Jan 29 2014

NYT: Can You Make Yourself Smarter?

Play smarter.

For the past 12 years there has been a quiet revolution going on.  The revolution has to do with the immutability of your IQ: there is now significant reproducible evidence to suggest that you can improve it.

This change doesn’t have to do with your ability to continue to learn, even into old age —that’s old hat. And it’s not another link to a for-pay braining training website because the research around brain training almost overwhelmingly suggests that brain training exercises only make you better at the task you are practicing. There is no cross over benefit into other areas of cognitive functioning. Doing word puzzles just makes you better at word puzzles; it doesn’t help you remember where you put your keys. The change in brain science has to do with our understanding of the nature of fluid intelligence.

And fluid intelligence [is} not just another skill; it [is] the ultimate cognitive ability underlying all mental skills, and supposedly immune from the usual benefits of practice. To find that training on a working-memory task could result in an increase in fluid intelligence would be cognitive psychology’s equivalent of discovering particles traveling faster than light.

IQ tests are predicated on the idea that fluid intelligence is fixed early in life and will never change.  Many predictions are made based on IQ tests scores.

If you want to get smarter you have to play Dual N’ Back, a game created by researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland. Repeated studies suggest 15 minutes a day with this game can positively affect your fluid intelligence.

Here is the 2008 Wired magazine article on the research

The NYT article from 2012 summarizes additional research which shows that even students diagnosed with ADHD show significant behavioral improvement with training.

Here is a link to a free version of the training software.