Saturday, May 25, 2013

Want a Higher IQ? Do Not Get Distracted While Reading This

By Maia Szalavitz

A new study suggests that intelligence is more about what the brain chooses to ignore than simply its ability to process information rapidly.

The research, which was published in the journal Current Biology, suggests new ways of testing intelligence that may be less biased by cultural knowledge— as many have claimed other IQ tests are. It may also help to explain the profound intellectual talents of some autistic people. “It’s a really interesting potential new paradigm,” says Scott Barry Kaufman, adjunct assistant professor of psychology at New York University, who was not associated with the research.

Scientists led by Duje Tadin, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, studied 67 people in two similar experiments. Before beginning, all participants took IQ tests: the first twelve took short versions, the rest sat for the full battery of testing. Then they watched videos of both small and large objects that moved, very slightly, either to the right or to the left of a screen and tried to identify the direction of motion. The scientists knew that tracking larger objects is actually more challenging, possibly because in the natural world, large background movements like those of trees rustling in the wind are typically irrelevant to human activity— so the brain automatically dismisses or ignores them. “What you want to see is if there’s an animal hiding in the tree about to jump you,” says Tadin.

The researchers found that the difference between an individual’s ability to correctly identify the direction of motion between the small and large objects was strongly linked to their IQ. “The more they struggled with the big ones and the better they were at the small ones, the better their IQ was,” Tadin explains. In other words, intelligence may require a trade-off between being good at identifying motion in small objects at the cost of not being able to do so with large ones. Tadin and his colleagues called the measure of this skill the “suppression index.”

“This is the first study I’ve ever seen that shows that the exact same ability to inhibit irrelevant and distracting information [on low levels] is correlated with higher order functions,” says Kaufman.

Although people have been trying to connect intelligence with perceptual speed and accuracy since smartness was first studied, prior research found only small correlations with measures of sensory information processing speed. “For intelligence, you need to be able process relevant information fast, but you also need to focus on the most relevant information and filter out what’s irrelevant,” says Tadin.

Read the rest here.


  1. Then there is the group that scores perfect on both small and large fields...

    This is the group that they don't explain in their testing and is the most interesting. Its the group that can quickly and consciously process everything and doesn't filter the noise but also doesn't get overwhelmed.

    This is the truly rare group that they should be really interested in because as my wife (a autism specialist) and I have often speculated, our culture is selecting for high speed processing and fully conscious awareness which defies standard IQ testing and in the individuals we've identified demonstrates massive intelligence and ability in all areas instead of most intelligence that is normally vertical in specialized areas.

    If you've ever met a person like this, they're aware of everything around them and are incredibly good multitaskers. They're also generally very good athletes while being highly academic which is normally a contradiction.

    if you identify these people and are highering they're going to be your most productive workers, although they are also difficult for many to work with because they're so dar ahead of others because of their ability to pull multiple distinct concepts together that they are very impatient and intolerant of others so they require a special approach and an awareness by others of the special abilities...which given that most Americans think they are the best and most intelligent ar everything even when they are quiet bad, can be a challenge to find. But in my experience, once you get the right team around them, you have a secret sauce.

  2. Are we still clinging on to the idea of a single IQ score? If you take the Highlands Ability Battery, you will realize that there are at least 20 separate abilities that contribute to what we think of as intelligence, such as idea productivity, classification, pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, numerical accuracy, visual memory, auditory memory, kinesthetic memory, and so on. Someone can be excellent at spatial reasoning and pattern recognition, leading to a high score on an IQ test, yet be a poor classifier, leading to low performance in tasks based on synthesis of concepts.

  3. Huh? What? Sorry I was texting...

  4. I routinely dismiss anything the gov't says, anything the MSM says, and anything academia as irrelevant and extraneous. This has served me well. People think I am smart because of this. Is there a connection? Hmmmm.