Many traditional theorists on intelligence hold that there are limits set by biology on IQ and memory.  However, modern psychologists have shown with published research that IQ can be raised (see Cassidy, Roche & Hayes, 2011) and that these IQ rises are permanent (Roche, Cassidy &Stewart, 2013).  We also know that memory is an essential component of intellectual functioning and that this too can be improved (see Jaeggi et al., 2008).  These studies show that IQ score no longer has to refer to a number that limits us.  Rather, it can be seen simply as a starting point for us to continuously increase our intellectual skill sets for meaningful gains in all avenues of life. Below are 7 ways to raise your IQ and 5 ways to improve your memory.

7 Ways to Raise Your IQ

1. Improve your relational skills

Psychologists have also discovered that there is a strong correlation between relational skills and IQ scores (O’Hora, Pelaez & Barnes-Holmes; 2005, O’Toole & Barnes-Holmes;2009, Cassidy, Roche & Hayes; 2011, Roche, Cassidy & Stewart; 2013).  Importantly, we also know that relational skills can be taught.  So improving your relational skills will in turn increase your IQ score.  Relational skills are simply the understanding of a handful of mathematical relationships between concepts or objects such as things are the same as other things, more or less than other things, opposite to other things, and so on.  They also include relationships like before and after or that one thing is contained by another.  Moreover, having a strong handle on the relationships between and among other things has been shown to enhance thinking and problem solving skills. In fact, these relational skills are now being called the building blocks of intelligence by psychologists in the field of Relational Frame Theory.

2. Enrich your language

It is commonly accepted that coming from a language rich environment will increase a person’s intellectual acumen.  But I’ll bet you didn’t know that for those that do not come from such an environment, you can read widely to increase your vocabulary and make up for that “deficit” in your natural environment.  Research indicates that having a strong understanding of language will help you with many cognitive tasks and indeed with everyday life. Increasing your vocabulary by reading will increase your understanding of language in a more general sense. Also, keep a good dictionary. When you come across words that you do not know or are not familiar with, don’t be afraid to “look it up”.

3. Eat healthy food and get regular vigorous exercise

It might seem like every self help guru today is telling us to exercise and eat right.  But did you know that this advice is now widely supported by scientific research?  Indeed there is an ever growing body of evidence suggesting that people who have healthy diets and those that engage in regular vigorous exercise have higher IQ scores and better memories. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have recently published that physical activity is highly beneficial for brain health and cognition (2013). There are also many specific foods that play a role in having a healthy diet and will in turn raise IQ.  For example, scientists know that vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, some berries and the omega 3 oils found in oily fish improve memory and overall brain functioning (Roche, 2014) as do green teas and protein in general.  Protein contains high levels of amino acids, such as tyrosine, which in turn causes neurons to produce the very important neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which are associated with mental alertness.  (see, Roche, 2014 for more).  Diet and exercise are not just important for the health of your body. They are also vital for the health of your brain.

4. Appeal to the experts

Sometimes you cannot find the answers to the questions in your mind on the Internet or from reference books, When that happens, it’s time to ask the experts.  Just make sure that the experts you are asking are actually informed and knowledgeable sources.  There is a great deal of information out there that is simply incorrect, so always look for scientific evidence backing up any “facts”.

5. Have a growth mindset

It is a relatively recent discovery that your mindset matters not just on an emotional level, but also on a physiological level.  Believing that you can learn more will enhance your performance in any learning environment. Persisting with tasks even when they are difficult will help you to get to the finish line.

6. Do brain training

While I always caution people to avoid pseudoscientists and charlatans, there are brain training programs and techniques on the market that have been shown in published scientific research to improve your memory (e.g., the n-back procedure) and to raise your IQ (e.g., relational skills training).

7. Step outside your comfort zone

Research shows that we can increase our brain’s functioning by pushing ourselves to learn things that are outside of our current skill set.  So learn to play music, to dance or try out a new language.  The important thing is that you are exercising your brain in a new way and thus expanding your brain’s neural networks.  Keeping your brain fit and active is especially important as you enter older adulthood.

5 Ways to Improve Your Memory

1. Practice

Once you have basic understanding of a topic in place, you will need to rehearse the information to “make it stick”. The old adage “practice makes perfect” still applies when you are trying to remember new things.  If you want to make information come to mind automatically, you need to rehearse it regularly.  Then you will be able to produce it quickly when you need to, whether that be for school, for your career or even for social reasons.

2. Engage meaningfully with important content matter

In 1972, Psychologists Craik and Lockhart found that the more attention we pay to the meaning of what we see and hear, the better we will remember it.  In other words, memory is a function of how effortful and meaningful initial encoding was.  So if you process novel information at a deeper level, you will be better able to later recall that information.  Understanding aids memory and it will be harder to remember things if you are merely rote learning without fully comprehending the material.

3. Use visual imagery

There are many different ways that you can use visual imagery as a memory aid.  We’ve all heard of using mind maps where we imagine a map of the information or a tree with the branches that stem out each holding an important and relevant fact.  People might also find it useful to imagine a cloakroom with all of the pegs holding a piece of information.  So whichever method you prefer, the key point is that you visualize the information as you study it so that you can later recall it with greater ease.

4. Use acronyms

Back when we were all youngsters, a teacher or parent likely taught us to use acronyms and my guess is that most of us still remember some version of this, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto). See??  It still works. You can also use this if you are trying to remember names at a conference (e.g., Black boots Brenda or Bushy eyebrows Earl).

5. Pay attention to beginnings and endings

Research indicates that we remember more at the beginning and end of learning periods. This does not mean we zone out in the middle of a lecture, seminar or continuing professional development day, but be aware of your own optimal memory times.  Listen up for the introductions and conclusions and don’t be afraid to ask a teacher or a boss to summarize the main points again at the end of a lesson.

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