Contrary to conventional wisdom, IQ is not fixed. Intelligence can be boosted right throughout adulthood simply by mixing with more intelligent people, or taking on more intellectually stimulating jobs, hobbies and interests.
The traditional nature versus nurture argument, that intelligence is mainly the result of one’s genetic make-up, with environmental factors – education, social interaction and nutrition – exerting their effect, is not entirely accurate. Neither is the notion that IQ is fixed by the age of 18.
James Flynn, emeritus professor of Political Studies and Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, argues that people can upgrade their intelligence any time in their lives.
Professor Flynn’s work is widely recognised [see Article Smarter Than Your Parents.] A lifetime’s research has led to the discovery of a long-term increase in the intelligence of populations, a phenomenon now known as the Flynn Effect, and has resulted in an average rise of three IQ points every decade since 1930. The cause is believed to relate less to genetic make-up and more to a combination of factors including better education, nutrition and an increasingly complex world that is more intellectually stimulating and challenging.
Flynn believes that intellectual stimulation from others is crucial to this increase – the more you use your brain, the stronger and more efficient it gets. However, the reverse is also true – so people who share a home, workplace or whose main social contact is with the intellectually challenged risk seeing their IQ levels decrease rapidly.
Professor Flynn analysed the results of US intelligence tests over the last 65 years and correlated the results with people’s ages. This enabled him to compile new IQ ‘age tables.’ He found the ‘cognitive quality’ of a family affects the IQ of all members – especially children. It can move them forward or hold them back, depending on the gap between their brightness and that of their siblings and/or parents.
A bright ten-year-old with brothers and sisters of average intelligence will suffer a five to ten point IQ disadvantage compared to a ten-year-old with equally bright siblings.
However, children will a low IQ could gain six to eight points by having brighter siblings or special educational advantage to help pull them up.
Flynn has concluded that although your genes and early life experiences determine about 80% of intelligence, the remaining 20% is linked to lifestyle. This means that people can raise their IQ, or allow it to fall, by ten or more points simply because of the company they keep.
The bottom line is that the best way to boost IQ levels is to socialise with bright friends and find an intellectually challenging job and marry someone smart.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.