If you’re old enough, you may remember a time, maybe back in your childhood, when someone measured your intelligence and assigned a number to it. I suspect that you have been either proud of that “IQ,” or perhaps a little bit chagrined about it, from that day to this. The general belief back then was that intelligence was a genetic endowment, along with eye color or a propensity for baldness.
We now know this is simply not true. Your brain — every brain — is a work in progress. It is “plastic.” From the day we’re born to the day we die, it continuously revises and remodels, improving or slowly declining, as a function of how we use it. If a brain is exercised properly, anyone can grow intelligence, at any age, and potentially by a lot. Or you can just let your brain idle — and watch it slowly, inexorably, go to seed like a sedentary body.
G.A.S. Spells Stress As with so many wondrous discoveries of science and medicine, it was by chance that Hungarian-born Hans Selye (1907-1982) stumbled upon the idea of the General Adaptation Syndrome (G.A.S.), which he first wrote about in the British journal Nature in the summer of 1936. The G.A.S., alternately known as the stress syndrome, […]
I.Q. tests are traditionally viewed as a quantitative measure of a person’s intelligence. Children who score very well on I.Q. tests are often tracked into programs for the “gifted,” while those who do very poorly are tracked into “remedial” programs. Despite their prevalence, the true meaning and import of I.Q. tests are subjects of some […]
The Nature of Things There is something ethereal about human intelligence, something hard-to-pin-down. It’s hard even to define. Is intelligence the ability to reason? Does it have to do with memory? Is it aptitude with language? With mathematics? All of the above? Plenty of folks would go so far as to say that you just […]
To survive and thrive, we have to understand how the world’s various systems function. This encompasses such things as knowing the flow of days and seasons; whether a dropped object will bounce, splat, or break; and how water shifts among its fluid, frozen, and gaseous states. Human life is a major subset of the world’s […]
The three previous columns focused on recent proposals about the roles of prediction, intuition, and wisdom in intelligent thought and behavior. This column will focus on the role of formal education in the development of intelligence. Human consciousness allows us to go beyond the here and now when we confront challenges. Our brain has a […]
The two previous columns focused on recent proposals about the roles that prediction and intuition play in intelligent thought and behavior. This month’s column will focus on wisdom, one of the rewards we can get from an extended intellectually stimulating life. Elkhonon Goldberg explores the underlying neurobiology of this intriguing concept in his fascinating informative […]
Last month’s column focused on Jeff Hawkins’ thoughtprovoking analysis of the nature of the elusive human property we call intelligence. Hawkins defines intelligence as the ability to predict what will occur and to develop an appropriate response. He argues that prediction requires a continual cognitive comparison between what is occurring and what we expect will […]
Jeff Hawkins developed the Palm Pilot, the Treo smart phone, and other mobile computerized devices. It’s not surprising that he’s also very interested in our brain—another pretty good mobile information processor. He’s now teamed with Sandra Blakeslee (the renowned New York Times science writer) to produce a marvelous thoughtprovoking book, On Intelligence: How a New […]
Last month’s column argued that our current high-stakes school standards and assessment programs are troubled because they focus principally on factual (veridical) knowledge instead of on the kinds of (adaptive) knowledge that underlie preferences and choices. Success in life depends more on our ability to make wise choices than to recall facts. This month’s column […]