Some people argue that IQ tests only tell us how well someone performs on a test, and that they have little to do with the kind of intelligence that helps us in the real world.
However, research has shown that IQ scores can predict educational achievement, job performance, and annual income.Depending on which IQ test a person takes, a variety of mental functions are measured, including long-term recall, short-term memory, visual reasoning, and comprehension ability.
In general, however, most IQ scores reflect two major components, crystallized and fluid intelligence.
Crystallized intelligence is the kind of knowledge and information we gain from studying and learning. Such intelligence helps us to complete our crossword puzzles in ink and win at Scrabble.
Fluid intelligence, the other major component of IQ, has tremendous potential to enrich our lives. It involves the capacity to solve problems, make connections between ideas, and think abstractly. Fluid intelligence was previously thought to remain relatively stable during the first few decades of life and to gradually decline as we age.
But in 2008, Dr. Susanne Jaeggi and her colleagues at the University of Michigan discovered that by playing computer games that train attention and working memory, fluid intelligence can be improved.
Working memory is a type of short-term memory that makes it possible for us to temporarily store, organize, and manipulate information, like dialing a telephone number we’ve just heard. It is essential for holding information in our heads and using it to quickly solve problems and take actions.
Another form of intelligence that may be as important or more important to success in life is emotional intelligence, which is our ability to perceive and understand our own emotions and those of others, in order to guide our thinking and actions.
Until Dr. Jaeggi’s study, scientists were convinced that there wasn’t much hope for improving fluid intelligence, and they assumed that it declined with age. To convince the world this assumption was false, Dr. Jaeggi tested subjects using a simple video game based on principles used in the well-known match game of Concentration.
Her 2008 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that when elementary school children played this brain-training game for 15 to 25 minutes, five days a week, they not only improved their game performance, but they increased their scores on completely different tests that measured fluid intelligence.
However, not all the students showed improvement. For some, the game was too challenging. If a student’s working memory did not improve, then there wasn’t much gain in fluid intelligence.
This observation emphasizes the importance of finding forms of mental stimulation and training that are geared to the individual’s baseline performance level. We want to train, but not strain, our brains to get optimal benefits
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