The truth about intelligence: Can I become cleverer?


Gaston Mendieta By Linda Geddes During the early 1990s, a paper was published in Nature revealing that students performed better on an intelligence test if they listened to Mozart while taking it. So was born the billion-dollar brain-training industry. Sadly, other researchers have been unable to replicate the “Mozart effect”. Studies of computer games that claim to improve mental performance have produced mixed results too. “Brain training, Baby Einstein, and so on have been fairly disappointing in terms of being able to boost IQ,” says Stuart Ritchie at the University of Edinburgh, UK. However, one intervention has repeatedly been shown to work: education. True, intelligent children often remain in school for longer, but that can’t be the whole story. During the 1960s, the Norwegian government added two extra years of compulsory education to its curriculum and rolled out the change gradually, allowing comparisons between different regions. When researchers investigated IQ scores from tests taken by all Norwegian men as part of their compulsory military service, they concluded that the additional schooling added 3.7 IQ points per year. This pattern has been seen elsewhere. In a recent meta-analysis, Ritchie and a colleague concluded that each additional year of schooling boosted IQ by between 1 and 5 points. “That’s not to say that if we left people in school forever they would all become super-geniuses; it must plateau out at some point,” he says. “But given the variance in schooling we have now,
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