Can You Get Smarter?

Some of you may wake up in the morning and think; “Me think nice, me big smart, me no need school” And perhaps you are right But many of us, no matter what qualifications we have or what work we do, often wonder; is my brain achieving all it could achieve? Maybe it’s as simple as doing a bit more exercise, eating more fish and not drinking like the world’s going to end 2 nights a week

But are there other factors that affect how well your brain does its job? Does knowledge itself make you smarter or is it just data that you spit out randomly? What about puzzles and games, do these help at all after childhood or are they simply an escape? And how about surgeries or drugs that could give you some kind of edge on the competition? So watch out Steven Hawking, I’m going to climb that IQ ladder and kick you off the top once I find out: Can I Get Smarter? First off let’s all discuss the idea of intelligence, the way it’s defined and the way it’s measured On a physical level, we know relatively little about what makes one brain intelligent compared to another There’s no one bit of structure or biochemistry that we can point to and go “ah ha, there’s the smart bit” Here’s what we do know; the brain is made up of hundreds of billions of cells and different sections are responsible for different functions such as language, movement and… um…… memory Information is passed around the brain by neurons and synapses, where neurons are electrically excitable cells and synapses are the connections between them

When you are developing, these grow at an astonishing rate; you create 1,300 neurons and 700,000 synapses every second This is your DNA, rapidly coding that giant computer brain Scientists actually dissected Einstein’s brain, after he died obviously, a bit awkward otherwise One of the structural differences they found was that he had a noticeably higher ratio of glia to neurons, with glia being a different kind of brain cell This indicates that there may be some quantifiable difference in the brains of smart people, but we still don’t know for sure

So for now, we focus much more on ability tests, rather than the brain’s physical structure, to measure intelligence Francis Galton was an English statistician and the first person to attempt to develop some kind of standardised test for gauging a person’s intelligence He expected to find a correlation between intellect and other factors such as reflexes, muscle grip, and head size If this were true, I think LL Cool J would probably be the world’s smartest man as he’s basically a watermelon with bear paws In the 1940s, psychologist Raymond Cattell laid out the idea of two main types of intelligence; fluid and crystalized

Fluid was the ability to react to new situations and solve novel problems Crystalized intelligence involves using skills and knowledge that you already have It’s not the same as memory but it will rely on long-term memory, especially for things like vocabulary and general knowledge In the following years, John L Horn and John B

Carroll added further elements to Cattell’s ideas and the Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory is the basis of most current IQ testing The average IQ is 100, with the huge majority of people sitting between 70 and 130 A score above 130 is considered gifted and above 144 is genius level William James Sidis was supposed to have had the highest IQ of all time with a possible number of 300 He entered Harvard for mathematics in 1910, at just 11 years old

Now, where does smartness come from? This is the big Nature versus Nurture question If you take the child of two knuckle dragging morons and give it to some fancypants, genius academics, will the child grow into a specky little brainbox or a crayon-chewing bonehead? We used to think that the balance was more even between the two factors but as more evidence appears, we see that genetics is by far the most important factor in how smart a child can become Robert Plomin, working at King’s College London, ran the Colorado Adoption Project, which began back in 1975 For over 30 years they tracked adopted children, their adoptive parents and their biological parents to see where the most influence came from They also used control families, where the kids were raised normally by their biological parents

In the control groups, they found a strong correlation between the parent’s and children’s IQs, so this could have been all nature, all nurture or a balance of the two But with the adopted children there is exactly the same correlation to their biological parents and ZERO correlation of their intelligence with their adoptive parents, the people who actually raised them So smart adoptive parents are not able to raise a smart adopted child if the biological parents of that child aren’t smart to begin with, no matter what the adoptive parents do You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or a stupid kid how to play the piano What’s more, it seems that most of your personality is also genetic, so things like being introverted and extroverted come from your DNA, not from your home environment

So is nurture completely irrelevant? No, our environment still has a big influence on us, especially in terms of behavior, but psychologist Judith Rich Harris believes that we have been focusing on the wrong part of it The purpose of childhood is to prepare you to be an adult, and being an adult does not require you to get on with your parents Obviously, it’s preferable, so please don’t finish this video and go shout “I don’t need you anymore!” whilst your mum is making dinner, because you won’t get any It’s your peers that influence your behavior the most That’s why the children of immigrants will speak like the local population, not like Mum and Dad

Habits like smoking and drinking are normally picked up from peers but a disposition to addiction is passed down genetically, which is why parents who smoke often have children who smoke too They are not copying their parents, they usually start smoking with their peers and then the genes kick in that makes them hopelessly addicted If you want to try and give your brain a boost, you can’t mess with your genetics, so I’m sorry to say, you’re kind of limited to what you were given, but you can improve your crystalized intelligence and a thing called your working memory, which helps your fluid intelligence to function as well as possible Much like the gym, the more effort you put in, the better results you get out; so slip your brain into some spandex and make sure you work it out every day You should challenge yourself as often as you can and try to do things the hard way, like working out your own route on a map, rather than just following that blue arrow on your satnav like it’s your guardian angel

Although, please don’t write me an angry comment from a car park 3 miles away because you got lost trying to buy milk It’s not my fault you have no sense of direction Novelty is an important factor too If you always watch the same show, sit in the same chair and eat the same dinner, then not only do you really need to clean your sofa but your brain is not getting the new inputs it needs to learn more Try taking a different route to school or work, try and learn a new skill like origami or knitting or

whatever the hell this is The easiest way to get novelty is by networking, either in the real world or online Other people’s ideas may often be weird, terrifying and confusing but they will enable you to build new ones of your own

It’s no coincidence that over the centuries, major jumps in science and technology occur as we improve communication All ideas are built off other ideas so try to steal as many as possible from other people and become the super villain you were destined to be Finally, for those of you who find learning a struggle, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but that maybe because they just turned up the voltage too high and you’re being electrocuted That’s right, a study from 2013 found that stimulating the brain with a mild electric current, could lead to people learning five times faster than normal, and with good retention six months later, not just in the immediate aftermath If any of you are thinking of licking the car battery before doing your homework, don’t

If you really think it’s a good idea to go out of your way to electrocute your brain, then passing that maths test is the least of your worries, you should probably sit in the corner and stay away from sharp objects I’m sorry to tell you, but your parents were not intelligent

About Thoughty2

Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos, on the weirdest, wackiest and most interesting topics. Combining fascinating lists with answers to life's biggest questions.

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