How to Become Smart – Learn and Grow

Intelligence is an important topic in psychology. It involves studying how intelligence can be measured. Twin studies show that intelligence is largely inherited. However, this idea led to a dark side of psychology – the eugenics movement. Eugenicists believed in the survival of the fittest and thought that only intelligent people should be allowed to have children. They also tried to prevent “unfit” people from having children, sometimes by force. Sterilisations, the enforced celibacy and good old social shaming have been used to prevent “undesirable” candidates from getting children.

“Smart” People received an education – and became smarter. In contrast, those who were not perceived as smart did oftentimes not even receive any fair chance, which, unsurprisingly, furthered the gap.

But what is intelligence, really? And can it be learned, even though studies suggest genetics highly influences intelligence? (Surprise; It is super layered when we consider how epigenetics, culture, social, family, developmental and nutritional factors ALL play a role in it. But that’s, of course, often the case when we consider psychological phenomena).

How Measuring Intelligence has opened doors to horrendous crimes against humanity. Understand how Eugenics exploited metric measurements to rationalise crimes and genocide

There are different theories of intelligence, and it’s worth having a look at how scientists try to measure intelligence.

Psychometric Theory

The psychometric theory is about measuring intelligence using tests. The tests measure things like reasoning, memory, and the ability to solve problems. The psychometric theory says that intelligence is something you’re born with and that stays the same throughout your life.

Psychometric tests started in the late 19th century when French psychologist Alfred Binet made a test to measure how smart kids were. The Binet-Simon Scale helped find kids who needed extra help in school. The test had simple tasks for problem-solving, memory, and reasoning. Psychologist Lewis Terman later made the test more standard for use in the United States and called it the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale.

Multiple Intelligences Theory

The multiple intelligences theory, proposed by Howard Gardner, suggests that there are multiple types of intelligence that are relatively independent of each other. Gardner identified eight types of intelligence:

linguistic

logical-mathematical

musical, spatial

bodily-kinesthetic

interpersonal, intrapersonal

and naturalistic.

According to this theory, individuals have varying strengths and weaknesses in each type of intelligence.

Triarchic Theory

The triarchic theory of intelligence, proposed by Robert Sternberg, suggests that intelligence involves three components:

analytical

creative

and practical intelligence.

Analytical intelligence means being good at analyzing and solving problems. Creative intelligence means coming up with new and original ideas and solutions. Practical intelligence means being able to use what you know in real-life situations. This theory says that what kind of intelligence you need depends on the situation you’re in.

Cognitive Neuroscience Theory

According to cognitive neuroscience theory, how well your brain works determines how smart you are. This theory says that how fast and well the different parts of your brain talk to each other affects your ability to think, remember things, and make decisions. Scientists who study this have found different parts of the brain and the paths between them that help with intelligence.

Always, always, always worth watching: Andrew Huberman talking about our brain: The Growth Mindset

The problem with measuring intelligence

Eugenicists used psychometric intelligence testing to justify denying access to education to whole groups of people. It is saddening to see how the original intention for psychometric intelligence testing, which has been to offer students with learning difficulties the support they need, has been so perverted.

While its true that genetics influence intelligence, it is by far not that easy to jump to any conclusions.

First of all, parents of intelligent children tend to have their basic needs met. Meaning, there are no financial struggles, there is food on the table, and there is an enriched environment that allows the child to explore the world and learn. These are factors that influence psychometric intelligence tests, too. How would a child in poverty be curious about solving mathematical equations, when there is no food on the table in the first place? Priorities change. So let’s not touch further on this debate about how much is hereditary and to what extent intelligence is fixed.

Let’s instead dive into the factors that DO influence our intelligence. Although anecdotal, research on intelligence suggests that there are many things we can do to increase our intelligence (and yes, it can be psychometrically measured, too).

I’ve become more intelligent over the years, and this is what I’ve done.

I’ve done an IQ test in my early twenties and another one within my early 30s and increased my intelligence. I started with an IQ of 112 and increased it by more than 10 IQ Points.

I did not actively plan to increase my IQ. I just started making different decisions. My priorities changed and my drive to learn new things navigated future decisions, which then led to increased focus and so on and so forth.

Things that changed following my teens and tweens

My young adult years were full of parties, going out with friends and other events. It all changed in my late 20s when I became a Yoga Instructor, Fitness Trainer, Behaviour Change Specialist, and aspiring psychologist. I also learned Spanish and created a boutique silk scarf brand, I started a Blog, got married, learned sewing, crocheting, working with resin and many other things (not in this order).

I’d say I became very curious and driven. With all of those studies, I needed to educate myself on other topics, too. Project Planning, time management and goal setting, but also learning how to write in an academic style, how to structure essays, how to build sentences in Spanish or understand human anatomy needed to be learned. Don’t even get me started on Emotional Intelligence – that’s very needed for a healthy marriage.

So yes, intelligence can definitely increase or decrease. I’ve experienced it myself. (And nowadays, we have so many tools at hand that could help us do so)

How to Become More Intelligent

Intelligence is a complex and multifaceted concept, and while genetics plays a role, there are many things we can do to become more intelligent. In this article, we’ll explore how to take care of your mental fitness – and, ultimately, how to increase your intelligence

The Role of Nutrition

To help your brain work well, eat a healthy and balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Some nutrients are especially important for brain health, like omega-3 fatty acids, which are in fish, nuts, and seeds. They can help with thinking and remembering things. Other important nutrients for brain health are B vitamins, vitamin D, and antioxidants.

Learn – because your intelligence depends on it (and it will make you feel awesome)

To boost intelligence, learn new things.

The brain works like a muscle. To keep it healthy and strong, you need to use it regularly. Challenge your brain with activities like reading, writing, and solving puzzles. It helps you think better and increases intelligence.

Learning new skills and taking on new challenges can help increase intelligence. When you learn new things, your brain creates new connections, which can improve how you think and remember things.

How much can you increase your intelligence?

It is possible to increase your intelligence by a significant amount through learning and other activities. In fact, studies have shown that engaging in cognitive training programs can improve intelligence by 10 points – and more.

Engage in a variety of activities that challenge your brain and stimulate the growth of new neural connections. Take up new challenges, don’t be afraid to learn new skills and get yourself in a beginner’s mindset. The more you learn, the more you’ll end up believing you don’t know anything at all. And that’s fine. It just shows that you’ve grown, that you became more humble and realistic.

Learning is easy when you surround yourself with things that stimulate you and give you energy.

Wrapping it Up

Intelligence is a complex and multifaceted concept, and while genetics can give us a head start, there are many other factors that influence how smart we are – and can become.

Eating the right foods, getting proper sleep, engaging in activities that challenge your brain, and learning new skills and taking on new challenges can all help improve cognitive function.

It’s unlikely that we become smart overnight, but with dedication and the joy of learning new things, increasing intelligence levels -as measured psychometrically- is easy.

Neuroplasticity even shows us that we always learn – even when we think we’re “too old” – our brain always makes new connections. And the more we use it, the more it engages. The less we use it, the more it declines.

So tell me – what is that one thing that you always wanted to learn but feel that it is too late? What are your limiting beliefs around it? And wouldn’t it feel awesome just to try it anyway?

Check out this longer video explaining Neuroplasticity. Introducing how our brain rewires.

And not to forget… Books to read – that will show you how unimportant measuring intelligence actually is. And why the love for learning trumps everything

Books on How to Improve Intelligence

  • “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck – This book helps you understand the concept of “mindset” and how our beliefs about our abilities can impact our success.
  • “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” by Daniel Goleman – This book teaches how to improve emotional intelligence, a key component of overall intelligence.
  • “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School” by John Medina – The author provides insights into how the brain works and offers tips to enhance our thinking and learning capabilities.
  • “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman – This book explains how our brains have two systems of thinking and how we can use them both to become smarter.
  • “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer – This book provides actionable techniques to improve memory and cognitive function.
Carol Dweck, Author of “Mindset”, talks about the Growth Mindset – vs. the fixed Mindset

Books on How to Make Better Decisions

  • “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – A comprehensive guide to the decision-making process.
  • “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts” by Annie Duke – This book teaches how to make decisions in uncertain situations.
  • “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” by Dan Ariely – This book explains the cognitive biases that affect our decision-making process.
  • “The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work” by Gary Klein – A guide to harnessing and applying your intuition for better decision-making.
  • “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard H. Thaler – Explores how we can make better decisions by understanding how choices are presented to us.
Nudge Theory explained – Must watch!

Books on The Power of Perseverance

  • “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth – A deep dive into the concept of ‘grit’ and its role in achieving success.
  • “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck – This book underscores the power of a growth mindset in cultivating perseverance.
  • “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday – This book introduces the concept of stoicism as a path to perseverance.
  • “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson – Outlines the idea of deliberate practice, which requires perseverance, to master any skill.
  • “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life” by Eric Greitens – An exploration of resilience, a key aspect of perseverance.

Books on Better Learning and Studying Skills

  • “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Peter C. Brown – This book shares research-based insights into how we learn and offers practical tips for effective studying.
  • “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)” by Barbara Oakley – A great book that presents techniques for studying and learning, especially in the field of mathematics and science.
  • “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport – Offers strategies for achieving deep focus, essential for efficient learning and studying.
  • “The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance” by Josh Waitzkin – Chronicles the author’s own experiences and strategies in mastering skills and offers insights into effective learning practices.
  • “How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading” by Mortimer J. Adler – Teaches techniques for active and thoughtful reading, an essential part of studying.
The art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

Books to Improve Brain Functions

  • “The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” by Norman Doidge – Explores the concept of neuroplasticity and how to harness it to improve brain functions.
  • “Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power” by Lisa Mosconi – Discusses the connection between diet and brain health.
  • “The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age” by Alvaro Fernandez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg – Provides insights into maintaining and improving brain health and performance.
  • “Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness” by Lawrence Katz – A collection of exercises designed to enhance brain function.
  • “Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long” by David Rock – Offers tips to improve brain functions, especially in the context of work.
Take a closer look at your absolutely fascinating brain and its functions

Books on Studying, Critical Thinking, and Language Learning

  • “The Study Skills Handbook” by Stella Cottrell – Provides a wealth of advice to improve study skills, including critical thinking and organisation.
  • “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman – A deep exploration into the human mind that offers insights into critical thinking.
  • “Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It” by Gabriel Wyner – A comprehensive guide to mastering any new language quickly and effectively.
  • “Critical Thinking: Proven Strategies to Improve Decision Making Skills, Increase Intuition and Think Smarter” by Simon Bradley – A guide to enhancing critical thinking skills.
  • “The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance” by Josh Waitzkin – While this book has broader applications, it includes valuable lessons for improving study techniques and mastering new skills, including language learning.

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