How reading rewires your brain for greater intelligence and empathy

Get lost in a good book. Time and again, reading has been shown to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic.

Fitness headlines promise staggering physical results: a firmer butt, ripped abs, bulging biceps. Nutritional breakthroughs are similar clickbait, with attention-grabbing, if often inauthentic—what, really, is a “superfood?”—means of achieving better health. Strangely, one topic usually escaping discussion has been shown, time and again, to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic animals: reading.

Reading, of course, requires patience, diligence, and determination. Scanning headlines and retweeting quips is not going to make much cognitive difference. If anything, such sweet nothings are dangerous, the literary equivalent of sugar addiction. Information gathering in under 140 characters is lazy. The benefits of contemplation through narrative offer another story.

The benefits are plenty, which is especially important in a distracted, smartphone age in which one-quarter of American children don’t learn to read. This not only endangers them socially and intellectually, but cognitively handicaps them for life. One 2009 study of 72 children ages eight to ten discovered that reading creates new white matter in the brain, which improves system-wide communication.

White matter carries information between regions of grey matter, where any information is processed. Not only does reading increase white matter, it helps information be processed more efficiently.

Reading in one language has enormous benefits. Add a foreign language and not only do communication skills improve—you can talk to more people in wider circles—but the regions of your brain involved in spatial navigation and learning new information increase in size. Learning a new language also improves your overall memory.

In one of the most fascinating aspects of neuroscience, language affects regions of your brain involving actions you’re reading about. For example, when you read “soap” and “lavender,” the parts of your brain implicated in scent are activated. Those regions remain silent when you read “chair.” What if I wrote “leather chair?” Your sensory cortex just fired.

Continuing from the opening paragraph, let’s discuss squats in your quest for a firmer butt. Picture the biomechanics required for a squat. Your motor cortex has been activated. Athletes have long envisioned their movements—Serena Williams’s serve; Conor McGregor’s kicks; Usain Bolt’s bursts of speed—to achieve better proficiency while actually moving. That’s because their brains are practicing. That is, they’re practicing through visualization techniques.

Hard glutes are one thing. Novel reading is a great way to practice being human. Rather than sprints and punches, how about something more primitive and necessary in a society, like empathy? As you dive deeper into Rabbit Angstrom’s follies or Jason Taylor coming of age, you not only feel their pain and joy. You actually experience it.

In one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

This has profound implications for how we interact with others. When encountering a 13-year-old boy misbehaving, you most likely won’t think, “Well, David Mitchell wrote about such a situation, and so I should behave like this,” but you might have integrated some of the lessons about young boys figuring life out and display a more nuanced understanding in how you react.

Perhaps you’ll even reconsider trolling someone online regarding their political opinion, remembering that no matter how crass and inhumane a sentiment appears on screen, an actual human is sitting behind the keyboard pecking out their thoughts. I’m not arguing against engaging, but for the love of anything closely resembling humanity, argue intelligently.

Because reading does in fact make us more intelligent. Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well. You make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you.

All of these benefits require actually reading, which leads to the formation of a philosophy rather than the regurgitation of an agenda, so prevalent in reposts and online trolling. Recognizing the intentions of another human also plays a role in constructing an ideology. Novels are especially well-suited for this task. A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology found overlap in brain regions used to comprehend stories and networks dedicated to interactions with others.

Novels consume time and attention. While the benefits are worthwhile, even shorter bursts of prose exhibit profound neurological effects. Poetry elicits strong emotional responses in readers and, as one study shows, listeners. Heart rates, facial expressions, and “movement of their skin and arm hairs” were measured while participants listened to poetry. Forty percent ended up displaying visible goose bumps, as they would while listening to music or watching movies. As for their craniums:

Their neurological responses, however, seemed to be unique to poetry: Scans taken during the study showed that listening to the poems activated parts of participants’ brains that, as other studies have shown, are not activated when listening to music or watching films.

These responses mostly occurred near the conclusion of a stanza and especially near the end of the poem. This fits in well with our inherent need for narrative: in the absence of a conclusion our brain automatically creates one, which, of course, leads to plenty of heartbreak and suffering when our speculations prove to be false. Instead we should turn to more poetry:

There is something fundamental to the poetic form that implies, creates, and instills pleasure.

Whether an Amiri Baraka verse or a Margaret Atwood trilogy, attention matters. Research at Stanford showed a neurological difference between reading for pleasure and focused reading, as if for a test. Blood flows to different neural areas depending on how reading is conducted. The researchers hope this might offer clues for advancing cognitive training methods.

I have vivid memories of my relationship with reading: trying to write my first book (Scary Monster Stories) at age five; creating a mock newspaper after the Bernard Goetz subway shooting when I was nine, my mother scolding me for “thinking about such things”; sitting in the basement of my home in the Jersey suburbs one weekend morning, determined to read the entirety of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I did.

Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly. While I never finished (or really much started) Scary Monster Stories, I have written nine books and read thousands more along the way. Though it’s hard to tell if reading has made me smarter or a better person, I like to imagine that it has.

What I do know is that life would seem a bit less meaningful if we didn’t share stories with one another. While many mediums for transmitting narratives across space and time exist, I’ve found none as pleasurable as cracking open a new book and getting lost in a story. Something profound is always discovered along the way.

When Does Intelligence Peak?

When Does Intelligence Peak?

Maybe that’s not even the right question

When Does Intelligence Peak?

When does cognitive functioning peak? As we get older, we certainly feel as though our intelligence is rapidly declining. (Well, at least I do!) However, the nitty gritty research on the topic suggests some really interesting nuance. As a recent paper notes, “Not only is there no age at which humans are performing at peak on all cognitive tasks, there may not be an age at which humans perform at peak on most cognitive tasks.”

In one large series of studies, Joshua Hartshorne and Laura Germine presented evidence from 48, 537 people from standardized IQ and memory tests. The results revealed that processing speed and short-term memory for family pictures and stories peak and begin to decline around high school graduation; some visual-spatial and abstract reasoning abilities plateau in early adulthood, beginning to decline in the 30s; and still other cognitive functions such as vocabulary and general information do not peak until people reach their 40s or later.

Credit: “When Does Cognitive Functioning Peak? The Asynchronous Rise and Fall of Different Cognitive Abilities Across the Life Span”, by Joshua Hartshorne and Laura Germine, in Psychological Science, March 13, 2015

The Dark Matter of Intelligence

The picture gets even more complicated, however, once we take into account the “dark matter” of intelligence. As Phillip Ackerman points out, should we really be judging adult intelligence by the same standard we judge childhood intelligence? At what point does the cognitive potential of youth morph into the specialized expertise of adulthood?

In the intelligence field, there is a distinction between “fluid” intelligence (indexed by tests of abstract reasoning and pattern detection) and “crystallized” intelligence (indexed by measures of vocabulary and general knowledge). But domain-specific expertise– the dark matter of intelligence– is not identical to either fluid or crystallized intelligence. Most IQ tests, which were only every designed for testing schoolchildren, don’t include the rich depth of knowledge we acquire only after extensive immersion in a field. Sure, measured by the standards of youth, middle-aged adults might not be as intelligent as young adults, on average. But perhaps once dark matter is taken into account, middle-aged adults are up to par.

To dive deeper into this question, Phillip Ackerman administered a wide variety of domain-specific knowledge tests to 288 educated adults between the ages of 21 and 62 years of age. Domains included Art, Music, World Literature, Biology, Physics, Psychology, Technology, Law, Astronomy, and Electronics. Ackerman found that in general, middle-aged adults are more knowledgeable in many domains compared with younger adults. As for the implications of this finding, I love this quote from the paper:

“[M]any intellectually demanding tasks in the real world cannot be accomplished without a vast repertoire of declarative knowledge and procedural skills. The brightest (in terms of IQ) novice would not be expected to fare well when performing cardiovascular surgery in comparison to the middle-aged expert, just as the best entering college student cannot be expected to deliver a flawless doctoral thesis defense, in comparison to the same student after several years of academic study and empirical research experience. In this view, knowledge does not compensate for a declining adult intelligence; it is intelligence!”

There was an important exception to Ackerman’s finding, however. All three science-related tests (Chemistry, Physics, and Biology) were negatively associated with age. Tellingly, these three tests were most strongly correlated with fluid intelligence. This might explain why scientific genius tends to peak early.

Nevertheless, on the whole these results should be considered good news for older adults. Unless you’re trying to win the Nobel prize in physics at a very old age, there are a lot of domains of knowledge that you can continue to learn in throughout your life. What’s more, Ackerman found that certain measures of personality, such as intellectual curiosity, were related to domain-specific knowledge above and beyond the effects of standard measures of intelligence.

And even if you do want to maintain your fluid intelligence as long as possible, there is recent research suggesting that having a greater purpose in life can help protect again cognitive decline among older adults. Giyeon Kim and colleagues combined seven items looking at various aspects of purpose, including plans for the future, importance of daily activities, dedication to ensure plans made are actualized in the future, a good sense of what one wishes to accomplish in life, whether one has accomplished all one wishes to accomplish in life, whether one cares about the future, and whether one has a sense of direction and purpose in one’s life. They found that after adjusting for covariates, purpose in life acted as a protective factor against cognitive decline.* The researchers argue that purpose in life could be used as a treatment technique for cognitive decline in clinical settings.

Their research adds to a growing literature showing the many benefits of maintaining a purpose in life for health and well-being. Greater purpose in life has been linked to reduced all-cause mortality and cardiovascular problems, increased longevity, maintenance of general physical functioning, reduced risk of stroke, and reduced incidence of sleep disturbances. One longitudinal study over a 10-year period found that increased meaning in life was associated with lower allostatic load (the “wear and tear on the body”). This is important considering that allostatic load has also been positively linked with increased risk of diseases, mortality, and cognitive decline.

The good news for older adults is that not only can we continue to acquire domain-specific knowledge into older age, but purpose in life is also modifiable. It seems that the question “When does intelligence peak?” is actually a rather meaningless question. Not only do our various cognitive functions peak at different times, but past a certain age it might make more sense to view adult intelligence not through the lens of youthful general processing speed and reasoning, but through the lens of expertise, wisdom, and purpose.

Can Intelligence Buy You Happiness?

New research suggests that IQ leads to greater well-being by enabling one to acquire the financial and educational means necessary to live a better life.

Can Intelligence Buy You Happiness?

In his classic 1923 essay, “Intelligence as the Tests Test It“, Edwin Boring wrote “Intelligence is what the tests test.” Almost a century of research later, we know that this definition is far too narrow. As long as a test is sufficiently cognitively complex and taps into enough diverse content, you can get a rough snapshot of a person’s general cognitive ability— and general cognitive ability predicts a wide range of important outcomes in life, including academic achievement, occupational performance, health, and longevity.

But what about happiness? Prior studies have been mixed about this, with some studies showing no relationship between individual IQ and happiness, and other studies showing that those in the lowest IQ range report the lowest levels of happiness compared to those in the highest IQ group. In one study, however, the unhappiness of the lowest IQ range was reduced by 50% once income and mental health issues were taken into account. The authors concluded that “interventions that target modifiable variables such as income (e.g., through enhancing education and employment opportunities) and neurotic symptoms (e.g., through better detection of mental health problems) may improve levels of happiness in the lower IQ groups.”

One major limitations of these prior studies, however, is that they all rely on a single measure of happiness, notably life satisfaction. Modern day researchers now have measures to assess a much wider array of indicators of well-being, including autonomy, personal growth, positive relationships, self-acceptance, mastery, and purpose and meaning in life.

Enter a new study conducted by Ana Dimitrijevic and colleagues, in which they attempted to assess the relationship between multiple indicators of intelligence and multiple indicators of well-being. They relied on the following definition of intelligence: “the ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, and to overcome obstacles by taking thought.” This definition covers several more specific notions of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence.

The researchers administered a battery of intelligence and well-being measures to 288 adults employed within various departments of a large dairy production company in Belgrade. What did they found?

Intelligence and Well-Being

The researchers found that both IQ and emotional intelligence were independently correlated with well-being.* IQ was positively correlated with personal relationships, self-acceptance, personal growth, mastery, and purpose in life.** Emotional intelligence was correlated with the same well-being measures, but was additionally related to a sense of autonomy in life.

Zooming in on the IQ test, the most predictive subscale for well-being was a measure of non-verbal fluid reasoning, which requires pattern detection and abstract reasoning (constructing generalizable principles from minimal information). Some people argue that this form of reasoning is strongly related to general intelligence.

Once socioeconomic status (SES) was taken into account (reflecting higher education and income), however, there was no relationship between IQ and well-being. According to the researchers, this suggests that IQ leads “to greater contentment with oneself and life primarily by enabling one to acquire the social status and financial means which ensure better opportunities and quality of life.” Of course, this does not mean that IQ is simply a measure of SES; IQ was positively correlated with well-being. However, it does suggest that the extent to which IQ is related to happiness depends to a large extent on the opportunities (e.g., financial, educational) you have to utilize your IQ.

What about emotional intelligence? The emotional intelligence tests that were most predictive of well-being were the two higher, more “strategic” branches– Understanding and Managing Emotions. The person who scores higher in these facets of emotional intelligence are better able to comprehend the emotional signals coming from others, and to regulate and manage their own and others’ emotions so as to further their own and others’ personal and social goals.

Emotional intelligence had a direct effect on well-being, and this association remained strong even after controlling for SES. What’s more, of the two measures of intelligence– IQ and emotional intelligence– emotional intelligence was the strongest predictor of well-being, outweighing not only IQ, but also a person’s SES and age. This finding suggests that emotional intelligence– particularly the capacity to manage one’s emotions toward optimal personal goal attainment– is a form of intelligence that can help people live a more fulfilled life regardless of their economic circumstances.

Why Is Intelligence Associated with Well-Being?

I think intelligence matters for a fulfilling life for a number of reasons. For one, a higher IQ is a gateway to better education. Those with higher IQ scores are much more likely to score well on standardized tests of achievement, and academic performance is often the first hurdle necessary to continue up the ladder of occupational opportunities.

Also relevant here is the association between IQ and openness to experience. Those with a higher IQ tend to score higher in a number of facets of openness to experience, including intellectual engagement, intellectual creativity, introspection, ingenuity, intellectual depth, and imagination. This tendency for deeper cognitive processing is critical for dealing with a lot of life’s up and downs. While trauma is inevitable in life, research shows that we can grow from our traumas if we have a healthy form of rumination in which we reflect on the deeper meaning of the event and can use that cognitive processing to perceive greater opportunities for ourselves and others.

Regarding emotional intelligence, since having a fulfilling life often requires accomplishing the goals you have set out for yourself, it makes sense that being able to manage your emotions in the service of a larger goal will be associated with well-being and self-actualization.

Perhaps the most important analysis will turn out to be how IQ and emotional intelligence interact. There is some evidence that in certain contexts, emotional intelligence can amplify the effectiveness of a high IQ, and high emotional intelligence can even compensate for a lower IQ. Future research should definitely look more closely at the interaction between these two important aspects of human intelligence.

Of course, it’s possible that the findings operate in reverse causation, and being happier increases intellectual skills. Most likely, both directions are at play in the correlations found in the study. Clearly more research will need to look at the association between intelligence and well-being over time.

At any rate, I’m pleased to see that this line of research is being conducted. I believe a great responsibility we have as a society is to ensure that all people– regardless of their IQ score– are able to self-actualize and lead a life of self-acceptance, autonomy, meaning, and positive social relationships.

* It should be noted that IQ and emotional intelligence were moderately correlated with each other. This suggests that both tests are tapping into a common set of processes (e.g., executive functioning, working memory, etc.), even though IQ and emotional intelligence also involve a partially different set of skills.

Emotional resilience: 10 crucial habits

There are few character traits more valuable and underrated than resilience.

Strength, bravery, intelligence, will—while all these qualities may be great to have, there is one common element they all share, and that’s resilience.

Emotional resilience is your ability to pick yourself up after you fall down.

Resilience keeps your nose in the book and your will alive, even when everyone around you has given up.

Emotional resilience is the difference between wanting a dream and turning that dream into reality.

And while some people naturally have a vat of resilience to pull from, the rest of us have to build it.

Here are 10 ways you can start building your emotional resilience and becoming a stronger version of you:

1) Find Your Purpose

So many of us go through life on a kind of prolonged autopilot. We go from one stage of life to another—school, work, marriage, family—without truly asking ourselves: what do we want to do in life?

Your career and your partner can act as substitutes for your purpose while you search for one, but if you never find the thing that fills you with single-minded commitment, then you will never truly want to push yourself as far as you can go.

2) Look on the Bright Side

We get it—life is tough, and staying positive and optimistic can be one of the greatest struggles you might ever go through.

Life can beat you down and make you feel like the smallest thing in the world, and there are times when you need to retreat and heal.

But that can’t be your only response. You have to stand back up after every hardship, and the best way to do that is by looking on the bright side.

Even if all the odds are against you, find the positivity, the possibility of a happy ending, and use that mental image to pull yourself forward.

3) Find Others

Humans are social creatures, and it’s no surprise that those with strong bonds and communities are those that have traditionally thrived.

Sticking to yourself might seem like the best option, especially if you have a history of being let down and even betrayed.

But you won’t be able to achieve the resilience you need if you have no one to lean on except yourself.

Accept your own weaknesses and limitations, and find others you can draw strength from in your times of need.

4) Never Stop Evolving

Your contribution to the world is the legacy you will leave behind. So what will your contribution be?

Just your presence, your effort, your kindness? Or will you leave behind something more unique, something that truly marks your place in the history you want to set?

It isn’t enough to just “be” if you want to stay relevant and resilient. You have to “be” the best version of yourself you can be, and that means evolving and developing your skills. Focus on your skills, build your strengths, and become a force that only you can be.

5) Set Goals

There is nothing more chaotic than a crisis, and for most people, a crisis is enough to rock their entire world.

Even the most resilient people will find themselves overwhelmed at times by the worst crises in their lives, but the difference between a resilient individual and someone who isn’t is their response to the crisis.

And that response? Set goals. Find your next step, and get to it as fast as you can. Start clearing the chaos before the chaos clears you.

6) Take Care of You

We all know stress. Some of us run away from it, some of us slam ourselves against it until it goes away.

But one way or another, stress has the tendency to make us forget about ourselves. Eating healthy, getting enough exercise, sleeping enough every night: all of these habits can go out the window when you are stressed, and that makes the situation even worse.

Always take care of you before anything else.

7) Adapt to Change

One rule of life is that nothing ever stays the same. It can be heartbreaking and tough when a great situation is forced to change, but refusing to adapt to that change can make or break who you are as a person.

Accept the inevitability of change, and get ahead of the curve before it leaves you behind.

8) Believe In Yourself

Believing in yourself is a key force you have in overcoming the stress of life’s greatest obstacles.

Even if the odds are stacked against you, saying to yourself that you are capable of what you need to do is enough mental motivation to get you through to the next stage.

9) Be Active, Not Reactive

Some of us wait for problems to occur. If you have a great situation going, you might be tempted to relax and let yourself enjoy the moment.

But don’t enjoy the moment too long: as stated earlier, everything in life will change. Problems that you never expected will come up out of nowhere, and your capacity to overcome them will rely on how much you prepared for it.

Don’t wait for problems to come up; start solving them before they happen.

10) Learn How to Solve All Problems

And finally, the most resilient individuals know that problems can pop up around every corner.

The better you equip yourself with problem-solving skills, the easier it will be to get through even the most alien situations.

And don’t stick to the same solution every time: be creative, be innovative, and find new ways to tackle old issues.

The more creatively you learn how to solve problems, the more resilient you will be when the worst days come by.

Do you want to become emotionally strong? Follow these tips.

Someone has rightly said, “Don’t let emotions overweigh your intelligence”. If you find yourself worried, stressed and heart-broken too often over what others say, you are not too strong with emotions. And in this mean world, being an emotional fool may end you up in truck loads of problems. But remember, you cannot fix the world but you can fix yourself. So why lead a gloomy life while being emotionally stressed when you can actually enjoy it to the core by following the below written points.

  1. Trust Yourself: If you do not believe your abilities, beauty and talent; no power in the world can make others believe in you then. Stop giving damn about what others think about you for this is the most endearing quality that happy and successful people have. Be yourself! No one can ever be like you and this is your strength.
  2. Distance yourself with anything that makes you feel low: It is your life and it is your right to live a happy life. Stay away from the things and people that make you feel constantly low. Learn to differentiate between healthy criticism and bitter words intended to bring you down. Be it your best friend who keeps nagging you or your boyfriend who give stress more than happiness, let him or her go.
  3. Express your heart out: Emotions are meant to be expressed. Never in your life shy away from speaking your heart out. If you feel like crying, cry out loud. Don’t be fearful of people’s judgment meter, it anyway remains on all the time. Keeping your emotions to yourself will only lead to choked heart and stressful assumptions. Not expressing emotions can make the situation worse, for you will be thinking every bit negative.
  4. Don’t seek other’s affirmation: Keep your opinion about yourself first, for no one knows you better than anyone else. Stop waiting for others’ validation to be assured about yourself. After all, you are beautiful and amazing; you don’t need anyone to tell you this. Right?
  5. Stop looking for happiness outside: This is the most important one. We look for happiness from other people forgetting the fact that happiness lies within us and doesn’t depend on others. Happiness is a conscious decision. No one can make you happy until your thoughts are not good. The ultimate key to be happy is to keeping your thoughts healthy.
  6. Shoo negativity: A boat never sinks until it allows water to enter it. Similarly, unless you allow negativity to hover over your life negativity cannot affect you.  Learn from the past experiences and try not to repeat them. People do disappoint and hurt us, but that doesn’t mean we will waste our energy and thoughts over those undeserving peeps? Nope.
  7. Learn to enjoy your own company: Most of us are often too hesitant to watch a movie alone at a theatre or to eat a meal at restaurant with no one to accompany. But, trust me, nothing is more delighting than learning to enjoy your own company. You will need no one to emotionally depend upon! No heart-breaks. And no one to complain about for not giving you enough time. Dance, eat, cook, read, sleep, travel, listen to music and embrace yourself. It will introduce you to the real you.


Scientists Have Found That Intelligence Is Passed From Mothers, Not From Fathers

This article may anger a couple of dads, but according to a recent genetic study. we probably inherit our log of intelligence from the female X chromosome.

The X chromosome contains a thousand genes, and great number of them have an impact on perception. Until now, most doctors believed that parents contribute equally to their child’s intelligence.This research has been proven both correct and disputable.

Most studies indicate that genetics is a highly complex and demanding field of research. Despite strong disagreement on the subject, it’s best to approach these studies from an objective perspective. So, it’s helpful to present a couple of key facts about how X and Y chromosomes work. A chromosome is a thread-like formation composed of nucleic acids and protein. They store and transfer genetic information. Every person has one pair of chromosomes in each cell of their body. The females have two X chromosomes, the males have one X and one Y chromosome.

As a rule, the genetic characteristic of gender-specific genes, like humans have, are either activated or deactivated depending upon the specific selection and, later on, the genetic properties being affected.The activated genes will have an impact on the genetic development, while deactivated genes will not. So if a single characteristic is affected via the mother, the fatherly genes are deactivated. At the opposite side, if a single feature is affected via the father, the maternal genes are later deactivated. The structure of these gender-specific genes forms the foundation of intelligence research. Women are apparently more likely to have an impact on cognitive abilities, as women possess two X chromosomes, while men carry just one. There is certainly more to this theory of intelligence genetics than just X chromosomes.

This is where gender-specific genes come in. Intelligence is thought to be a highly-gender-specific gene that comes directly from the mother. Scientists used genetically-modified mice to test this theory through a study. They found that embryonic test subjects, which were administered mainly maternal genetic chromosomes, developed an improperly larger skull and brain while developing a much smaller body.

Subjects treated with larger amounts of paternal genetic material developed a larger body, but a smaller skull and brain. In addition to this, researchers made other significant observations, like identifying six areas of the brain what contain exclusively either maternal or paternal genes.

The theory that mothers have an asymmetrically large  influence on a child’s intelligence is not a new one. In 1984, the University of Cambridge studied both brain development and genomic conditioning. Cambridge scientists ultimately concluded that maternal genetics provide more material to brain centers. Similar discoveries are being made to this day. In a particularly informative study, researchers from a government agency in Scotland followed a group of 12,686 people aged 14 to 22. Each year, researchers interviewed the subjects and monitored how their intelligence developed, taking into account their educational and ethnic backgrounds. They categorically concluded that a mother’s IQ the best indicator of high intelligence.

It’s certain that this theory won’t be widely accepted by everyone, even if it’s unquestionably proven. There is however one certain fact that can be deduced from all this, and that is that mothers have a significant influence on their children’s cognitive capacity. And it’s not just because of genetics, either. Nutrition and nurture influence a child’s intellectual development constantly throughout life.

Even more so, the special bond between a mother and child provides motivation for them to explore the world and solve problems together. Women play a much larger part in the child’s intellectual development,than genetics studies give them credit. All signs show that our mothers give us brainpower.Thanks, Mom!

What Is Intelligence?

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Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Socrates said, “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” For centuries, philosophers have tried to pinpoint the true measure of intelligence. More recently, neuroscientists have entered the debate, searching for answers about intelligence from a scientific perspective: What makes some brains smarter than others? Are intelligent people better at storing and retrieving memories? Or perhaps their neurons have more connections allowing them to creatively combine dissimilar ideas? How does the firing of microscopic neurons lead to the sparks of inspiration behind the atomic bomb? Or to Oscar Wilde’s wit?

Uncovering the neural networks involved in intelligence has proved difficult because, unlike, say, memory or emotions,  there isn’t even a consensus as to what constitutes intelligence in the first place. It is widely accepted that there are different types of intelligence—analytic, linguistic, emotional, to name a few—but psychologists and neuroscientists disagree over whether these intelligences are linked or whether they exist independently from one another.

The 20th century produced three major theories on intelligence. The first, proposed by Charles Spearman in 1904, acknowledged that there are different types of intelligence but argued that they are all correlated—if people tend do well on some sections of an IQ test, they tend to do well on all of them, and vice versa. So Spearman argued for a general intelligence factor called “g,” which remains controversial to this day. Decades later, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner revised this notion with his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which set forth eight distinct types of intelligence and claimed that there need be no correlation among them; a person could possess strong emotional intelligence without being gifted analytically. Later in 1985, Robert Sternberg, the former dean of Tufts, put forward his Triarchic Theory of Intelligence, which argued that previous definitions of intelligence are too narrow because they are based solely on intelligences that can be assessed in IQ test. Instead, Sternberg believes types of intelligence are broken down into three subsets: analytic, creative, and practical.

Dr. Gardner sat down with Big Think for a video interview and told us more about his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. He argues that these various forms of intelligence wouldn’t have evolved if they hadn’t been beneficial at some point in human history, but what was important in one time is not necessarily important in another. “As history unfolds, as cultures evolve, of course the intelligences which they value change,” Gardner tells us. “Until a hundred years ago, if you wanted to have h igher education, linguistic intelligence was important. I teach at Harvard, and 150 years ago, the entrance exams were in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. If, for example, you were dyslexic, that would be very difficult because it would be hard for you to learn those languages, which are basically written languages.” Now, mathematical and emotional intelligences are more important in society, Gardner says: “While your IQ, which is sort of language logic, will get you behind the desk, if you don’t know how to deal with people, if you don’t know how to read yourself, you’re going to end up just staying at that desk forever or eventually being asked to make room for somebody who does have social or emotional intelligence.”

Big Think also interviewed Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of the bestselling “Emotional Intelligence,” and spoke with him about his theory of emotional intelligence, which comprises four major poles: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.


Conflicts about the nature of intelligence have hampered studies about its neurobiological underpinnings for years. Yet neuroscientists Rex Jung and Richard Haier may have found a way around this impasse. They published a study in 2007 that reviewed 37 different neuro-imaging studies of IQ (each with a different definition of intelligence) in an attempt to locate what parts of the brain were involved. As it turns out, regardless of the definition used, the results were very similar, enough so that they were able to map a network of brain areas associated with increased IQ scores. Known as the Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory, this model has been gaining momentum among neuroscientists. Earlier this year a team of researchers from Caltech, the University of Iowa, and USC surveyed the IQ test results from 241 brain-lesion patients. Comparing the locations of the brain lesion to their scores on the tests, they were able to discover which parts of the brain were associated with different types of intelligence. And their findings were very much in line with this parieto-frontal integration theory.

5 things you should do every day to increase your intelligence

If you want to witness the magic of the human brain in action, play the matching game with a 4-year-old — you know, the classic game where the tiles are arranged face down and players take turns flipping them over to find pairs.

You’ll see what I mean as you watch that wonderful little brain doing its thing. It’s amazing, and when you realize you’ve been outdueled in a brain game by a child, it’s just a bit humbling.

Obviously, young children develop, learn, and change very quickly. They show drastic improvement in academic, physical, and social skills all the time. One day they can’t, and literally the next day they can. Does it make you a little bit jealous? Imagine what you could accomplish with that amazing ability.

Well, there is hope for us adults. We’ve known for quite a while that IQ can be increased, that you’re not just stuck with what you’re born with. Andrea Kuszewski explains that fluid intelligence, which refers to the capacity to learn new things, retains that information, uses it to solve new problems, and can be strengthened over time. She suggests that if one implements five elements into life every day, or at least as much as possible, cognitive capacity can be increased. Those elements are to seek novelty, challenge yourself, think creatively, do things the hard way, and network.


We could learn a thing or two from the younger generation about keeping our minds challenged. 

So, is it any wonder that children learn at the rate they do? Every sight, sound, word, taste — everything — is new and novel to a child. And, when you’re a kid, everything is challenging. Kids make use of creativity to solve problems from the time they are born. They discover the easy way via the hard way. And finally, they are constantly networking by simply meeting new people all the time.

So, kids are engaging in brain strengthening activities all the time, almost by default. For us adults, it likely takes a more concerted effort. It’s so easy to stay within our comfort zones, stick with our routines, and never change anything up. Doing that may be practical, productive and convenient… it’s just not making us any smarter.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re building your intelligence:

1. Seek novelty.

Novel doesn’t need to mean outlandish; it just means new to you. New experiences, new people, new anything other than “what we’ve always done.” Be open to new experiences and take advantage of opportunities when you have them.

2. Challenge yourself.

The brain, like any muscle in your body, gets stronger when you offer it some resistance. You know you’re good at what you do, but make sure you continue to take on challenges that stimulate your mind and take you outside your comfort zone.

3. Think creatively.

Creativity has countless benefits. Not only does thinking creatively increase our intelligence, it also enhances our productivity, efficiency, success, and happiness. It’s not just artists and what we normally think of as creative types — we’re all creative. Just allow your brain to do the work, instead of just asking it to memorize and regurgitate information.

4. Do things the hard way.

This is the brain exercise. It doesn’t mean making your life an unbearable struggle at every turn. But when you can, and when it’s practical, challenge yourself a little bit at a time. Figure the tip without a calculator, find your way without GPS, or make your own sauerkraut.

18647212508_9d4a3159a7_kThe ‘hard way’ can benefit you in the long run. 

5. Network.

It probably sounds like a burden to expose yourself to novelty and find ways to be creative if you don’t exactly know where to look. This is where networking comes in. Let other people show you the way. The more people you meet, the more you’re exposed to and the more you experience.

Networking, on its own, can seem daunting for many of us and can certainly lead us outside our comfort zone. For the introspective and thoughtful among us, that only makes networking even more beneficial.

As I’ve said before, there’s a lot to be said for sameness and routine to get us through life. But consciously weaving these elements into your routines could be beneficial in many ways, not the least of which is being competitive when playing games with children.

Children inherit their intelligence from their mother not their father, say scientists

Genes for cleverness are carried on the X chromosome and may be deactivated if they come from the father

A mother’s genetics determines how clever her children are, according to researchers, and the father makes no difference.

Women are more likely to transmit intelligence genes to their children because they are carried on the X chromosome and women have two of these, while men only have one.

But in addition to this, scientists now believe genes for advanced cognitive functions which are inherited from the father may be automatically deactivated.

A category of genes known as “conditioned genes” are thought to work only if they come from the mother in some cases and the father in other cases. Intelligence is believed to be among the conditioned genes that have to come from the mother.

Laboratory studies using genetically modified mice found that those with an extra dose of maternal genes developed bigger heads and brains, but had little bodies. Those with an extra dose of paternal genes had small brains and larger bodies.

Researchers identified cells that contained only maternal or paternal genes in six different parts of the mouse brains which controlled different cognitive functions, from eating habits to memory.

Cells with paternal genes accumulated in parts of the limbic system, which is involved in functions such as sex, food and aggression. But researchers did not find any paternal cells in the cerebral cortex, which is where the most advanced cognitive functions take place, such as reasoning, thought, language and planning.

 Concerned that people might not be like mice, researchers in Glasgow took a more human approach to exploring intelligence. They found the theories extrapolated from mice studies bear out in reality when they interviewed 12,686 young people between the ages of 14 and 22 every year from 1994. Despite taking into account several factors, from the participants education to their race and socio-economic status, the team still found the best predictor of intelligence was the IQ of the mother.However, research also makes it clear that genetics are not the only determinant of intelligence – only 40 to 60 per cent of intelligence is estimated to be hereditary, leaving a similar chunk dependent on the environment.

But mothers have also been found to play an extremely significant role in this non-genetic part of intelligence, with some studies suggesting a secure bond between mother and child is intimately tied to intelligence.

Researchers at the University of Washington found that a secure emotional bond between a mother and child is crucial for the growth of some parts of the brain. After analysing the way a group of mothers related to their children for seven years, the researchers found children who were supported emotionally and had their intellectual needs fulfilled had a 10 per cent larger hippocampus at 13 on average than children whose mothers were emotionally distant. The hippocampus is an area of the brain associated with memory, learning and stress response.

A strong bond with the mother is thought to give a child a sense of security which allows them to explore the world, and the confidence to solve problems. In addition, devoted, attentive mothers tend to help children solve problems, further helping them to reach their potential.

Of course, there’s no reason why fathers can’t play as big a nurture role as mothers. And researchers point out that a whole array of other gene determined traits – like intuiton and emotions – which can be inherited from the father are also key to unlocking potential intelligence, so fathers – don’t despair.

Having Fewer Friends Is A Sign Of Your Intelligence

High school would have been much better if this research would have surfaced during that time. If you have spent half of your time thinking about not having many friends, then look at the few friends you have and feel happy being with them. This is a sign that you are smarter than others. According to a new study published in the British Journal of Psychology, people who are content with having fewer friends are more intellectual than others.


This research was conducted by evolutionary psychologists Satoshi Kanazawa and Norman Li from the London School of Economics and Singapore Management University. They named their findings as ‘The savanna theory of happiness’, where they wrote about our ancestors’ life satisfaction in the ancestral environment and the circumstances that would have aided it. They further wrote about how there are chances that those circumstances can further our life satisfaction today.


The research revealed two major findings. One was that the people who live in more densely populated area are reportedly less satisfied or less happy with their overall life. The second finding was that people who had more social interaction with close friends depicted greater happiness. In other words, we are happy when we interact with our friends or a select group of people in our surrounding. The survey was conducted with 15000 respondents aged between 18 and 28.


However, for more intelligent people, this correlation between happiness and friends was found to be diminished. According to the research, having social interaction with friends most of the time makes intellectuals dissatisfied.

Though this research draws such results, this does not really mean that smart people don’t like to make friends. Neither does it give you any excuse to start ignoring the person who has been after your life. Just kidding! Whatever it is, congratulations for your new found smartness.

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