What is intelligence?
Intelligence is defined as general cognitive problem-solving skills. A mental ability involved in reasoning, perceiving relationships and analogies, calculating, learning quickly… etc. Earlier it was believed that there was one underlying general factor at the intelligence base (the g-factor), but later psychologists maintained that it is more complicated and could not be determined by such a simplistic method. Some psychologists have divided intelligence into subcategories. For example Howard Gardner maintained that it is comprised of seven components: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Other definitions are: “Intelligence is what you do when you don’t know what to do.” “Intelligence is a hypothetical idea which we have defined as being reflected by certain types of behavior.”
Is Intelligence Inherited?
It is generally accepted that intelligence is inherited but can also be related to the environment. While studies showed that heredity is an important factor in determining intelligence; it was also suggested that environment is a critical factor in determining the extent of its expression. An investigation done recently revealed that 70 percent of the differences in the twins’ I.Q. scores were attributable to inherited traits. Previous studies had suggested that about 50 percent of the differences in scores were inherited. Studies showed that the grey matter volume is strongly determined by genes, and reflected cognitive performance. It was also suggested that there is a strong genetic influence on IQ, verbal and spatial abilities, So in short our genes determine the quality of our intelligence, our ability to integrate and process information. The level of our intelligence determines how well we cope with changes in our environment. It is believed that race and culture have their share in intelligence as well, but so far there is no confirmed conclusion that intelligence varies from race to race. Environmental factors can play a role as well, but in fact they are capable of slowing down our mental processes more than enhancing it. There is no evidence to indicate that our environment can increase intelligence to a relatively high level. It is also inherently easier to degrade brain tissue than to create more complex brain tissue. Enhancements in brain structure require long periods of evolutionary selection, in addition to the availability of extraneous sources of energy. While brain degradation can happen in a relatively shorter time.
A number of psychologists have argued that intelligence can be quantified, primarily through testing. In 1905, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon devised a system for testing intelligence, with scoring based on average mental levels for various age groups. However the German psychologist L. Wilhelm Stern was the first to coin the term intelligence quotient (IQ), a figure derived from the ratio of mental age to chronological age. Although Stern’s method for determining IQ is no longer in common use, the term IQ is still used today to describe the results in several different tests. Today, an average IQ score is considered to be 100, with deviations based on this figure. Intelligence tests do not measure creativity, character, personality, or other important differences among individuals, nor are they intended to. While there are different types of intelligence tests, they all measure the same intelligence. Some use words or numbers and require specific cultural knowledge (like vocabulary). Others do not, and instead use shapes or designs and require knowledge of only simple, universal concepts. Most people cluster around the average (IQ 100). Few are either very bright or very dull: About 3% of Americans score above IQ 130. Intelligence tests are not culturally biased against any race, for example in America, IQ scores predict equally and accurately for all Americans (African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics …), regardless of race and social class. Individuals who do not understand English well can be given either a nonverbal test or one in their native language. The main criticism of intelligence testing is that it is difficult to insure that test items are equally meaningful or difficult for members of different sociocultural groups. Testing is often considered validated in part, however, by the finding that the quantity measured by the tests can be closely correlated in American society with career and academic achievement.
Can we Increase our Intelligence?
There are certainly ways to increase one’s intelligence, also called intelligence amplification/ enhancing, by practicing many proven cognitive tools such as mnemonics, problem-solving heuristics, creativity techniques and decision-making tools. An increase in the intelligence level can only result in a better life, health, and standard of living. Below you will find some simple intelligence boosters:
Deep thinking: in life it’s not enough to just react to events, and situations, rather we should have a conscious objective and select our actions to get nearer our objective. Also it’s important to think about consequences of our actions, to minimize the possibilities of errors and regret. Deep thinking would normally help you live better, and reach your goals.
Good reasoning: it is the key to success, especially if performed consciously and in the proper order: 1) have an objective, 2) make a general sensing about it, 3) determine your decision based on your sensing, 4) make alternate plans (along the main objective), 5) select the best response/ plan. 5) start by carrying out your plan, 6) observe results, 7) store experiences (for future reference).
Learning from past experience: it is believed that many inventions were actually re- nventions; for example Egyptians 2000-4000 years ago were using some unique techniques to build their temples, buildings… but since the early Egyptians were not good at keeping records of what they were doing, many of their inventions/ techniques were lost, and they had to be reinvented many centuries after them, which means that we had to start from point zero again because we didn’t keep records of our discoveries. You can apply that to your own life, learning from the past experience either bad or good is very beneficial, and can save you a lot of time and effort. A good way to do that is journal writing which is a useful way to develop self understanding, and to analyze events, in addition to provide a record of how we change over time.
Practice: you cannot learn swimming from a book, the same thing should be taken into consideration when dealing with “thinking”; you cannot learn to think without practicing. And as mentioned earlier, a good way to start is with cognitive tools such as brain exercises: mnemonics, problem-solving heuristics, creativity techniques, brainstorming, puzzles, brain teasing games… etc.
Intelligence Pills? Smart Drugs?
It would sure be nice if we just take a smart pill and get smarter, instead of going through all those brain teasers and problem-solving training. In fact, scientists are indeed studying substances that may improve mental abilities. These substances are called “cognitive enhancers” or “smart drugs”. The supposed effects of these intelligence drugs can be several things, for example, it can improve memory, learning, attention, concentration, problem solving, reasoning, social skills, decision making and planning. In most cases, smart drugs have been used to treat people with neurological or mental disorders, but there is a growing number of healthy, “normal” people who use these substances in hopes of getting smarter. However it’s arguable if the cognitive enhancers have some effects if any. Results from different laboratories show mixed results; some labs show positive effects on memory and learning; other labs show no effects. The intelligence pills are supposed to work by increasing brain metabolism, increasing cerebral circulation, or protection of the brain from physical and chemical damage, and as a consequence they result in increased mental energy, increased alertness, decreased depression, improved memory, and improved learning ability. There are many names in the market of these smart pills, and the number is growing bigger day after day. Many of them are made of herbal as well as chemical substances. Below is a list of some intelligence enhancers in their natural state:
Ginko Biloba extracts: apparently have vasodilatory effects, and have in some studies shown it could treat some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They also appear to have some effects on short term memory. But no study to confirm these results yet.
Choline: A natural amine, often classed in the vitamin B complex. There is evidence that drugs that stimulate the cholinergic systems improve certain memory tasks, and there is much speculation that adding extra choline to the diet would lead to better general memory performance.
Caffeine: caffeine acts as a mild stimulant to the nervous system, blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine and resulting in a feeling of well-being and alertness. It increases the heart rate, blood pressure. Although it’s not smart to take it as a smart drug, it is however probably relevant anyway, simple, relatively safe if not taken excessively. May be one cup or less a day is considered to be within the safe range.
Glucose: has been shown to improve memory when given in certain dosages in association with a learning task; how to exploit this to improve cognition in general is a more complex problem, because it can have negative effects as well.
Definitions related to Intelligence:
Gifted : used to describe individuals having great natural ability or talent, usually the equivalent of “intelligent”, this term is used often with children ”a gifted child”, also other possible equivalent words are “smart”, “nerd”, “brainy”, “genius”…etc.
Giftedness : is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. The fact of having a mind ahead of the physical growth, and could be simply the equivalent of “intelligence”.
Creativity: mental process of generating new ideas or concepts,or new associations between existing ideas or concepts.
Super-brain : also called mega-brain is used as a term to refer to machines or individuals who can perform/ process complicated tasks in a relatively faster speed.
High Intelligence Society : usually refers to a community where people with higher I.Q/ geniuses meet and exchange their ideas for the benefit of humanity, and to encourage the uses of intelligence. Usually a certain I.Q score should be obtained to join one of those societies.
IQ (intelligence quotient) : is used to refer to tests “measuring” intelligence, and scoring it. Please refer to my home page.
G Factor : is an expression used to quantify what is common to the scores of all intelligence tests. G is the abbreviation of “general intelligence factor”.
Brainstorming: the process performed by a person or a group of people to solve a problem by rapidly generating a variety of possible solutions.
Intelligence: (in differnent languages) Dutch (intelligentie), French (intelligence), German (Intelligenz), Greek (ευφυϊα), Italian (notizia), Portuguese (inteligência), Russian (умственныеспособности), Spanish (inteligencia), Swedish (intelligens), Chinese (智力, 智力), Japanese (理解力), Arabic (ذكاء), Hebrew (תבונה).
Artificial Intelligence: generally used to refer to the ability of a computer or other machine to perform activities that normally require intelligence, or automating tasks requiring intelligent behavior. Artificial intelligence is also abbreviated into “AI”.