Elections and Misconceptions
The United Kingdom election last week was a great revelation. All the opinion polls leading up to the vote showed the Labour Party and Conservatives neck and neck in England. Every indication was that there would be a hung parliament with coalition deals made between the major and smaller parties. Nobody expected the end result of the Conservatives winning an overall majority with almost 100 more MPs than Labour. This led me to thinking about the things that we take at face value and believe to be true (like the opinion polls) that turn out to be totally wrong. Here are my top three:
IQ is fixed and cannot be changed.
In my opinion IQ is poor measure of intelligence. It tests a very narrow range of skills and really only tells you how good you are at that type of puzzle. A far better measure is the idea of multiple intelligences. See ‘Frames of Mind’ by Howard Gardner or ‘Head First’ by Tony Buzan. Even if we restrict ourselves to IQ, there is a great deal variation possible. The average IQ of people is changing year on year. IQs are increasing three points per decade, thought to be due to the demands of modern industrialized societies. There was an 18-point increase between 1947 and 2002. Children’s IQs change dramatically over their early to teen years, largely due to motivation and schooling, something that can be correlated to scans of brain structure. A study by professor Cathy Price of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, involving 19 boys and 14 girls, consisted of a combination of brain scans and verbal and non-verbal IQ tests in 2004 and then in 2008. The results show that a change (both positive and negative) in verbal IQ was found in 39% of the teenagers, with 21% showing a change in “performance IQ” – a test of spatial reasoning. Irrespective of age you can increase your IQ with practise. You become more familiar with the type of question and better able to deal with them.
Brain Cells die in adulthood.
If you ask any audience around the world what happens to brain cells as you get older, they will say with gusto, “They die!” This is a dangerous assumption as it programmes yourself to expect senility and memory lapses in middle to old age. The brain is very good at doing what it is programmed to do, so if you tell yourself you have a failing memory your memory will get worse. Research by Peter S. Eriksson, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg , Sweden et al [Nature Medicine 4, 1313 – 1317 (1998)] has found that new brain cells continue to grow in adulthood thereby disproving the assumption of inevitable decline. Eriksson says, “We demonstrate that new neurons, … are generated from dividing progenitor cells in the dentate gyrus of adult humans. Our results further indicate that the human hippocampus retains its ability to generate neurons throughout life.” The hippocampus is a structure in the middle of the brain that plays a role in memory forming, organizing, and storing. It is particularly important in forming new memories and connecting emotions and senses, such as smell and sound, to memories. The hippocampus acts as a memory indexer by sending memories out to the appropriate part of the cerebral cortex for long-term storage and retrieving them when necessary. It is interesting to note that it is a memory centre of the brain that continues to grow new neurons.
Creativity cannot be taught – You’ve got it or you haven’t.
Contrary to popular belief, probably promulgated by people in creative industries with a self-interest in creating a mystique around their skills, creativity can be learned and taught. The best way to come up with better ideas is to come up with more ideas and then sift out the good ones. If you’re panning for gold you have to discard a lot of grit and stones. Mind Maps are a great tool for generating, capturing and developing lots of ideas.
As you start to generate ideas you’ll come up with all the obvious solutions to a problem but as these become exhausted you are able to move into new territory. Not all these new ideas will be fruitful or even possible but they should not be disregarded. Even silly ideas can sometimes produce something positive. Think of the post-it note made with glue the doesn’t stick! Challenge your thinking. Do you habitually adopt a ‘safe’ solution to a problem, going down a well trodden path or do you sometimes explore ‘off road’ to find a possible better route to a solution?
I hope by challenging these false beliefs I have shown you the you can become more intelligent, creative and continue to grow and develop your mental faculties throughout life. Mental dullness and a downward slide into senility and forgetfulness is neither natural nor inevitable. Live lively and love life!