and their attributes are just part of the picture. Becoming more knowledgeable about some facts is not only at the expense of knowing other facts, it also limits the understanding of how they relate. This skill requires more than maximizing efficiency. It requires the sometimes disordered space to make a mistake and experiment to move beyond accepted norms and preconceptions.

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  7. 7. aaamiri 9:23 am 03/8/2011


    with mere knowing we can’t gain anything. We need to act upon knowledge and wisdom if we are going to progress in development of ourselves and benefiting others. We need to give what we love and cherish. We need to give to others and take new things instead. Without giving away we cannot look for new things.

    Thanks, i like this article!

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  8. 8. rogersgeorge 1:13 pm 03/8/2011

    Thank you for the excellent guest blog. I intend to forward it to several people in my family, and I made a poster of your five principles and subscribed to your blog.

    (ahem)Being a tech writer, I can’t resist: I found two typos you might want to fix (–And quit relying on that spell checker!). In the last paragraph of your last point you have "regiment." It should be "regimen." In your bio, you have "…various visual communication medium…" "various" is a plural, so you want "media." It’s this way in the bio on your blog, too.

    Thanks again for an excellent, thought-provoking article.

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  9. 9. Driain 1:32 pm 03/8/2011

    "Good grief," as one C. Brown , well known on your side of the Atlantic, might remark, "what a load of platitudinous drivel!" "Therapists" are always successful in their own terms, as are clairvoyants, mediums, astrologers, and every one else that wishes to empty our pockets. Adults can look after themselves, but it’s vital to keep people like this away from our children.

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  10. 10. wolfkiss 2:39 pm 03/8/2011

    You missed the point, Driain. We need to move away from teaching to the test. We need to teach problem solving and critical thinking skills. Her suggestions are in favor of this overall strategy.

    So, regardless of your beef with therapists, there are good and bad curricula. Someone needs to step back and see how we can teach our kids and ourselves more effectively. She is not arguing that therapists see every kid. She’s suggesting different, and relevant, approaches to an education system that is currently more focused on making robots, not citizens.

    Link to this
  11. 11. skybluskyblue 3:00 pm 03/8/2011

    I call "poe".

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  12. 12. AndiKuszewski 3:09 pm 03/8/2011

    I wanted to say that I just noticed all the great comments and will be responding to them as soon as I (hopefully!)meet this deadline on a project I’m wrapping up tonight.

    Except to Driain; I don’t respond with thoughtful responses to people who don’t make an effort to deliver a content-specific, respectful comment. Sorry if that disappoints you. However, if Driain would like to offer a detailed and specific comment referring to a scientific component of the research that seems particularly offensive or incorrect–delivered in a respectable format–I would be more than happy to respond to it. In absence of that, I have nothing to say to him/her that strays off-topic.

    I’ll be back soon… thanks for all the comments!

    Link to this
  13. 13. dubina 4:58 pm 03/9/2011

    Andi K,

    Good job.

    I recommend Chunking models of expertise: Implications for education, by Fernand Gobet (2005). Gobet and his associates have written numerous papers on matters of learning and expertise. You will find additional evidence for your ideas in his work and some ideas you may have missed.

    Link to this
  14. 14. rjs9759 7:35 pm 03/9/2011

    Sounds like law school and law practice. Law schools train students to “think like a lawyer” which is really nothing other than clear, analytical rule based thinking. It is taught using the case method in which the “rules” are, to an extent, inferred from the facts and judgments in many differing cases. A lawyer does not have to know very much, but instead learns to figure out what questions to ask about any fact set, how to identify the applicable law, and how to creatively argue whichever side of the case the client is on. This is all done in the face of a highly trained and merciless adversary, on behalf of highly motivated and demanding clients. Practicing law involves dealing with new situations and new people all the time. In addition, legal analysis is usually indirect, subtle or at variance with “common sense”. In other words, it is “the hard way” to solve puzzles. In summary, learning and practicing law touch all the bases: novelty, challenge, creative thinking, doing it the hard way and networking. In my experience, the system works. Years ago, with three years of law school study and 20 years of law practice under my belt, I felt that my intelligence had grown significantly. This may sound like arrogant “master of the universe” talk, but it’s no different from a runner whose times improve based on years of training or a body-builder who adds 20 pounds of muscle through long term weight lifting. They can feel the difference in their bodies, just as I felt the difference in my intelligence.

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  15. 15. hoamingin 12:08 am 03/10/2011

    I spent years accumulating information about the operations of the brain to develop ideas for a book about things from the evolutionary past that humans have brought into modern complex societies. Somehow, I missed this particular aspect, though some of the other angles fit in well with points raised in the article. Research in the Centre for the Mind in Australia indicated that autistics have difficulty tying data together to form concepts. That suggests that normal brain functions are to learn how to deal with situations by preconnecting data as scenarios to produce an automatic response when similar situations arise. Lacking scenarios to deal with situations, autistics have to work things out in short term memory repeatedly, and the small capacity of STM identified by cognitive scientists tell us that the brain did not evolve to do that. The large long term memory evolved to hold a large range of scenarios that give humans a large range of behaviours precisely relevant to specific situations.

    Some autistics are able to find a way of connecting data to achieve what researchers described as islands of astonishing excellence in specific skills. They attributed this to the autistics establishing access to "raw data", without inhibition from other connections. That is consistent with children losing some abilities that they do not exercise as they learn other abilities. Connecting data makes it less available for other connections. That was confirmed by testing normal brain functions while inhibiting connections in the frontal lobe with external magnetic pulses, producing levels of excellence similar to that achieved by some autistics.

    These and other data led me to the conclusion that the brain did not evolve to think, but to learn by observing (for 6my it evolved in pre-verbal ancestors) to recognise a situation and the appropriate response, which was automatic and expert, consistent with reduced brain activity in this report as functions become familiar and automatic. More detail on:

    Humans in the modern world use the brain in ways it did not evolve to be used, evidenced by the lack of innovation through millions of years as humans evolved the large brain, followed by high levels of innovation after humans switched from hunting and gathering to farming and urban lifestyles.

    The ideas in this article challenge beliefs of some people that widening economic and social divisions reflect innately superior intellectual capabilities.

    Link to this
  16. 16. MarkHarrigan 12:19 am 03/10/2011

    I thought this was a wonderful article, even if just for it’s positive approach – let alone it’s well argued and supported(at least it seemed to me) prescription for improving learning, teaching and cognition.

    There is far too much of "teaching to the text" and "teaching to the test" – although I know the better teachers go beyond that. There will always, and should always be, a need for rote learning and practice/practice/practice to achieve some level of mastery – but given the evidence that more diverse approaches can actually improve cognitive abilities across a range of tasks – which can only benefit us all – there sould be more curricular focus on this.

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  17. 17. mnphysicist 12:38 am 03/10/2011

    I think there are two societal problems at the heart of why not.

    First, many people see rote low level learning as the best. Its what they experienced, and anything different, no matter how well supported is considered too risky. Add in that assessment tools would have to improve multifold, and resistance will likewise be high.

    Second, society values the least common denominator and/or the easy way over mastery. Upending such a value set is too cognitively dissonant for many on both sides of the equation.

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  18. 18. markvp 4:33 am 03/10/2011

    How reliable is the research on the dual n-back test? Wikpedia says the first study was definitely not: but is not very clear about how reliable the replication of the study was.

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  19. 19. wolfkiss 1:13 pm 03/10/2011

    This Salman Khan TED talk is a game changer:

    Kids (and adults) can learn "facts" at their own pace and then school, teachers, and the internet forum is for integrating this knowledge into more integrated and applied human understanding.

    If you’re in education, or interested, this 20 min. video will expand the realm of what is considered possible.

    Link to this
  20. 20. dubina 3:18 pm 03/10/2011

    @rjs: Your law school education was good example of chunking/template theory: you learned by building situational templates that had constant cores and variable slots.

    @hoamingin: From Gobet, A Pattern-recognition Theory of Search in Expert Problem Solving:

    "A detailed account of chess thinking was later offered by Chase and Simon (1973). Their theory, known as the chunking theory (CT), proposed that at the core of expertise lies the ability to rapidly recognise important problem features. These features, internally stored as chunks, act as access points to semantic long-term memory (LTM) and as the conditions of productions, whose actions may be carried out internally or externally. This production-system account was linked to assumptions about information-processing mechanisms, describing, for example, how an object is sorted through a discrimination net in order to reach a node in LTM.

    @markvp: If Jaeggi’s training experiments were flawed, the idea of training transfer is still worthwhile.

    From: The CHREST Architecture of Cognition The Role of Perception in General Intelligence

    "Templates are essential for explaining how chess Masters can recall briefly presented positions relatively well, even with a presentation time as short as 1 or 2 seconds (Gobet and Simon, 2000). They are also important for explaining how chess masters carry out planning – that is search at a level higher than that of moves. Another important novelty is the creation of lateral links (similarity links, production links, equivalence links, and generative links) between nodes (see Gobet et al., 2001, for detail). It is important to point out that all these mechanisms are carried out automatically."

    From: Chunking models of expertise: implications for education

    "Under the assumption that schemata underpin much of the knowledge acquired in schools–a very common assumption in education research–the way schemata are created in CHREST suggests some important consequences for education: without variation, schemata cannot be created. For example, in the case of elementary mathematics, presenting a narrow range of problems will hamper the acquisition of a sufficient variety of chunks and links connecting them, and, consequently, schemata are not likely to be formed."

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  21. 21. bucketofsquid 5:50 pm 03/10/2011

    You clearly have no understanding of Autism at all or you wouldn’t have an issue with her blog. I have no idea of what you think should be done with or to autistic children but I doubt your opinion is based on knowledge.

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  22. 22. knowledgeinspired 6:14 pm 03/10/2011

    better to say that? impossible! Thanks for share this with us… i still hope we can change the education anywhere and built a better world for all! a challenge to achieve! :)

    Link to this
  23. 23. zstansfi 12:34 am 03/11/2011

    I was happy to see the brief discussion of fluid intelligence, but the second half didn’t do much for me. While it’s nice to see someone debunk the myth that all intelligence is innate, I wasn’t too impressed by the "strategy to improve intelligence" that you have synthesized, particularly seeing as it doesn’t seem to be backed by evidence. Certainly you can cite findings which support each component, but is there any research to show that such a program is effective? And, how does this strategy help me choose activities to participate in? In fact, I imagine that anyone who aims to seek out cognitively demanding activities in multiple facets of their lives will likely cover off most of the bases pretty well. Still, the main problem is that this made me feel as though I was reading a self-help book for aspiring geniuses.

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  24. 24. Nathan Eldred 10:02 am 03/12/2011

    This is one of the most insightful and balanced articles I’ve seen that discusses modern research into intelligence and brain plasticity.

    Link to this
  25. 25. Neezes 5:39 am 03/13/2011

    I thought this was a great blog post, very informative and thought provoking. My students really liked it. I commented in more detail on my blog: Many thanks.

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  26. 26. roddaut 2:18 am 03/18/2011

    I love this article because it shows us how to train our brains with the way we live our lives instead of with abstract exercises. BTW I actually used a free version of the dual n-back exercise. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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  27. 27. kvinayagamoorthy 6:30 am 03/21/2011

    >>>"Not so many years ago, I was told by a professor of mine that you didn’t have much control over your intelligence. It was genetic–determined at birth.".

    I agree that this wouldn’t be true. However, I think that the range in which a person’s intelligence lies is determined by genes. Probably environment determines where a person’s intelligence lies in that range at a given point in time.

    I do not have much qualms with the five principles on increasing cognitive potential. However, I always thought that we human beings are very good at developing whatever cognitive skills are required in our daily life.

    The one thing which, I think, is lacking in us is the act of reflection. We do not seem to know how exactly to reflect on ourselves, our actions and our situations to ponder better alternatives and choose the best. So I would think we should concentrate more on this compared to increasing our coginitive potential.

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  28. 28. mrbunnyban 3:05 am 04/1/2011

    Hi Andrea,
    My training is also from the field of special ed, and I actually share a lot of opinions with you concerning how general education can benefit from our findings in special ed. I’d like to clarify some issues though – have there be any other studies replicating the results of Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides, and Perrig’s study? (please put Jaeggi et al. in the citation list) Otherwise, while promising, I’d like to see some replication before making promises to parents of children as it to be going against a long history of failed attempts to increase success in an unrelated cognitive task.

    Also, I’m not sure if children with autism are the best example of gains in intelligence as many IQ tests are infamously unreliable for people with special needs (was it Raven’s?). Also, children with autism/Aspergers can SOMETIMES make extraordinary gains (*cough* recovery *cough*), but we don’t really see that extraordinary level of gains for children with other disabilities that affect cognitive abilities. (say, children with Down’s syndrome)

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  29. 29. jmekrut 1:05 am 04/15/2011

    AS a parent of a child with PDD/NOS I have tried to get her to do the dual n-back training. To no avail. Are you aware of any other similar cognitive training programs I might try? What do you think of CogMed for instance?
    Thank you for an excellent article!

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  30. 30. neurotechfuture 11:17 am 05/15/2011

    Andrea, wow! Awesome article! You’ve tied together so much research into one coherent piece which both is scientifically and philosophically fascinating and is applicable to me, as an individual.

    Your comment about GPS systems gave me a business/app idea. Imagine if you were using Google Maps (or your favorite GPS system) and it had a switch where you could turn on or off "Game Mode". If you turn "Game Mode" on, the app tries to play a game with you where it sees if you know the answer or can guess it correctly before it tells you your next move. It could track your score over time, reward you for doing well, and do other things common in game mechanics.

    Of course there are complications here, like – do you really want to be interacting more with your phone when you’re driving then you already are? – but for situations where a game like this doesn’t case danger, such a tool could be really useful!

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  31. 31. Speckles 10:13 am 05/19/2011

    Not disagreeing with your overall post, but I found your assertion that: "if these kids with severe learning impediments could make such amazing progress … why can’t an average person make those kinds of gains as well? Or even more gains, considering they don’t have the additional challenge of an autism spectrum disorder?" to be offensive and disabilist.

    It asserts that people with people with autism are fundamentally less capable than ‘normal’ people. Doesn’t it make more sense that the ‘amazing gains’ were because the therapy was helping these children overcome their difficulties, revealing the true ability hidden behind their disorder?

    To put this in a different context, imagine a little kid born with a bad leg who takes thrice as long run a race as other kids his age. Then he gets surgery and a lot of physical therapy, and a few years later he’s running just as fast as his peers, maybe even a little faster than average. Should we then conclude that if anyone went through the same surgery and physical therapy they’d also see equal or even greater improvements in running ability?

    As I stated above, this does not contradict the main point of your article – it’s possible to see increase of ability with effort. People can increase their effective intelligence with effort, just like how they can increase their running ability with exercise. I would just ask you to reconsider your assumptions about the disabled, as I feel you are being unfairly discriminatory.

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  32. 32. darty 1:45 pm 05/19/2011

    I found this article by coincidence and decided to start reading.
    This article captivated me the entire way through.
    I just wanted to say: "Thank you!".

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  33. 33. AndiKuszewski 4:17 pm 05/19/2011

    Thank YOU so much for reading it and for the comment! :)

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  34. 34. AndiKuszewski 4:21 pm 05/19/2011

    Thanks for the comment! Regarding the GPS game idea: I could see how it would be fun if you were walking in the city, but I don’t think I could do it while driving. Might be too distracting and engaging, and put someone at risk for a traffic accident. However, navigating by foot–great idea! Gamification of navigation!! :D

    Thanks for all of your input and support on this topic!

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  35. 35. jackie_d 11:17 am 06/1/2011

    This really is an interesting article. I’ve often thought that with the many advances in technology we have to be making advances in other areas like teaching and education as well. We don’t just develop as a species on one front but, hopefully, all fronts. If we can make a <a href="">video phone</a> then we should be able to give a decent education to every kid as well as give every kid the opportunity to become brilliant.

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  36. 36. navedaham 2:20 pm 06/11/2011

    This is one of the best i have read in a long term on this subject. There is an ancient practice in India called ‘Thoppukaranam’ (read
    Thanks Andrea for the wonderful article. Maha. India

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  37. 37. gs_chandy 8:35 am 06/20/2011

    Excellent article – the claims in it strike me as being largely valid (contrary to all the ‘cognitive science’ of the past that held IQ as being immutable). I’d like to suggest that there should be MUCH less emphasis on "efficiency" and much more emphasis on "effectiveness": efficiency is a ‘machine-related characteristic’, which is not of much use in dealing with ‘systems’ such as brain, mind, thought-processes and the like.

    Check out the seminal contributions of the late John N. Warfield to systems science to discover practical means of handling issues in systems –, or the "John N. Warfield Collection" held at the library of George Mason University, where he was Emeritus Professor.

    A powerful tool usable by anyone, developed from Warfield’s approach to systems, is the ‘One Page Management System’ (OPMS), which enables the user(s) to choose any ‘Mission’ and to develop his/her/their own highly effective Action Plan(s) to accomplish the chosen Mission from currently available ideas. The OPMS uses the inherent ability of the mind to correct itself to improve/strengthen or change weak or wrong ideas. More information about the OPMS available from gs (underscore) chandy (at) yahoo (dot) com.


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  38. 38. The Phoenix 8:39 am 06/22/2011

    I like what you wrote. It makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for the article.

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  39. 39. JohnStin 4:10 am 10/5/2011

    Improve Your Energy And Memory With Pramiracetam
    Pramiracetam belongs to a group of drugs called nootropics, or ‘smart drugs’ which are used to enhance memory and reverse the effects of brain ageing. It is thought to be one of the most potent smart drugs available and, as well as improving memory, it is also used as an Altzheimer disease treatment.

    Link to this
  40. 40. brain0 4:08 am 10/29/2011

    Here’s another spot where technology made our brains lazy. Remember when you were a kid and we remembered every single important/ friends phone number in our heads. With the advent of the cell phone we barely remember our own phone number anymore. Great article. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  41. 41. GabrielG 11:17 am 12/5/2011

    Nice article but what happens when “Seek Novelty” causes anxiety? Is there a dopamine problem then when instead of Novel Activity—>triggers dopamine—>creates a higher motivational state you get increased anxiety or procrastination?

    I believe removing obstacles plays a great part in increasing or just using the intelligence you have.

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  42. 42. VictoriaAdams 4:23 pm 12/12/2011

    Wow! This article was very helpful! Thanks for the tips! Hiring a personal tutor can definitely be very useful, I know a firm that services the greater Boston area. They are very affordable and I personally had a great experience with them. Please check their site out for more details about their in-home private tutoring services.

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  43. 43. StevenEm 4:56 am 12/15/2011

    The Studi of Jaeggi et al. is not valide; take a close look;

    After the first 8 days she changed from the Raven Matrice Test to a BOMAT Test. You simply can not do that! That’s not at all scientific.

    Furthermore; she gave the participants only 10 Minutes time to solve the BOMAT Test.

    For further critics see Moody’s Text:

    “To what extent does improvement on any test of fluid intelligence reflect an increase in actual intelligence rather than merely an increase in test‐taking skills? […] the evidence produced by Jaeggi et al. does not support the conclusion of an increase in their subjects’ intelligence.””

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  44. 44. octium8 12:47 pm 01/4/2012

    Thank you for an amazing article!

    I learned so much from it and am going to use in my personal life and research.

    Thank you

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  45. 45. webdesignbizz 3:09 am 01/17/2012

    Useful information shared..I am very pleased to study this article..Many thanks for giving us nice information.

    Link to this
  46. 46. BizarreGenius 8:11 pm 01/17/2012

    Most engaging material, it was an honor to have processed the passage of stupendous proportionalities. I shall be attending College next year and I’ll have all you know that I am not your ordinary youth, I was a peculiar child and what made me very odd was the given fact of my self-reflective nature. If anyone should care I have a stated IQ of 145 and I am always exercising my brain. Good day or night, whom ever may be reading this.

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  47. 47. Mxzsptlk 7:56 am 01/23/2012

    What’s interesting is that I incorporate all of these things into my life. Some people think that being smart is some kind of genetic miracle which I think is foolish. In times gone by the overwhelming majority of the human population was poor and illiterate. It’s only in the last century that we’ve seen a cognitive explosion of ideas and minds and that’s because we rid ourselves of a feudal system that discouraged some individuals from achievement. Unfortunately for some groups in this country that caste system still exists and exerts fierce control over them. If you don’t believe me go to a rural areas or inner cities. Anyways, I had incorporated these things in my life and culture long before reading this and I’ve tested as high as 154 on IQ test. Yea! Right? Wrong. I would lovvvvve to believe that I’m “special” but in truth I know I’m like everyone else. I’ve just been reaching and trying to reach a newer, higher level. So instead of getting a BA in Biology, I got a BS in Biology with an emphasis in Biotechnology and now I’m doing undergraduate research. Instead of just taking one level of Calculus I took Calculus II. Instead of staying at an easy school I went to a hard school. I read every day about anything and I’m very open to new experiences and ideas. Honestly, intelligence is less about whether you have genes for intelligence, most humans probably do, it’s about the personality you have and the culture you have.

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  48. 48. Mxzsptlk 8:01 am 01/23/2012

    Last thing, what we also have to remember about intelligence test is that we’re teaching to a cultural standard. IQ test are invalid at determining intelligence because what they measure is unclear and they also shift over great periods of time. Intelligence is only set by standards that we set not by some “intelligence scale” that is as constant and unchanging as the physics of the universe.

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  49. 49. Peer200x 4:31 pm 02/4/2012

    I think it’s great that LD has provided some free aides and insight on ADHD. I am a 40 year old teacher who has personally struggled with these vary issues my entire life.

    I know you mentioned structure in your article, and I wanted to share just a quick bit on my life and experience with ADHD (not sure how much I can type in this box so I will attempt to shorten it).
    As a youth, I had all of the above issues (struggled with school, home, friends,etc).
    Things got so bad that I was sent to Military School in 9th grade. This forced me to appreciate everything I had in my life. I also made up some 3 years of school in that single year as their structured program was conducive to the way my brain works. I was not able to return due to a cumulation of incidents through out the year. I begged my parents to allow me to try living at home again. I thought for 25 years that is what happened, years later I discovered that the school refused to allow me back. Under this deception I was given the chance. I was determined to stay on top of things. My respect toward family and authority figures, school work, became paramount. Atop of that I was encouraged to preserver and find something that I could enjoy and keep me out of trouble. Unbeknownst to myself and family we were engaging in “creative problem solving. Jet-Ski racing became just that, I was enamored with all facets of it. On day one I entered into a local race and was lapped and beaten badly. This only en-ragged me. By the end of that year I was the Novice world Champion! I was estatic with my new found success, even if it was the polar opposite from both my past and my life in general. However, I unconsciously began to feed and devote as much attention to my racing as I could. I am sure on some neourolgicall level I completely rewired my entire brain. I became the happiest person I knew. From that point on, I had a different mindset as I now had self esteem. With my new esteem, I was able to get through High School, join the U.S. Navy (obtained 1 of the 3 hardest positions offered “Helicopter Rescue Swimmer”; Worked as a stunt man ridding jet-skiis; open and ran a 30k a month retail store, obtained a college degree, obtained a Ca teaching credential, beat Cancer, and now am married with two amazing twin girls.

    When I look at the Root Cause Analysis, I see three factors in my success:
    First, God, God’s power is limitless, and when given control he will provide.
    Second, like Dr. Phil so eloquently states, “you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge!” I was in need of the Military School wake up call. Begrudgingly it enlightened me and allowed me to see how great of a home I had.
    Third, I needed a WIN! Jet-Skiing allowed me to begin thinking I was ok, and I too was special, great, capable, and accepted. This became a motivational spring board for me. I began to think different, I began to talk different (self talk). Further, it allowed me to realize i could do the same things others did through creative problem solving.

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  50. 50. Inkredible 3:05 am 03/1/2012

    I very much enjoyed reading this artical. I just recently took a IQ test and the results state me as being smart. I am currently in school for a degree in media arts. but would like to ensure a growth in IQ. My goal is to increase my current IQ by 60 points if possible. Do you know any colleges with media arts programs that can help me achieve this in maximum five years.

    P.S. not sure if makes much of a Difference but i am make 25 years old. and i already have a AS in Criminal Justice.

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  51. 51. Inkredible 3:07 am 03/1/2012

    article* there goes that spell check.

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  52. 52. jmoure 6:59 pm 03/29/2012

    I find this stuff fascinating. I’m really interested in the role that memory plays in the overall quality of our lives. I’m currently dealing with a grandmother who has dementia and I’m trying to learn the best ways to help her. This is one site that had a some information on it.

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  53. 53. jameson14 5:01 am 08/30/2012

    These are really good tips ( I like the 4. so much ) I always try to increase my IQ. I bought this ebook too ( It’s frome a UNI(education) website. I think it worth. I really realized I much focused every day.

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  54. 54. richiebkr 7:02 pm 08/31/2012

    We need more people in the world that love what they do like you. Even after being told and taught that you couldn’t do something you went beyond your limits and choose a different path. I think you have more determination and courage then most people and it definitely shows with your work. Keep breaking the barriers you are awesome.

    At the same time it’s sad that someone that loves their work as much as you is considered above average. It should be normal. Welcome to the USA, where the normal are above average and the below average are normal.

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  55. 55. wolfwhisperer 6:52 pm 12/16/2012

    So, end of 2012 I’m just now reading this article…I’m wildly antisocial and really have no way to get around it without some advice. Step five is all about social interaction, of which I am terrible. I want to engage in conversation a lot of the time, but I don’t want to talk about useless babble wasting my time. Every time I overhear a conversation, the people always say the same things. I don’t want to join in that generic conversation, but I want to get around this antisocial behavior. Any advice at all would be nice. (I talk to my friends online when I play videogames,and I DO have a Facebook. I’m not 100% anitsocial, but I’m not really normal in terms of everyday conversation either. Hope this helps to filter the answers a bit) Thanks!

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  56. 56. jamesninja 3:42 pm 02/13/2013

    any good websites or free ebooks that contain exercises to exercise the you part of “think creatively”?

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  57. 57. jamesninja 3:46 pm 02/13/2013

    Well wolfwhisperer, if you have a webcam on any device like phone tablet or computer you can make friends online through skype. one good excuse to be on skype is to learn languages
    learning languages on skype is free in a lot of ways. Hope this helps.

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  58. 58. AOakley2006 1:48 pm 04/17/2013

    This is a prime example of the sad state of American education and poor journalism. Faulty assumptions, faulty conclusions/assertions belie the idiocy presented in the article. Granted, patronizing the rapidly increasing ignorant populace may make her weak offering acceptable–even welcomed, but it doesn’t serve Americans–especially taxpaying Americans footing the bill for ill-conceived, defective progeny. First, you cannot compare individuals with autism (often associated with genius) with the intellectually disabled. Second, current research (2013) only reaffirms the boundless evidence concerning heritability of IQ. Bottom line–stupid parents are going to have stupid children. Third, qualitative/limited studies that claim to demonstrate an increase in intelligence have never been repeated or were never conducted in a scientific manner as to offer any validity. In reality, while the lowest of the low can manage simple tasks/skills, once they no longer have support, any increase is diminished. Third, we have no idea why those limited gains occurred; in fact, they are generally attributed to children having access to better nutrition than instruction. Today’s parents are desperate for a scapegoat; they breed irresponsibly subjecting innocent children to poverty. Poverty, along with smoking, drug use, exposure to environmental pesticides, etc., diminish low IQ’s further and ensure children have learning disabilities including ADD and ADHD. Parents happily ignore their irresponsible procreation; and they certainly don’t want to have to acknowledge they are responsible for their children’s inadequacies that will render them dependent on taxpayers (waiting for handouts for welfare or as inmates, another form of entitlement). In truth, without promoting the lie that “it can happen to anyone,” poor, addicted and/or otherwise mentally disordered liberals fear conservatives will refuse to bear the burden of supporting them. Luckily, much of this will be resolved via the economic collapse. Hopefully, as order is restored, those who wish to promulgate idiotic progressivism will be allowed to do so—at their own expense rather than by infringing on the rights/freedoms of other Americans.

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  59. 59. leonedward 2:28 pm 07/5/2013

    Thank you so much for this summary and at the same time detail 5 key traits of developing intelligence or genius thinking if you will. I’m writing this post a significant time after first publication but will hopefully instill thought into viewers maybe younger , maybe studying, maybe older advancing in field.

    I as several readers previously applaud the article but more so applaud the work at improving childrens lives. On another issue, after a head injury and hemiparesis myself, I found the benefit of points as you listed through years of improving intelligence and going back to college attaining an advanced engineering degree. Although at the time, I wouldn’t of deetailed it as you did, I had studied how successful people andeven geniuses in past years as Einstein, Watson, Telsa and others lived.

    I point this out as achieving neural growth and improving brain ‘efficiency’ and in my case “thought speed” plus the challenging fields and switching sometiomes drastically disciplines, new sciences all helped until Things just became easier…

    - Leon Edward

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  60. 60. prohowbook 5:36 pm 07/31/2013

    I read all the tips in this article and found few more on and I concluded that memory and intelligence can be improved easily and one can be more intelligent than he or she has ever imagined!

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  61. 61. shenfield 6:16 pm 10/7/2013

    I am a clinical child psychologist from Toronto, Canada. I work with many autistic clients and I am very surprised to read about 20 points improvement in the IQ score for the autistic child. I have seen amazing results from Cogmed working memory training in many ADHD clients, but only minor improvements in clients with PDD-NOS…

    Dr. Tali Shenfield, C.Psych

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  62. 62. lpanebr 2:14 pm 10/10/2013

    Very nice article and a pleasure to read!

    Are there any studies relating this cognitive training technique with early-stage diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients?

    Link to this
  63. 63. Aputsiaq 10:38 pm 10/10/2013

    As much as I love the Einstein quote, I’d like to see a citation for it.

    Link to this
  64. 64. Lunar Camel Co. 2:02 pm 10/11/2013

    How is it that Facebook or Twitter networking would expose someone to “new people, ideas, and environments” when their functionality depends on the user seeking out people, ideas and environments they’re already aware of and intend to keep up with? I think Facebook and Twitter are probably the worst environments for someone seeking out people and ideas that would be new to them.

    Also, as a lawyer, I have to disagree with the commenter who said that law school teaches “clear, analytical rule based thinking.” There is some of that, yes, but in my opinion, anyone who’s paying careful, close attention will be more moved by the shortcomings of analytical, rule-based thinking and the gaps between predictable outcomes, and the ways the law deals with *those.* To me it sounds like this commenter confused “thinking like a lawyer” with studying for the bar exam. They’re not the same thing.

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  65. 65. AndiKuszewski 6:21 pm 10/11/2013

    @shenfield: I’m not surprised your clients showed little improvement with CogMed. That is a brain-training game, and if you read my article carefully, you’d notice I am very critical of brain-training games.

    My reasoning and purpose for mentioning the dual-n-back test was nuanced: This was the first time it was shown in a lab setting that transfer could occur, which had never been done before. This means that the myth could be challenged, in regards to ‘making do with what you are born with’.

    Also, my training program is *not* CogMed. It is an entire brain workout, that is to be adopted as a style of life-long learning, constantly challenging yourself in everyday activities. This is not meant to be done a hour or two a day, and expect to see any improvement. You should be literally changing the child’s approach to learning, not plopping him down in front of a computer and expect unicorns to come out delivering IQ points.

    In regards to the score improvement: This was an actual example, and it was probably a little of both (better at taking tests, and better cognitively). But this child *did* complete the test, compliantly. He was certainly more motivated after being my client for a few years, because I made learning fun and something to look forward to. Perhaps try this approach with your PDD clients, and you may see more improvement.

    Thanks for the comments!

    Link to this
  66. 66. AndiKuszewski 6:23 pm 10/11/2013

    @Lunar Camel Co.: Clearly you don’t use social media at all for purposes outside of sharing family photos or chatting with old high school friends. This is too bad, because there is great opportunity for cognitive growth through social media if you utilize it for that purpose. I constantly crowdsource ideas through my social media channels, which in turn makes me a better researcher.

    Don’t knock it before you try it!

    Link to this
  67. 67. AndiKuszewski 6:28 pm 10/11/2013


    Here’s your citation for the Einstein quote:

    Link to this
  68. 68. AndiKuszewski 6:32 pm 10/11/2013

    @Aputsiaq: By the way, I actually copied that quote directly out of this book, which I own:

    Link to this
  69. 69. Ivona Poyntz 7:08 am 10/18/2013

    Under ‘challenge yourself’ I see what I shouldn’t do, and what won’t help with cognitive growth longterm, but I’m not sure I see the solution or recommendation?

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  70. 70. BernardBaars 7:23 pm 10/29/2013

    The OLDEST recommendation still applies today: If you want to improve and maintain your fluid intelligence, practice your fluid intelligence!!!

    Do things that you enjoy, and that keep you focused and challenged on new and interesting things.

    Try novel things to stay mentally flexible.

    Don’t close your mind. But don’t let your brains fall out either.

    As to whether this weird working memory task helps (2-back), why bother? It’s really boring. And it might not help.

    To learn the piano, play the piano!

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  73. 73. paideia 9:59 am 01/29/2014

    Andrea, I would add one more element to your list: move the body. A preponderance of the brain’s neural resources (as much as 80%?) are designed and designated to move the body (See Daniel Wolpert’s or Susana Herculano-Houzel’s work).

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  75. 75. MarkASmithPhD 12:23 am 02/25/2014

    Many studies have called into question the Jaeggi et al IQ increase finding since it was published. It looks like the missing IQ-working memory training link is interference control (work of Tod Braver and others). This training principle is incorporated in the increase IQ software developed by cognitive neuroscientist Mark Ashton Smith, Ph.D. ( So far it’s had good reviews.

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  78. 78. Brahmms 3:18 pm 08/25/2014

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