In a recent article in Psychology Today, “Training Working Memory: Why and How”, the author, William Klemm D.V.M. Ph.D., makes a point that everyone needs to get:
“IQ is not fixed. It improves dramatically in the early school years in all children. Moreover, a recent study shows that both verbal and non-verbal IQ can change (for better or worse) in teenagers.”
The rest of the interesting article makes the case for training working memory.
It’s important to note that the kind of training the article discusses is not about learning the ‘content’ used in the exercises. Rather, these are exercises designed to stretch and extend the underlying processing capacity and dexterity of the brain’s ‘working memory’. Like upgrading the CPU or adding RAM to your computer, the net result isn’t a difference in the machine’s ‘apps’ or ‘documents’ rather in how well (how many things at once and how fast) your machine can process those apps and documents. Just as in the case of learning to read, improving the brain’s processing machinery will improve all the processes that use it. As IQ is a way of describing processing proficiencies, improving the brain’s deep processing machinery will necessarily improve IQ. I say ‘machinery’ because what the brain is learning to do is artificial – the kind of processing the brain is being trained to do is not a naturally occurring kind of processing. The processing is required in order to participate in a human contrived (technological/conventional) system.
Two important points: 1) We have innately ordained differences in our brains that enable and limit our potential IQ but our brains are plastic and our actual IQ is a manifestation of our learning. How babies learn to be children, children learn to be teens, and teens learn to be adults (socially-emotionally, linguistically-cognitively, and artificially-symbolically (reading and math and the kinds of artificially abstract processing they make possible) affects IQ ( positively and negatively). 2) Because intelligence both shapes and is shaped by learning, our conversation about the plasticity of IQ is another case in point for: “I” become the “me” I learn to be.