Can Your IQ Change?
Each week, MyHealthNewsDaily asks the experts to answer questions about your health. This week, we asked psychologists: Can your IQ ever change?
Jack Naglieri, research professor at University of Virginia:
The answer to this question, like many others, depends on a number of factors. If you look at the research where they've made people smarter (i.e. improved their IQs), what they're really doing is to make people function better.
I've been able to teach children to be better in mathematics without teaching them mathematics. You can teach a child to better utilize their ability to plan, and that improves their academic performance not only in math, but in reading comprehension. So, what I would say, is we didn't make the children smarter, but we taught them how to use what they have more efficiently, and better.
Understanding changes in IQ also requires carefully considering how intelligence is being measured. People confuse ability with knowledge. We all can study and improve our vocabulary. But I would argue that doesn't make us any smarter.
The best way to measure intelligence is to measure those abilities that underlie the acquisition of knowledge, separately from the knowledge we have.
Richard Nisbett, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan:
Yes, your IQ can change over time. But [IQ] tests give you the same answer to a very substantial extent, even over a period of year. The older you are, the more stable your test score will be.
The most volatility in IQ scores is in childhood, mostly in adolescence. Offhand I can't think of a reason why it would be, it just seems to be the case.
Also, the average IQ of people is changing over time. Basically, people are gaining in modern industrialized societies. IQs are increasing three points per decade. In fact, there was an 18-point increase between 1947 and 2002. So the average IQ of a 20-year-old in 1947 was lower than the average IQ of a 20-year-old in 2002.
Now, validity of IQ as a measurement of all that we consider "intelligence" is another question.
Stephen Ceci, professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University:
Absolutely. And there's plenty of evidence documenting this.
An article in November in the journal Nature by Price and her colleagues is one example. It had 33 adolescents, who were 12- to 16-years-old when the study started. Price and her team gave them IQ tests, tracked them for four years, and then gave them IQ tests again.
The fluctuations in IQ were enormous. I'm not talking about a couple points, but 20-plus IQ points, one way or another. These changes in IQ scores were not random — they tracked very nicely with structural and functional brain imaging. Suppose the adolescent's verbal IQ really went up during that time; it was verbal areas of the brain that changed.
There are quite a large number of other studies showing IQ can change. Many of the changes in IQ are correlated to changes in schooling. One way that school increases IQ is to teach children to "taxonimize," or group things systematically instead of thematically. This kind of thinking is rewarded on many IQ tests.
There's also a number of studies showing that the brain changes after several kinds of regimen. London Taxi drivers whose brains are scanned before and after they start driving, and learning to navigate London's maze of streets, show changes in the brain as they use more navigational skills. Even young adults who take a juggling course show brain changes.
If you put it all together, and the evidence is quite compelling, that life experiences and school-related experiences change both the brain and IQ. This is true of adults and children.
Alan S. Kaufman, clinical professor of psychology at the Yale University School of Medicine:
There's no such thing as "an" IQ. You have an IQ at a given point in time. That IQ has built-in error. It's not like stepping on a scale to determine how much you weigh.
The reasonable error around any reliable IQ is going to be plus or minus 5 or 6 points, to give you a 95 percent confidence interval. So, for example, if a person scores 126, then you can say with 95 percent confidence that the person's true IQ is somewhere between 120 and 132; within our science we don't get any more accurate than that.
But as soon as you go to a different IQ test, then the range is even wider, because different IQ tests measure slightly different things.
But while there is no single IQ – it's a range of IQs – you can still pretty much determine whether a person is going to score roughly at a low level, or an average level, or a high level.
However, IQ is a relative concept. IQ is how well you do on an IQ test compared to other people your age, and that is true whether you are 4 or in your 40s.
Kevin McGrew, director of the Institute for Applied Psychometrics, visiting professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota
It depends. First I think it is important to distinguish between at least three different meanings of the word intelligence. There is biological intelligence, or what is typically defined as neural efficiency. Then there's psychometric intelligence – your measured IQ score – which is an indirect and imperfect method of estimating biological intelligence.
Can you increase biological intelligence? Research during the past decade using various neurotechnologies (aka, brain fitness programs) has suggested that it is possible to fine-tune your neural efficiency, or mental horsepower. Your cognitive functions can be made to work more efficiently. and in a more synchronized manner.
So can you change your IQ score? Individuals can change IQ scores. Your score may change not because of any real change in general intelligence, but that different tests may be used which measure different mixtures of abilities.
Also, some abilities (e.g., fluid reasoning and crystallized intelligence, or verbal abilities) are more stable over time, while others are less stable (e.g., short-term memory and cognitive processing speed).
You may have a certain level of general intelligence but it is important how you use it. When you approach a task, how well do you plan? How well do you adjust your response if it's not going well? These non-cognitive traits can be improved more easily than cognitive abilities.
This Is How You Can Raise Your IQ And Improve Your Memory
Many traditional theorists on intelligence hold that there are limits set by biology on IQ and memory. However, modern psychologists have shown with published research that IQ can be raised (see Cassidy, Roche & Hayes, 2011) and that these IQ rises are permanent (Roche, Cassidy & Stewart, 2013). We also know that memory is an essential component of intellectual functioning and that this too can be improved (see Jaeggi et al., 2008). These studies show that IQ score no longer has to refer to a number that limits us. Rather, it can be seen simply as a starting point for us to continuously increase our intellectual skill sets for meaningful gains in all avenues of life. Below are 7 ways to raise your IQ and 5 ways to improve your memory.
7 Ways to Raise Your IQ
1. Improve your relational skills
Psychologists have also discovered that there is a strong correlation between relational skills and IQ scores (O’Hora, Pelaez & Barnes-Holmes; 2005, O’Toole & Barnes-Holmes;2009, Cassidy, Roche & Hayes; 2011, Roche, Cassidy & Stewart; 2013). Importantly, we also know that relational skills can be taught. So improving your relational skills will in turn increase your IQ score. Relational skills are simply the understanding of a handful of mathematical relationships between concepts or objects such as things are the same as other things, more or less than other things, opposite to other things, and so on. They also include relationships like before and after or that one thing is contained by another. Moreover, having a strong handle on the relationships between and among other things has been shown to enhance thinking and problem solving skills. In fact, these relational skills are now being called the building blocks of intelligence by psychologists in the field of Relational Frame Theory.
2. Enrich your language
It is commonly accepted that coming from a language rich environment will increase a person’s intellectual acumen. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that for those that do not come from such an environment, you can read widely to increase your vocabulary and make up for that “deficit” in your natural environment. Research indicates that having a strong understanding of language will help you with many cognitive tasks and indeed with everyday life. Increasing your vocabulary by reading will increase your understanding of language in a more general sense. Also, keep a good dictionary. When you come across words that you do not know or are not familiar with, don’t be afraid to “look it up”.
3. Eat healthy food and get regular vigorous exercise
It might seem like every self help guru today is telling us to exercise and eat right. But did you know that this advice is now widely supported by scientific research? Indeed there is an ever growing body of evidence suggesting that people who have healthy diets and those that engage in regular vigorous exercise have higher IQ scores and better memories. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have recently published that physical activity is highly beneficial for brain health and cognition (2013). There are also many specific foods that play a role in having a healthy diet and will in turn raise IQ. For example, scientists know that vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, some berries and the omega 3 oils found in oily fish improve memory and overall brain functioning (Roche, 2014) as do green teas and protein in general. Protein contains high levels of amino acids, such as tyrosine, which in turn causes neurons to produce the very important neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which are associated with mental alertness. (see, Roche, 2014 for more). Diet and exercise are not just important for the health of your body. They are also vital for the health of your brain.
4. Appeal to the experts
Sometimes you cannot find the answers to the questions in your mind on the Internet or from reference books, When that happens, it’s time to ask the experts. Just make sure that the experts you are asking are actually informed and knowledgeable sources. There is a great deal of information out there that is simply incorrect, so always look for scientific evidence backing up any “facts”.
5. Have a growth mindset
It is a relatively recent discovery that your mindset matters not just on an emotional level, but also on a physiological level. Believing that you can learn more will enhance your performance in any learning environment. Persisting with tasks even when they are difficult will help you to get to the finish line.
6. Do brain training
While I always caution people to avoid pseudoscientists and charlatans, there are brain training programs and techniques on the market that have been shown in published scientific research to improve your memory (e.g., the n-back procedure) and to raise your IQ (e.g., relational skills training).
7. Step outside your comfort zone
Research shows that we can increase our brain’s functioning by pushing ourselves to learn things that are outside of our current skill set. So learn to play music, to dance or try out a new language. The important thing is that you are exercising your brain in a new way and thus expanding your brain’s neural networks. Keeping your brain fit and active is especially important as you enter older adulthood.
5 Ways to Improve Your Memory
Once you have basic understanding of a topic in place, you will need to rehearse the information to “make it stick”. The old adage “practice makes perfect” still applies when you are trying to remember new things. If you want to make information come to mind automatically, you need to rehearse it regularly. Then you will be able to produce it quickly when you need to, whether that be for school, for your career or even for social reasons.
2. Engage meaningfully with important content matter
In 1972, Psychologists Craik and Lockhart found that the more attention we pay to the meaning of what we see and hear, the better we will remember it. In other words, memory is a function of how effortful and meaningful initial encoding was. So if you process novel information at a deeper level, you will be better able to later recall that information. Understanding aids memory and it will be harder to remember things if you are merely rote learning without fully comprehending the material.
3. Use visual imagery
There are many different ways that you can use visual imagery as a memory aid. We’ve all heard of using mind maps where we imagine a map of the information or a tree with the branches that stem out each holding an important and relevant fact. People might also find it useful to imagine a cloakroom with all of the pegs holding a piece of information. So whichever method you prefer, the key point is that you visualize the information as you study it so that you can later recall it with greater ease.
4. Use acronyms
Back when we were all youngsters, a teacher or parent likely taught us to use acronyms and my guess is that most of us still remember some version of this, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto). See?? It still works. You can also use this if you are trying to remember names at a conference (e.g., Black boots Brenda or Bushy eyebrows Earl).
5. Pay attention to beginnings and endings
Research indicates that we remember more at the beginning and end of learning periods. This does not mean we zone out in the middle of a lecture, seminar or continuing professional development day, but be aware of your own optimal memory times. Listen up for the introductions and conclusions and don’t be afraid to ask a teacher or a boss to summarize the main points again at the end of a lesson.
Intelligence and Genetics: Can/does IQ change over time?
“The original intention of the statement that IQ is stable throughout the lifetime, means that a person who takes an IQ test at age 10 will get a reasonably close score upon taking a proper IQ test at other times in their life.
The point the phrase is trying to make, is that people do not have the ability to change their inherent intellectual capacity.
Of course, many, many people question this "fact."
And IQ tests are absolutely NOT perfect.
But let's posit a "Perfect IQ Test." In this theoretical test, it would be perfectly normed for each age. As you know, scores on an IQ test are based on the concept that the dead average intelligence for human beings in 100. At each age, the score is not based on the identical outcomes of the test. A 9-year-old who gets all the same questions right as a 23-year-old do NOT have the same IQ as each other! In that scenario, either the adult has a serious intellectual disability, the child is a genius, or they are both far above/below normal for their age and met in the middle.
In other words, the age of the person taking the test is part of defining what their score is.
With a single individual taking this theoretically perfect test over the course of their life time--with the exception of having some kind of damage to their thinking ability, like a serious concussion or other medical problem that reduces their ability to think--their IQ should remain essentially stable. Why? Because at 20 they are statistically normed/compared to others at 20, and at 70 they are statistically normed/compared to others at 70.
All of this relies on the concept that intelligence is as basic as height--that you can't grow yourself taller than your genetic potential, but you can do things to keep yourself from reaching your potential.
Clearly, someone who has good nutrition, no learning disabilities, and gets a good education, who also happens to score 86 on this theoretically perfect IQ test, is not going to be able to do something to turn themselves into a genius. On this, experts can agree.
The debate rages on about how much difference a person CAN make, through brain training, serious studying, etc.
My own opinion (based on studies, many of which contradict each other) is that few people are actually working to their full intellectual potential, and therefore, most people can improve their intelligence some percentage. I'll take a stab at it, and say, 5% to 15% improvement is probably in reach of most people. The more you've already done to raise your intelligence, the less room for improvement that is still left.
That said, it is clear that intelligence is a use it or lose it thing. While intellectual abilities DO change as one gets older, it is very clear that people who maintain their intellectual "muscles" as they age, barring medical trouble, maintain their intelligence better than people who do not maintain their intellectual strength.
In that case, a person could have their IQ go up as they aged, even on this theoretically perfect IQ test, just because they were maintaining themselves better than their cohort, and therefore, even though all they were doing was maintaining their intellect, compared to others their age who had lost intellectual power, their IQ score would go up, since it is a statistical comparison.
Bottom line: there is no perfect IQ test, and experts have not come to agree on the possibility of how much intellectual ability can be improved. But theoretically, IQ stays the same even as we age, because age is part of how the number is defined.
P.S. Knowledge and wisdom can ALWAYS be improved, so even if intelligence is stable, all people can improve their station in life by improving knowledge and wisdom through experience and education.”
“The answers above are excellent. I would add that in my experience in working with children and adults with learning and behavior disorders, IQ scores can vary widely from one day to the next. Factors skewing results can include auditory processing, reading comprehension, sensory-motor skills, social skills, attention span, emotional stability, auto-immune / allergy issues, socio-economic status and more. I have worked with young people who scored very low on the WISC who later saw gains of 20 and 30 points after educational therapy, medication, and/or social skills therapy. The IQ assessment is flawed and a poor way to compare individuals and their gifts or abilities.”
- Exercising your brain through a variety (and variety is key) of puzzles.
- Increasing social interaction, as long as it includes stimulating conversation.
- Reading "difficult" books, like Charles Dickens' novels.
- Learning a new language.
- Learning to play a musical instrument.
If you are a chronic drinker or smoker (tobacco or weed), you will reduce your IQ over time. Other drugs can damage your brain (taking MDMA is like taking ice-cream scoops out of your brain).
In my opinion, decrease:
- watching reality TV (anything on E! or Bravo)”
Can IQ Be Improved?
The million-dollar question: Can IQ be improved?
Scientifically speaking, yes!
Just a few years back, the IQ of a human being was considered as something that is genetic and cannot be improved upon. However, various researches by eminent scientists and neuropsychologists have proven this myth wrong.
A study at Michigan University led by Swiss postdoctoral fellows Susanne M. Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl has revealed that at least one aspect of the IQ - a person's fluid intelligence, which was usually considered to be fixed at birth, can actually be improved. "When it comes to improving intelligence, many researchers concluded that it was not possible. Our findings, however, clearly show that this is not the case. Our brain is more plastic than we think," lead researcher of the team, Susanne M. Jaeggi said.
According to the research team, most IQ tests attempt to measure two types of intelligence - crystallized and fluid. Crystallized intelligence relies on existing skills, knowledge and experience to solve problems by accessing information from long-term memory. Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, relies on the ability to understand relationships between various concepts to solve the problems. It is independent of any previous knowledge, skills or experience and accesses information from short-term memory or "working memory". The researchers concluded that this part of intelligence can be improved.
The researchers gathered four volunteering groups and trained their working memories using a complex training task termed as 'dual n-back training'. The volunteers were provided with auditory and visual cues that they were supposed to store and recall. The training session would be held for half an hour after a gap of several days. The researchers found that the volunteer's fluid intelligence would go up after every session.
The results of this study is highly significant for those people who were academically poor in their childhood and since then have been tagged as one with low IQ for the rest of their lives. It is now possible to improve your IQ. All you need to do is exercise your brain.
A very high IQ indicates that the brain has been utilized appropriately. IQ can be improved and a person who initially could not score well in an IQ test can do better next time after following certain brain exercises.
Here are some of these exercises. One doesn't need to do all of them at a single-go. You can take up as many according to your convenience and suitability. If you force these exercises upon you, it may well take a toll on you and render a negative effect.
- Writing - Make a regular habit of writing down your thoughts. Writing is said to be the best machine of the "mental gym". It provides the perfect workouts for creativity, logic and focus.
- Reading - Try to finish a book every week. Reading novels and books leads you to a world of imagination and provides a much-needed break to your mind and gray cells.
- Watching Fiction - This may include watching television, drama, theatre and plays. A world of fiction makes you imagine yourself in that position and leads to a diversion of thoughts that otherwise just revolve around your basic needs in this capitalist world.
- Changing Hobbies - Engage yourself in new activities on a regular basis. Don't limit yourself to a particular activity for a long time. This will improve your learning capability. However, you should also take care of the fact that you should not keep on changing your hobby just for the sake of it. You should develop some interest in it and your gray matter should participate fully in it.
- Solving Puzzles - Solve as many crosswords and puzzles as you can. It keeps your brain sharp and boosts your learning capabilities.
- Playing Competitive Games - Games that involve a lot of competition and require strategies and thinking on your part are excellent ways to boost your logical skills.
- Breaking Routines - Don't stick to a particular routine. Try breaking your habits occasionally. For e.g. Take a different breakfast or the same breakfast at a different time; change your sleeping place etc.
- Exchanging Cultural Views - Meeting people from different parts of the world or people of different race and origin and interaction with them leads to a healthy exchange of cultural information. This provides fresh vibes inside you and sharpens your perceptual skills.
- Debating - Take part in friendly debates. This implies that you should discuss a certain topic; but not argue upon it. This will help you to examine your own opinions and will develop your reasoning skills.
- Teaching - Whatever little opportunity you get to teach make the most of it. When you teach something, you get to understand that thing more. The more you repeat that topic, the more it develops your understanding capability.
Well! Despite the Michigan university study confirming that a person's IQ can be improved, I am sure that many of the 'traditional' readers might still be having an element of doubt.
To clear their doubts, here is an argument - It is universally accepted that IQ comes from a combination of both genetics and environment. Experts believe that the genes affect our IQ by 40 to 80 percent and the remaining comes from external environment. Now, what will happen if a person is kept in isolation from all external stimuli? What will be the proportion of their intelligence coming from the environment? Obviously zero! Isn't? Hence, the more stimuli a person gets from the world, the more is their intelligence based on the environment.
I hope you all are satisfied now. If not yet, then look at this: Studies have found significant increase in IQ from one generation to the other. It increases 21 points on an average in 30 years. Such an increase can result only from the surrounding environment. Hence, it is proved that IQ does change based on the environment.
However, at the end, I would also like to say that people who claim "that IQ can be improved only on short-term basis" might not be totally incorrect. If people discontinue the brain exercises, they can experience a fall in their IQs. Hence, if you want long-term improvements, you've to keep repeating the exercises. Moreover, there has been a universal argument that repeated exposure to IQ tests improves your IQ. According to me, this is a valid point. I fully agree to it and advise you all to continue doing the brain exercises and attempt more and more IQ tests because "IQ can be definitely improved."