The researchers at Leicester University studied more than 500,000 Britons aged 37-73 who were given intelligence and memory tests.
They were actually looking at the effect of sedentary behaviour on brainpower. They found it fell faster among middle-aged people who drove long distances every day.
So middle-aged people should cut out that long-distance commute and find more socially stimulating things to do.
It was already known that sedentary behaviour was bad for your heart but now it appears to be bad for your brain too “perhaps because the brain is less active in those hours“ (I hope they weren’t referring to driving).
Cognitive decline can happen quickly “(It’s) decline is measurable over five years because it can happen fast in middle-aged and older people. This is associated with lifestyle factors such as smoking and bad diet – and now it’s time spent driving” said Kishan Bakrania.
93,000 of the participants who were already driving two to three hours a day had lower brainpower when the research started – and it continued to decline and faster than people who did little or no driving.
Similar results were found with TV watching. Those who watched 3 hours a day had lower brainpower at the start of the research and it fell faster over five years.
Although studies are suggesting that cognitive decline is linked to physical inactivity using a computer at work or for playing games actually stimulates the brain – whereas watching TV doesn’t. However sedentary behaviour is also linked with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. So get off that couch!
The research results were no surprise to the Alzheimer’s Society. Cardiovascular health will affect memory and thinking skills and “staying mentally and physically active hips keep the brain healthy“.
In his new book “Does your family make you smarter” he proposes that intelligence, rather than plateauing at 18 years of age, can increase throughout adulthood, providing you have a stimulating lifestyle.
Households where people talk, challenge, joke and share cultural pastimes can boost the IQ of family members by several points.
And workplaces that impose intellectual challenges on staff can over time raise their individual intelligence.
The opposite is also true. People who share a home or workplace with dullards for any length of time risk seeing their IQ enter a sharp decline because of lack of stimulation.
Flynn says “Intelligence has always been thought to be static … the new evidence shows that this is wrong. The brain seems to be rather like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. That means you can upgrade your intelligence during your lifetime“.
He suggests the best way to improve your IQ is to marry someone smarter than you, find an intellectually stimulating job, and hang out with bright friends.
Up to now we’ve believed that intelligence is controlled by genes influenced by our nutrition and environment up to age 18 when it stabilises.
Flynn’s research took 65 years of IQ tests from the US and correlating the results with the age of the people creating IQ age tables. From these he draws two conclusions. The cognitive quality of a family alters the IQ of all members but especially children i.e. it can lift them or hold them back.
For example a bright child of 10 with siblings of average intelligence will suffer on average a 5-10 point IQ disadvantage compared to a similar child with equally bright brothers and sisters. A child with a lower IQ can gain 6-8 points by having brighter siblings and educational support.
The effects are more clear in the early years with arithmetic skills strongly controlled by the home environment up to age 12 and verbal skills affected up to teenage years.
He also believes, based on this research, that although genetics and early life experience determine about 80% of intelligence the rest is strongly linked to our lifestyle as adults.
“As you leave childhood behind the legacy of your family diminishes but the game is not over. A large proportion of your cognitive quality is now in your own hands. You can change it yourself and your IQ can vary through life according to your own efforts” says Flynn
“Going through life feeling your childhood is holding you back is misunderstanding how much power you have to improve yourself”.
I don’t know if his book (out next month) makes any reference to the use of technology and social media and its impact of family interaction because that would have some impact.
This is certainly a game-changing idea and will undoubtedly be challenged although there has been other research which suggests there is something more to IQ than commonly believed.
In 2011 researchers at the University of Pennsylvania said that they found that high IQ scores are a result of high intelligence plus motivation whereas low IQ scores could be because of the lack of either intelligence or motivation (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
They also said that students offered incentives improved their IQ scores and suggested that people with high IQs may be not only more intelligent but also more competitive
There is also research that shows you can improve the collective IQ of a group by adding more women.
Research in Scotland found that people with mentally stimulating jobs suffered less cognitive decline as they got older.
And recently researchers at the University of Texas found that busy over-50s had higher cognitive scores than younger people.
Experts in emotional intelligence have long held that EI, unlike IQ, continues to develop into adulthood. Now it seems we have the capacity to develop both our cognitive and socio-emotional skills.
Your personality traits, your leadership abilities and your potential criminality can also be deduced from your facial appearance.
Psychologists have argued about this for some time but new evidence from Rollins College in Florida suggests it might be true.
Marc Fetscherin, a professor at the International Business School found a correlation between company profits and the shape of the Chief Executive’s face.
He said “Facial width to height ratio correlates with real world measures of aggressive and ambitious behaviour and is associated with a psychological sense of power. It is therefore possible that it could predict leadership performance“.
Similar results were found by researchers at Sussex University where they analysed the faces of FTSE100 Chief Executives.
The researchers there thought underpinning this was a high level of testosterone which is associated with aggression and pursuit of dominance and which also influences the growth of muscle and bone.
Research from Finland among military personnel suggests that this view of wide-faced men being leaders might not be universally applicable in different kinds of organisations however.
It’s also been known for centuries that tall, attractive people were more likely to be in leadership positions. For one thing good-looking people tend to be brighter and being well-nourished in times past probably meant you came from a privileged background – always a good starting point.
The idea that we can read people just by looking at them for 1/10th of a second has been around for a long time and was associated with physiognomy and eugenics which became disreputable.
Today however it is still relevant when it comes to career progression. Apart from the research on CEOs, which is based predominantly on men, the research on women suggests that you can be too good-looking to get an interview.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT Sloan School of Management have found there is no correlation between individual IQ scores and group intelligence.
Participants were first given standard intelligence tests and then randomly assigned to teams. The teams were asked to brainstorm, solve visual puzzles and one complex problem, and then each team’s collective intelligence was assessed.
The teams that had members with higher IQ scores didn’t score much higher than the average but teams that had more women in them did.
Factors such as group cohesion, motivation, and satisfaction were not predictive of the teams’ performance but gender diversity was correlated. The researchers put this down to what they call social sensitivity (which sound similar to the emotional intelligence factors of empathy and awareness of others).
Teams displaying social sensitivity would be more open to feedback and constructive criticism. Teams that had smart people dominating the discussions didn’t turn out to be so intelligent as a group.
So in theory a group of high IQ members could score better on the team tests but it would probably be because they had higher levels of social sensitivity as well. Women score higher on this than men but if you had more socially sensitive men that would work too.
The researchers also suggest that extremely diverse groups and highly homogeneous groups aren’t as intelligent as groups with a moderate degree of variety in IQ scores. They also see the potential for improving IQ at organisational level through changing the make-up of a group and rewarding collaboration, although the larger a group gets the less opportunity there is for face to face interaction.
This research is interesting because it uses collective IQ as a predictor. We know now that IQ scores can vary depending on the motivation of the individual and that when you are stressed your IQ level drops. Putting people in a more collaborative and supportive environment probably contributes to the enhanced group effect.
Source: HBR June 2011
Over the years there have been many approaches to leadership with trait theories, style theories, functional models, situational/contingency models, transactional/transformational theories, ideas about biological and personality characteristics, and more recently emotional intelligence competencies
So do leaders need to be more intelligent than their followers? Well probably a bit, because that inspires confidence, but not too much more intelligent.
Do they need to be empathetic? It’s probably better if they have tough empathy ie “grow or go” but they do need social skills.
Do they need to be liked? No, but they need to be respected. And since the last recession integrity has become important again.
Difficult times require people to perform better than normal and people need exceptional leaders to help them do that. By exceptional I don’t mean charismatic or heroic leaders – although some people respond to that style of leadership which “encourages the heart” – but leaders who do what they say they will do ie are conscientious, and also act as role models.
And to do that they need to be both self-confident and emotionally stable.
Research among elite performers found that they had a number of characteristics in common. As well as being intelligent, disciplined and bold, with strong practical and interpersonal skills, they bounced back from adversity.
Jim Collins describes in his book “How the mighty fall” people who are exasperatingly persistent and never give up. They are not necessarily the brightest, most talented, or best looking, but they are successful because they know that not giving up is the most important thing they do. He says; “success is falling down and getting up one more time, without end”.
This resilience (from the latin to leap back) is linked to personal attributes such as calmness in stressful situations, reflection on performance through feedback, and learning systematically from both success and failure.
Resilient people generally:
Recognise what they can control and influence and do something about it, rather than worry about what they can’t
Stay involved rather than becoming cynical or detached or simply walking away
Work with others to shape the environment and influence things that affect them most
Act as a source of inspiration to others to counter self-destructive behaviour
Aren’t these the sort of behaviours you would expect from good leaders? So it’s not just about “bouncing back” and carrying on where you left off before. It’s about reflecting and learning from what has happened and then getting back to business.
Resilience seems to be an innate ability for most people and is increasingly found in leadership competency frameworks where it is linked with confidence, authenticity and ethical leadership ideas.
Modern leaders need not just brains and emotional intelligence but also resilience.
Acting as a role model is an essential part of being an effective leader hence the need for them to be hardy and emotionally stable. Research shows that resilient leaders can have a positive effect on the well-being of organisations and their employees so it’s well worth organisations developing such capabilities.
First posted on SGANDA in 2011
Well according to Catherine Hakim a sociologist at the LSE it’s Erotic Capital. Something she believes is 50% innate and 50% learned. She thinks EC is; “sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation”.
If you have it you can earn 10-15% more than your colleagues (but that applies to taller people too). She thinks women usually have more than men but men are catching up with their use of botox (see my previous posting “Body Language and the B problem“) and male moisturisers, whilst both sexes are found spending time at the gym, or under the knife, improving their appearance.
Using EC apparently means anything from flirting subtly with the boss to commercially exploiting a large pair of breasts. She sees Katie Price and Posh Spice as people not endowed with high IQs who make the most of what they have but are looked down on for it – perhaps because of our Anglo-Saxon puritanism.
I can’t decide whether this is good news or not! Annoying radical feminists can’t be all bad but do we want to see more sexualisation in the work place?
Is this the new “emotional intelligence”? Is there a role for HR and training experts?
Kate Spicer who interviewed her for The Sunday Times was clearly a little confused too. She referred to Hakim’s foxy red hair, expertly applied makeup with a dash of botox and also her use of some of the EC skills she seems to be endorsing, whilst claiming to be a feminist.
A Personnel Today’s journalist also picked up on this story in his blog amusingly referring to erotic capitals such as Paris, Amsterdam or Prague! However like me and my reader TG he suggests a niche market for seminars and consultants as EC becomes a new, sexier, version of Human Capital Management.
Updated 19 January 2011: Researchers have now found that you can have both brains and beauty! Life can be so cruel.
Studies in America and the UK show that handsome men and beautiful women tend to be cleverer than the norm by about 14 IQ points. The findings suggest that as both beauty and intelligence are inherited the offspring of people with these attributes will inherit both qualities and this will be reinforced in subsequent generations.
Satoshi Kanazawa, the LSE researcher, found that the association between physical attractiveness and general intelligence was stronger for men than for women: 14 points higher than average for men and 12 points for women – so hard to maintain a view about dumb blondes.
This research, published in Intelligence, was based on the Child Development Study of 17,000 British children born in March 1958 which has monitored them ever since, and the American National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health – a similar study of 35,000 young Americans.
Kanazawa’ argument is that; “if more intelligent men are more likely to attain higher status, and if men of higher status are more likely to marry beautiful women, then, given that both intelligence and physical attractiveness are highly heritable, there should be a positive correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness in the children’s generation”.
Beauty happens to be Kanazawa’s special research interest and he has also found that middle class girls not only have higher IQs than working class girls but are also more attractive.
The report in the Sunday Times (16/1/11) doesn’t explain how physical attractiveness was measured or rated and the example given, model Lily Cole who is studying at Cambridge, is not, in my opinion, beautiful (but to me neither is Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell, so it shows how subjective beauty can be). To his credit Kanazawa does say that these are purely statistical findings and shouldn’t be applied to individuals or prescribe how to judge people.
Updated 19 August 2011: You’ve read my blog on this topic and now you can buy Carol Hakim’s new book; “Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital”.
The Daily Mail also published a piece by the author which is bound to upset the feminists and PC brigade (so that’s a plus).
I can’t say I necessarily I agree with some of the celebrities used as examples. I don’t find Posh Spice the least bit attractive nor Renee Zellwegger or Madonna but it just goes to show that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Michael Woodley, the co-author, claims that people in Victorian times were quicker, smarter, and more creative than we are.
Using response times as an indicator of general intelligence he found these had slowed down by 14% since 1889.
Then, average response times for men were 183 ms and 187 ms for women. Now they are 250 ms for men and 227 ms for women.
The researchers suggest that this means there has been a decline in creativity and innovation since Victorian times and said; “These findings strongly indicate that the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations”.
It wasn’t possible to compare IQ scores because of different levels of education, health and nutrition so visual response times were used instead as these have a large correlation with intelligence.
Woodley thinks that our declining intelligence is a result of a reverse in natural selection as clever people have fewer children than in previous times.
These finding fly in the face of the Flynn effect – a steady increase in measured intelligence over time.
The authors, as far as I know from the news article, make no comment about the difference in response times between men and women, both then and now, which, assuming the differences are statistically significant, would imply that men are more intelligent than women – an argument that has been made before but now generally refuted. Nor about the politically sensitive issue of immigration and whether increases in immigration with larger families from poorer countries has contributed to the decline.
Intelligence is notoriously difficult to define and measure but this study contributes to that debate.
A study reported last year from Illinois State University found almost the opposite.
Impulsivity was linked to more examples of organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB), discretionary acts that promote the organisation, across a range of industries. Impulsive colleagues are more likely to help out colleagues even at the expense of their own work assignments than more cautious diligent employees.
This reflected what the researchers called a “can do” attitude. In this study they didn’t find any evidence that impulsivity led to more deviant behaviours. Other studies have shown that impulsivity but also optimism and cognitive ability can predict deviant behaviours so recruiters beware!
A far as emotional intelligence (EI) is concerned they didn’t find it linked to OCBs but more linked to deviant behaviours. People with high EI can easily figure out how to influence others and get away with self-interested behaviour such as fiddling receipts (does this remind you of the dark side?).
Other recent research at the University of Leuven in Belgium found that self-serving leaders could still be effective even if they weren’t emotionally intelligent? (It was assume that the more narcissistic self-serving leaders would have lower levels of EI).
It seems it depends on the level of distributive justice (e.g. are employees getting what they deserve?)
When distributive justice was perceived as low, then self-serving leaders were seen in a negative light. But when these leaders keep their staff happy e.g. by promotions and other rewards, the staff saw them in a more favourable light (perhaps unsurprisingly).
If anything this kind of research shows that we need to be careful not to make broad assumptions about the positive value of these personal attributes. Don’t forget narcissists and psychopaths can be charming (and manipulative).
Researchers at universities in Germany have been exploring how thinking about our ancestors affects us.
After all many of us are interested in our ancestors and genealogy is very popular today.
They found that thinking about our ancestors actually boosted IQ scores.
The researchers suggest that thinking about our ancestors and how they overcame severe life-threatening problems and conditions makes us realise that people with similar genetic make-up to us triumphed in adversity.
They asked 80 undergraduates to think either of their 15th-century ancestors, their grandparents, or a shopping trip. Those who thought about their ancestors were more confident about upcoming examinations and felt more in control of theirt life in general.
Other studies involving thinking or writing about their ancestors led them to perform better on a range of intelligence tests including spatial and verbal tests. They scored an average of 14 out of 16 compared to the control group which only achieved an average of 10. The higher scores were partly due to completing more questions – the “promotion orientation“.
The ancestral effect even worked when the students were asked to think about negative aspects of their ancestors. Students asked to write about themselves or friends did not demonstrate any benefits.
The researchers said; “we showed that an easy reminder about our ancestors can significantly increase intellectual performance. .. in difficult situations such as job interviews or exams this is an easy technique to use to increase success”.
Source: The Psychologist
And we now know that, like people, they can be devious.
Marine biologists who have been studying dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, for 22 years, have discovered another trait they thought only applied to humans.
The best food in the bay was hidden under the sand and to get it the dolphins had to dig with their noses which got scraped in the process.
That is until a dolphin learned to break off a sea sponge and put it on her snout when foraging to protect her nose. She became known as “Sponging Eve”.
Monkeys are known to use stones to crack open nuts and the young learn by imitating their elders.
However in the case of these dolphins the habit has not spread widely. The biologists noticed that the dolphins who did copy “Sponging Eve” kept together in groups. After 20 years of this the habit is still not widespread but confined to an elite few.
Writing in Nature Communications the biologists said; ” Spongers were more cliquish, had more sponger associates and stronger bonds with each other than with non-spongers”.
Just like humans the privileged few tend to stick together, perhaps to protect their advantage.
Typically IQ testing has shown differences between men and women – and more controversially between races.
James Flynn, a Professor in New Zealand, has claimed that our IQ scores are increasing every ten years by about 3%, and this has been called the “Flynn effect”.
The “Flynn Effect” means that modern Europeans are 30 points smarter than those who lived a century ago and that IQ is not (wholly) genetic as it can be improved.
Flynn’s latest research showed that whereas women’s scores had previously lagged 5 points behind men’s the differences are now trivial and in New Zealand, Argentina, and Estonia women scored slightly higher than men.
Flynn puts this down to the impact of modern living, women being less disadvantaged than they were in the past, and having jobs that make more cognitive demands.
I’ve posted on women and intelligence before, how women can do worse at problem solving when in teams and yet adding women to teams can raise the group IQ levels.
Intelligence testing is not without its critics and is not a perfect science. See: “How do you know how intelligent you are?”