While there are several ways of defining IQ, Dr. David Wechsler, perhaps the greatest authority on the subject, defines intelligence as the global capacity of a person to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with one’s environment.
More specifically, Wechsler describes intelligence as a set of interrelated functions that are measurable. One of the ways we assess these 4 functions to calculate a person’s IQ is by using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale (WISC-IV, WAIS-IV).
Verbal Comprehension – a person’s capacity to understand the language used by other people
Perceptual Reasoning – a person’s ability to use visual-motor and visual-spatial skills, along with fluid reasoning to develop and test solutions
Working Memory – a system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension
Processing Speed – the speed at which a person can complete a familiar task with reasonable accuracy
But wait a second; we have to ask the question, can we change any of these 4 functions, or are they fixed at birth?
Neuroscience indicates that intelligence, or IQ, is not static. You have the power to improve!
Dr Susanne Jaeggi has done groundbreaking work demonstrating that working memory can be improved through targeted MENTAL training. Her research shows that the level of improvement is determined by the intensity and time spent training. Processing speed and reaction times can also be improved through targeted exercises and engaging in demanding mental activities that impact the brain’s ciruitry.
Dr. Jaeggi also documented transference of training effects to non-trained tasks, demonstrating general improvements in fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the application of knowledge, or the ability to reason and to solve NEW problems by tapping into your existing knowledge base.
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A group of students, who we worked with at Kildonan School’s Camp Dunnabeck, are a good example of the type of changes that are possible through targeted training. This group averaged more than 24% improvement in working memory, post training.
Another example is a group of teachers from Cheshire Academy who we trained over the summer as part of a program that we are conducting with students during this current school year. The teachers averaged 41% improvement in working memory by one measure, and 55% by another, along with reporting an average 33% improvement in attention.
In yet another example of brain plasticity, a teacher who we trained at The Wolf School made remarkable progress on a reverse digit span exercise. Reverse Digit Span is the ability to hold random numbers in mind, manipulate them, and then input them in reverse order. She improved from being able to hold and manipulate five digits in mind, to fifteen. Post-training, she reported that she had developed the ability to basically tape record in mind, information presented to her verbally. This is one of the best examples of transfer effect that we have witnessed.
All of the evidence points to the dynamic nature of intelligence. If we engage in the right types of activities, in a consistent fashion, with a high level of effort, we can alter and improve the building blocks of intelligence, if not intelligence itself. Perhaps Thomas Edison had it right when he said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Send me an email if you’re curious to learn more.
Ted Backes, Director of Cognitive Training