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This Is How You Can Raise Your IQ And Improve Your Memory

This Is How You Can Raise Your IQ And Improve Your Memory

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”.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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