There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that so-called memory exercises can actually improve intelligence. And at last, scientists are studying this claim empirically, testing to see whether people's IQs do go up after doing memory exercises, and why that might be. It turns out that the exercises do have a scientifically-measurable effect, though only on one kind of intelligence.
According to a release from the National Science Foundation:
Most IQ tests attempt to measure two types of intelligence—crystallized and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence draws on existing skills, knowledge and experiences to solve problems by accessing information from long-term memory.
Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, draws on the ability to understand relationships between various concepts, independent of any previous knowledge or skills, to solve new problems. The research shows that this part of intelligence can be improved through memory training.
"When it comes to improving intelligence, many researchers have thought it was not possible," says [Swiss postdoctoral fellow Susanne M.] Jaeggi. "Our findings clearly show this is not the case. Our brain is more plastic than we might think."
The researchers say they gave four different groups varying degrees of memory-training for roughly one to two weeks. Those with more training performed better on intelligence tests than those without. Say the researchers:
The results are significant because improved fluid intelligence scores could translate into improved general intelligence as measured by IQ tests. General intelligence is a key to determining life outcomes such as academic success, job performance and occupational advancement.
So basically, you can improve your job prospects with memory training. I guess this is the ultimate slap in the face to people still subscribing to the "bell curve" theory.
Plastic Brain Outsmarts Experts [Eureka]