Monday, May 7, 2012

Fluid intelligence? Can You Turn Up the Heat?

     Fluid intelligence: "the capacity to solve novel problems, to learn, to reason, to see connections and to get to the bottom of things."
From Dan Hurley's article, "Can You Build a Better Brain?" in the NYTimes magazine. So many different words, phrases, to describe different kinds of thinking. How is fluid intelligence different than mental agility, creative problem-solving, design thinking? I guess it doesn't really matter what you call it, if you have it. If you want to acquire it because you don't have it, you need to know about N-back games.
    This new method of training, focused on improving attention and working memory, ultimately increases fluid intelligence, the basic cognitive ability underlying all mental skills, in children and seniors. This isn't pop psychology or positive psychology. It's real and it's neuroscience, although of course not all researchers or neuroscientists embrace the upbeat research findings with the same enthusiasm. E.g. A recent  NYT Op-Ed article by David Z. Hambrick an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, is titled "I.Q. Point For Sale Cheap."  Hambrick is skeptical of the major research completed and is looking for replication of the results before hopping on the bandwagon.
   I'm not sold yet, but I think the idea of increasing IQ through training is a fascinating possibility. In the vein of the more things change, the more things stay the same, one of the practical obstacles to success is motivating people to do the training. It's not such fun, not too interesting. Not much short term gratification in the effort, just like going to the gym. Ah, yes. Human nature prevails.

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