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.
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
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.
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
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?”
As I’ve said before intelligence is not that straightforward. We used to think IQ was about 50% inherited and then recognised the impact of upbringing which started the nature-nurture debate.
Geneticists discovered that your genes could also be influenced by environmental factors – epigenetics – but also that people who were assumed to have inherited certain skills probably got them through hard work.
Other recent research show that high IQ scores are as a result of innate intelligence PLUS motivation (See posts on intelligence). That means you can improve your scores if you really want to.
It is clear now that there is no single gene for intelligence and the latest research at the University of Edinburgh shows that about 40% of the variation in knowledge (crystalline type intelligence) and about 50% of differences in problem-solving skills (fluid type intelligence) are due to genetic factors.
Scientists still can’t tell you exactly which genes have an effect on intelligence but have found broad patterns. Research like this could help to understand how people suffer cognitive decline in old age (See: Can you keep Alzheimer’s at Bay?).
GQ is based on John Gray’s best-selling books comparing men and women to Mars and Venus.
Recent research suggests that men and women aren’t actually that much different after all (although men tend to have bigger brains than women).
But the test/quiz purports to tell you how much you know about gender differences so that you can be more effective when working with men and women, especially when selling to them.
Of course it’s a pitch for their sales training but it makes you think so it’s worth having a go by clicking here.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Associate Professor of psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London recently posted a blog on Psychology Today about IQ and how it is still the best predictor of success in life, including at school, at work, and in health.
He says that many people however associate high IQs with geeks or nerds and don’t accept how useful it is as a predictor of job performance, particularly since the publication of books on emotional and multiple intelligences.
There is also more knowledge about intelligence now, about the effects of interaction with the environment and competition on IQ scores.
He also acknowledges that much of the research has been carried out on traditional types of jobs, albeit requiring different skills and qualifications.
He is therefore interested in people in non-traditional jobs, the self-employed and entrepreneurs, on which there are few if any studies and who will form an increasingly large proportion of the working population in years to come.
So he wants to know how important IQ is in entrepreneurial success and has designed a survey to explore this. If you want to read the background to this in more detail and would like to be part of some research to find out, click here.
If you don’t want to read the Psychology Today blog just go straight to the on-line test and get your free report here.
Updated 19 May 2011: The link above is to Dr Mark’s Business Psychology Blog, one of my favourites, and he has posted another one on “Bottling the Entrepreneurial Spirit”. Well worth reading.
See also: How do you know how intelligent you are?