You probably think you’re very smart. Most people believe they are smarter than the average American, according to a study by YouGov. However, when it comes to IQ, most of us are in fact average, falling in the 80-119 point range. Although this number peaks in late adolescence until the early 20s and remains relatively stable as we age, this does not mean that its potential is fixed.
“The fact is, intelligence can be increased – and dramatically,” writes analytical-behavioral psychologist Bryan Roche of the National University of Ireland in Psychology Today. “Those who claim that IQ is fixed for life are in fact referring to our IQ test scores, which are relatively stable – not to our intelligence levels, which are constantly increasing.”
David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, says that it is virtually impossible to determine the true intellectual limitations of any individual at any age; either has the potential for genius or, at the very least, greatness. The key is to let go of the myth that giftedness is innate.
“The belief in innate gifts and limits is much softer in the psyche: the reason you are not a great opera singer is because you cannot be one. This is simply the way you were connected. Thinking of talent as innate makes our world more manageable, more comfortable. It relieves the person of the burden of expectation, ”he writes in his book.
If you want to outsmart the average American, that’s just not possible; is within reach. Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, and includes the ability to reason, solve problems, remember information and be creative. Increasing your intelligence – even taking yours to genius status – has to be willing to do the job.
While studying and reading a book are two ways to learn something new, here are six surprising tasks that boost your brainpower, make learning easier, and put you on the path to greatness:
- TRAIN YOUR MEMORY
While a professor at the University of California, Irvine, Susanne Jaeggi found that an activity known as the n-back task increases fluid intelligence, which is the ability to reason and solve new problems, regardless of prior knowledge. The n-back game challenges participants to follow the words or places spoken in a grid and to identify when a letter or location in the grid is repeated. N-back training, which is available free online, can help improve memory and problem-solving skills.
- OPEN TO NEW VIEWS
Another way to increase your intelligence is to expand your network and consider other people’s views. Exercise will open your mind to new opportunities and promote cognitive growth. Learning is the act of exposing yourself to new information, and meeting new people facilitates the process, especially when points of view conflict with yours.
“Open your mind and listen to arguments that don’t make sense to you – and try to make sense of them,” writes Roche.
- FIND THE MOTIVATION
The unusual achievement leads to a source of motivation, says Shenk. “You have to want it, want it so badly you’ll never give up, so bad that you’re ready to sacrifice time, money, sleep, friendships, even your reputation,” he writes in The Genius in All of Us.
Motivation can be conscious or unconscious, and it can spring from a variety of sources, including inspiration, despair, revenge or future regret.
- CARDIOVASCULAR WORKOUT SESSIONS
Cardiovascular fitness can increase your verbal intelligence and improve long-term memory, according to a study by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
“The increase in cardiovascular fitness was associated with better cognitive scores,” writes researcher Maria Aberg in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “In contrast, muscle strength was only weakly associated with intelligence.”
- PLAY VIDEO GAMES
Although it seems like a good way to waste time, video games can actually stimulate the growth of neurons and promote connectivity in the regions of the brain responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning. In a study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine in Berlin, researchers found that video games, like Super Mario, benefit the brain by improving sensory, perceptual and attention tasks.
Video games can reverse the negative effects of aging on the brain as well. In a study at the University of California, San Francisco, researchers found that a specially designed 3-D driving video game boosted mental skills like multitasking and focus on older adults. The game improved short-term memory, a cognitive skill that usually decreases with age.
Conscious meditation can increase neuroplasticity in the brain, according to a study by the University of Oregon and the Institute of Neuroimaging at the Texas University of Technology.
Participants in a five-day study were conducted through guided meditation for 20 minutes a day, with a focus on breathing, posture and mental images. Researchers found that the practice improved the efficiency of white matter in the brain, significantly improving attention and fluid intelligence.