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How to push your IQ

The level of your intelligence is fixed. You can’t train it as if it’s a muscle—at least that’s what I was taught during my bachelor’s in Psychology. A new meta-analysis is not so sure about this ancient mantra. It shows that even adults can raise their IQ scores…by performing boring tasks endlessly.

If you score high on a particular task, you tend to do well on other, seemingly unrelated tasks, as well. Permitting the tasks are cognitively challenging, there will be a correlation amongst the scores on these tasks. This very basic psychological insight has been dubbed ‘general intelligence’.

For a long time, general intelligence was assumed to be stable. Of course, you can train yourself to raise your IQ score but only by practicing the art of taking an IQ test. Your ‘real’ intelligence remains unchanged and can’t be altered by training.

Training Working Memory
A new* meta-analysis from a research group in California, however, is wiping the floor with this assumption. They combined 20 publications, totaling up to 1000 subjects, in one big analysis to show that adults can, in fact, improve their IQ score by 3 to 4 points. This boils down to training your working memory: the part of your memory that holds information ‘online’ so you can manipulate it in your thoughts. You can train this ability by doing an ‘N-back test’, explained in the video below.

Training ‘intelligence’
Of course, your IQ won’t grow overnight after doing one of these N-back tasks. However, if you do a few a week, for a longer period of time, your IQ should improve, which means that your working memory will increase in parallel. Subsequently, you will also improve on other tests that are seemingly unrelated. The scientist responsible for the meta-analysis interpreted this as a sign that general intelligence can be promoted by N-back training. Whether it’s worth training yourself in such a boring manner in order to gain a mere 4 points is up to you.

During the summer, we republish some of our best blogs that have only been published in Dutch. This is a translation of the formerly published Donders Wonders blog post: Hoe verhoog je je IQ?  Interested in working memory? Read more on this topic in a recent blogpost.

Original author: Richard Kunert
Floortje Bouwkamp
Editor translation:
Christienne Damatac

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