What does it really mean to be "smart?"

CNN News ran a segment last month on the meaning and impact of intelligence on a person’s life, as measured through a test such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale which gives an “IQ.” Dr. John Gabrieli of MIT displays brain scans that  show functional differences between brains of low IQ and high IQ subjects while completing intelligence tests in an MRI scanner. The higher IQ brain shows less activity than the lower IQ brain during the same task, indicating that smarter brains are more efficient.

The findings on IQ mentioned in the report are remarkable. The standing debate on the importance of IQ is also on display here. Researchers have found that 25% of what makes one successful can be attributed to IQ -but Dr. Gabrieli points to findings that increases in IQ are linked to “a better paying job, a healthy future, more stability in your family life.” This makes the prospect of “training intelligence” to increase IQ scores all the more alluring and relevant. A demonstration of a computer working memory task that is used to “train intelligence” is featured in the segment.

Watch the segment here:


Read more about the working memory task featured in the segment:


-A Neurodudes Reader

4 thoughts on “What does it really mean to be "smart?"

  1. Here is a link to a version of the dual n-back task: http://www.soakyourhead.com/ The source code for the computer task is on the site too. Upon doing a google search for the dual n-back, it was cool to see how many people had coded their own version of the dual n-back. There’s even a Google Group for people who are training themselves on the dual n-back to track their progress and compare it to others’. http://groups.google.com/group/dualnback?hl=en


  2. what about the purely speculative idea that those who are incredible geniuses have imbalanced lives… i could name 10 electrophysiologist PIs whose lives are so not well balanced… John Nash is a more famous and sensationalized type as well… doesn’t this counter Gabrieli’s point that increases in IQ are linked to stable lives? i want to see the data


  3. What Dr. Gabrieli was pointing to are studies that have shown correlation between higher IQ and improved life outcomes like reduced incarceration, lower divorce rates and improved health. Ian Deary at the University of Edinburgh has done a number of very large-scale studies on the impact of IQ on life outcomes. It is obviously very difficult to tease out the causation from the numerous other factors that may play into these findings and it’s likely (but also purely speculative) that the problems that people with high IQ’s encounter through life are in some way correlated with their intelligence.


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