Our Blogs

IQ and your Brain

  • 17-Apr-2020

Like an unbreakable bond, IQ and your brain are inseparable. For some, learning seems innate; mathematics seems effortless. But for many of us, it is a different story. So, can we improve our own IQ.

The debate has been raging for centuries; is intelligence innate or can it be improved by interventions? Are we born with the necessary intelligence for learning and success or is our environment responsible for shaping us? Can we, in fact, shape our own cognitive ability?

Many people believe that our intelligence levels are limited by biology on IQ and memory. While other psychologists have shown that IQ can be raised (see Cassidy, Roche & Hayes, 2011) leading to permanent increases in IQ (Roche, Cassidy &Stewart, 2013). Note: Cassidy and Roche are co-founders of RaiseYourIQ.

There can be different meanings to what we term intelligence. There is our “biological intelligence” (also known as neural efficiency. Then we have “psychometric intelligence” which is our measured IQ score (a method of estimating our biological intelligence).

The question is can we increase our biological intelligence? The research carried out in the past decade using various intervention tools (aka, brain training) have proven that it is possible for us to boost our neural efficiency and mental horsepower. Our cognitive ability can be made to work more efficiently. and in a more synchronized manner.

More research from Jaeggi (2008) showed that intellectual functioning could be improved. So, do these studies show us that our IQ score is no longer a number that limits our ability to grow. Interestingly, some of the greatest scientific minds of recent times possessed IQs below what we would call highly intelligent. People such as Richard Feynman, James Watson and William Shockley all had average IQs.

Another point worth making is that to measure improvement in IQ also requires us to consider how our intelligence is being measured in the first place. We should not confuse ability with knowledge. Any of us can study and improve our vocabulary. But does that make us smarter? To really measure intelligence, we need to measure the abilities that underlie the acquisition of knowledge, not the knowledge we current process.

“High, but not the highest intelligence, combined with the greatest degree of persistence, will achieve greater eminence than the highest degree of intelligence with somewhat less persistence”

Other psychologists have discovered that there is a strong link between what they term “relational skills” and IQ scores (O’Hora, Pelaez & Barnes-Holmes; 2005, O’Toole & Barnes-Holmes;2009, Cassidy, Roche & Hayes; 2011, Roche, Cassidy & Stewart; 2013). They showed that these relational skills can be taught which in turn triggers an increase in IQ scores.  

What does relational skills have to do with IQ?

The psychologist mentioned above state that “relational skills are the understanding of mathematical relationships between concepts or objects such as things are the same as other things, more or less than other things, opposite to other things etc” The proved that having a strong handle on the relationships between and among other things has been shown to enhance thinking and problem solving skills. Relational skills are now referred to as the building blocks of intelligence by psychologists in the field of Relational Frame Theory.

Research from 2011 has shown that using Relational Frame Theory as an intervention can significantly improve IQ scores in children. A more recent study using this intervention also found improvements in IQ, verbal reasoning, and numeric reasoning.

Activities that involve relational training include:

  • language learning books (“this is a…” and “that is a…”)
  • object comparisons (full cup versus empty cup)
  • amount comparisons (penny versus dime)

“While we may continue to use the words smart and stupid, the monopoly of those who believe in a single general intelligence has come to an end

A study aimed to replicate and extend the pilot findings of Cassidy et al. (2011) which found that teaching children to derive various relations among stimuli leads to increases in the full scale IQ scores of both typically developing children and those with educational and learning difficulties. In the first experiment , fifteen 11–12 year old children were exposed over several months to an intensive training intervention to improve their understanding of the relations Same, Opposite and More and Less. Significant increases in full scale IQ of around one standard deviation were recorded for each child. In the second experiment, the same intervention was delivered to thirty 15–17 year old children. Significant increases in verbal and Numerical Reasoning were recorded for almost every child. These findings corroborate the idea that relational skills may underlie many forms of general cognitive ability.

IQ and our Mindset

Scientists now believe that our mindset matters not just on an emotional level, but also on a physiological level. The fact that we believe we can improve our learning capability will enhance our performance in any learning environment. Persisting with tasks even when they are difficult will help us complete them. We have evidence of this in business and sport. The ability of those who are less gifted technically, working harder to achieve higher results. As one psychologist put it “when the chips are down, the person or kid who works harder will help themselves to deliver the results.”

This mindset is about getting outside of our comfort zones in a focused way, having clear goals, with a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor our progress. Research shows that we can increase our brain’s functioning by pushing ourselves to learn things that are outside of our current skill set.  Learn to play an instrument, a new language, or a new skill. This has the effect of exercising our brain in a new way which expands our brain’s neural networks.  

Also, as some of our abilities such as fluid reasoning, crystallized intelligence or verbal abilities are more stable over time, others are less stable as in short-term memory and cognitive processing speed. So, working our brain or doing brain exercises can increase brain functioning.

IQ and our Brain

More and more evidence based, and scientifically validated research seems to point to the fact that it is possible for us to raise our intelligence levels through brain training activities.Memory training, executive control, and reasoning can help to boost our intelligence levels. The best way to train these areas of our brain is to engage in thoughtful activities and games, learn new skills, and keep our brains active.