Thursday, December 22, 2011

You can Increase your I.Q, Even if you believe in Human Biodiversity

Note: This article was originally published at In Mala Fide on 12/10/2011.

I am an ardent proponent of what folks in these circles call human biodiversity, a politically incorrect worldview of race and gender relations. Since many advocates of human biodiversity are evolutionary conservatives, an accepted tenet of HBD is that I.Q is mostly a product of genetics.
Contrast this with this week’s spin on conventional wisdom, which states that as much as 50% of IQ is determined outside the causes of predetermined genetics.

While many HBD’ers are perfectly content with IQ being mostly immutable because on the average they are naturally smart, left-wing ideologues cling to the idea that human nature lends itself to radical adjustments in order maintain their dream of socially engineering the population into… yep, you guessed it – equality. For the leftist, the malleability of human nature knows no limits, as even something as biologically established as gender can ultimately be uprooted and fashioned towards a particular end. Therefore, since intelligence has been universally recognized as an important factor in success and class-standing (yes universally, the people who deny it out loud uniformly do so because they themselves are unintelligent; size doesn’t matter only to those who don’t have size), IQ must be equally dispersed among groups as well as being amendable to large increases. Like the African-American who doesn’t get a sufficient SAT score or the woman who can’t climb the corporate ladder like her fellow man can, low IQ individuals must be the victims of the sharp end of society’s stick, not to some inherent deficiency.

The dichotomy is usually assumed, but let us takes a closer look at what human biodiversity really has to say – or more specifically, what the science behind it has to say. For one thing, there are no necessary material restrictions to improving human attributes. It is an axiom of human behavior that individuals improve with practice, whether the activity is physical or mental. Moreover, I.Q as a dynamic entity may not be so contradictory to genetic determinism after all.  The intriguing new science of epigenetics dictates that a person’s genes are not necessarily as fixed as they were once thought to be, but can be affected by his or her immediate environment. The idea is at the heart of the Paleo Diet, in which the modern industrial complex has triggered sub-optimal gene expression, and that we must revert to the old habits of our ancestors who enjoyed the environment our genes adapted to.

So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the fields of psychology and neurology are rolling in the evidence showing that one can, in fact, increase his IQ:
In the latest study, 33 British students were given IQ tests and brain scans at ages 12 to 16 and again about four years later by researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London; 9% of the students showed a significant change of 15 points or more in IQ scores.
On a scale where 90 to 110 is considered average, one student’s IQ rose 21 points to 128 from 107, lifting the student from the 68th percentile to the 97th compared with others the same age, says Cathy Price, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the center and co-author of the study, published last month in Nature. Another student’s score skidded out of the “high average” category, to 96 from 114.
Swings in individual IQ scores are often written off as the product of measurement error or a test subject having a bad day. But MRIs in this study showed changes in gray matter in areas corresponding to fluctuations in the kids’ skills, Dr. Price says. Although the sample size is small, the study drew wide attention because it is among the first to show how changes in IQ scores may be reflected in actual shifts in brain structure.
First, saying that IQ can be improved is not synonymous with saying that there are no race or gender differences in intelligence. The average white could improve his IQ to 115 while the average black could make similar improvements and land a 100 IQ. And second, the idea that IQ is immutable is patently absurd, as there are numerous ways to lower it, most notably by huffing dangerous drugs and chemicals, sending you down into the mentally retarded zone. More to the point, there are many lifestyle habits that all of us, even the most die-hard health perfectionist, have that hinder our cognitive capacities to some degree. Obvious ones include sub-optimal diet (and since the majority of Americans are not versed of the ways of their Paleolithic ancestors, you can be darn sure that this includes virtually everyone), inadequate measures of recovery like sleep or emotional and mental relaxation, too much stress, fatigue, and emotional instability. Though these factors may have only a small role to play, they can take significant cumulative toll on cognition. And since these things serve to hamper us from attaining our true potential, simply removing these bars will have a positive effect.

Moreover, there are positive steps one can take as well:
Intense training can raise scores. Using a method called “n-back,” researchers at the University of Michigan had young adults practice recalling letter sequences by flashing a series of letters on a screen and asking them to press a key whenever they saw the same letter that appeared “n” times earlier, such as one or two times.
Training for about 25 minutes a day for eight to 19 days was linked to higher scores on tests of fluid intelligence, with gains increasing with the duration of the training, says Susanne Jaeggi, co-author of the study, published in 2008 in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.
The gains tend to fade after practice stops, based on studies of children, Dr. Jaeggi says. “You need some booster sessions” to maintain improvements, she says. Other research has found training people to switch mental tasks quickly also can lift scores.
Aside from geeky brain games, additional measures can be made. One’s that have real-world significance beyond a score on a meaningless test. What is the common element in all of these measures? The answer lies in a cliché that is as old as the hills: GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. Like the athlete who is constantly pushing himself beyond his current limits, such as lifting five pounds more than the last workout or switching to interval training after months of endurance training, the aspiring brain must be subjected to foreign experiences in order to grow. Evidence is shaping our view of the brain as a plastic entity, not a typical organ that withers over use and age. So learn novel things and perform new activities. Learn another language. Play a musical instrument. Learn to juggle. Use your less coordinated hand for basic acts like eating or brushing your teeth. Build things you have never built before. Learn how to draw. Read a lot. Study a subject unknown to you. Learn how to speed-read. Travel, even move overseas.  Solve mental problems in your head. Play another sport. Transform social interactions from passive acceptance to active awareness (most of you know what I’m thinking: game). Instead of playing the same old board games over and again, crack open the instruction booklet for a new one. Read polemical articles that make a case for something.  Write a blog. And then of course, there is always faking intelligence. Someone clocking an average intelligence could hit the books, become knowledgeable in subject matter, and school the ignoramus with a genius IQ.
The take home message: novelty is key. Once you find yourself in automatic pilot, stop and reconsider if what you’re doing is helping you grow.

At this point, I am dubious that these measures will make the drones of the world into Einsteins, but I am reasonably confident that they can raise your Intelligence Quotient by at least a standard deviation. (Unless you listen to Win Wenger, who believes that holding your breath underwater for a total time of 20 hours over three weeks can increase your I.Q by over ten points, and something called image streaming can have even more dramatic effects. In all honesty, I have never really tried his techniques, so will refrain from pronouncing judgment. Go check his stuff out and let me know how it works, if you feel so inclined.)

So, what impact do these findings have on the entire social engineering debate? Essentially nothing. We here at In Mala Fide understand the secrets to improving intelligence and increasing our rate of success. We are also in the minority. I’m sure a good amount of the male population is capable of getting ripped six pack abs and 18 inch biceps. That is no insurance most will actually do so. And it would be outright insanity to predicate a society on the assumption that they will. Anything from a lack of knowledge, willpower, motivation, or means will preclude the majority from transcending their genetically endowed IQ. (Then again, collective education has made a difference. See: the Flynn Effect.) And to state again, this does NOT mean there are no racial or gender differences in intelligence. There clearly are, evidence for which has been so exhaustively cited in these circles that I won’t bother with the links.

Society is relatively constant, but you, dear reader, are not. Go forth, my friends and allies of HBD; your fate is in thy hands.


  1. I do IQ testing for a living, and in the most popular test, Woodcock Johnson Cognitive, the most influential subtest seems to be Comprehension-Knowledge.

    And that isn't easily taught. Fluid Intelligence doesn't influence the scoring algorithms as much as G(c).

  2. Really? I should imagine that fluid intelligence is less teachable and ultimately less improvable while the comprehension-knowledge is something that can be improved in a relatively straightforward manner.

  3. A quick question: which I.Q test do you believe to be the most accurate?

  4. Sorry; lost the blog location. There's a couple of things to remember about Cognitive testing:

    a. It compares your scores to the control group.

    b. Accuracy, therefor, depends on the rigor of the control group, how large it is, how correctly diverse it is, and what age groups are included.

    c. So what is being compared is your responses to the demographic profile of people in the United States. And yes, language matters.

    The only ones that matter then are the individual administered tests done by a certified psychometrician. These are the Stanford Binet, Kaufman Assessment Battery, and the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities.