Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
The geniuses might be brighter after all

By gyan in News
Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 12:07:32 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

According to this article in the London-based Times, researchers have identified a few "bright spots" in the brain that are actively engaged in problem-solving. Furthermore, these bright spots are mostly located in the prefrontal cortex. There is a chance that we could all improve our intellect simply by learning to concentrate more, since subregions of the prefrontal cortex are responsible for attentional control.


The relevant paper was authored by Jeremy Gray and Todd Braver of Washington University alongwith Christopher Chabris of Harvard University. The stated purpose of the paper was to test
whether general fluid intelligence (gF) is mediated by brain regions that support attentional (executive) control, including subregions of the prefrontal cortex.
Fluid intelligence can be broadly thought of as "the process through which the mind reasons and solves novel problems" The researchers used 48 subjects, all healthy, right-handed, native English speakers between the ages of 18 and 37, about half men and half women, who were first subjected to Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices to judge a measure of their gF. Then they participated in verbal and nonverbal versions of a challenging working-memory task, while being subjected to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging(fMRI) of their brain activity. The test can be described as follows:
Participants in the study were asked to do what might seem like a mental juggling act. They had to keep a list of three words or faces actively in mind. Every few seconds, they had to add another word or face to this list, and drop the oldest item from the list. But before they forgot the old item completely, they had to indicate whether the new item they were adding exactly matched the oldest item they were dropping.
Commonly referred to as three-back, the task is challenging, but the researchers included some especially tricky "lure" items that made the test even more difficult. These were words or faces that had been shown two, four, or five previously in the sequence, but not three previously.

The key finding of the tests were a remarkable correlation between high gF scores, good test results and a distinctive pattern of brain stimulation. The performance of those with good results suggests they were keeping the distracting information at bay, and they appeared to do so by activating regions in prefrontal and parietal cortex, as well as a number of auxiliary regions. Dr Gray said, "Behavioural interventions such as schooling and other factors can have markedly positive influences on gF. A mechanistic understanding could lead to more specific approaches to enhancing it."

It should be noted that this study does not address every aspect of fluid intelligence, nor does it account for other forms of intelligence, such as crystallized intelligence, which involves specific skills and expertise. Also, "motivation and emotion are also important."

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o article
o Times
o located
o prefrontal
o cortex
o paper
o Jeremy Gray
o Todd Braver
o Christophe r Chabris
o Fluid intelligence
o Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices
o Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
o Also by gyan


Display: Sort:
The geniuses might be brighter after all | 28 comments (25 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Sounds like (5.00 / 2) (#1)
by Rogerborg on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 06:22:07 AM EST

Simone De Beauvoir was right after all:
"One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius."

Mind you, that's on the same site that has a quote about genius from the renowned actress-slash-philosopher Joey Lauren Adams.

Hmm, perhaps this quotation thing is overrated.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

It's true (2.75 / 4) (#2)
by medham on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 06:23:06 AM EST

Behavioural interventions such as schooling and other factors can have markedly positive influences on a girlfriend.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

Obvious, really (none / 0) (#6)
by LQ on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 07:33:49 AM EST

we could all improve our intellect simply by learning to concentrate more
For this we need a research paper?

of course (none / 0) (#7)
by mami on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 07:53:33 AM EST

it's a job creation program our politicians implemented without concentrating much.

[ Parent ]
Just as surely as one is needed (none / 0) (#19)
by bjlhct on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 02:15:22 PM EST

to tell us that people gain weight between thanskgiving and christmas.

And it doesn't help how concentration is hard work.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

Faulty (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by psychologist on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 08:53:06 AM EST

This is faulty science. This person did not use the normal IQ tests. Rather, he used tests that are non-verbal. Non verbal tests usually require large concentration, since they do not involve 'figuring out things', but usually remembering and matching things.

So in effect, he has discovered what we already knew: Concentrate, and you will understand.

Not faulty science, though (none / 0) (#9)
by aziegler on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 09:50:36 AM EST

IQ tests are known to be faulty and biased toward particular cultural and educational precepts (it differs for each test, but most of them, like the SAT and ACT, tend to favour educated whites). Each test is only valid for measuring particular aspects of intelligence.

Granted, most people in the psych field won't misapply them, because the limitations of the tests are well known.

When I studied psychology some ten years ago, I was struck by how much of psych* science was "obvious" (and how much of it seemed "hare brained", too). But psych* is still a very young science, and is still trying to figure out its boundaries -- rather like Galileo determining that there is a constant rate of falling.

-austin

[ Parent ]

Still bad science (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by psychologist on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 11:09:37 AM EST

Look, what I am talking about is that this chap did not apply his tests correctly. He does not have the data to appropriately draw the conclusion that he (or this k5 article) makes.

Let us follow his train of thought:

  1. Supposition: Concentration affects IQ
  2. Test: Non-verbal memory tests on subjects
  3. Observations: Area of brain that is associated with concentration gets filled with blood
  4. Conclusion: Increasing concentration increases IQ.
What is wrong with this?
  1. 48 subjects. Nobody takes a study seriously with less than 1500 subjects, particularly when there are many variables such as in this one.
  2. Humans concentrate when they are trying to solve a task. When they cannot solve the task, they stop concentrating on it, and simply fidget around. So how does one imply the other?
  3. He has not IN ANY WAY show that one causes the other. He has simply observed a relationship. So how can he imply that increasing one increases the other?
  4. The tests he uses are not IQ representative, as you should know.
Psychology is too pseudo-scientific at the moment. There is too much correlation implies causation, and too little reproductibility in experiments. This study is not large enough or free enough of external factors to be accepted as science.


[ Parent ]
Clarification (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by gyan on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 11:30:25 AM EST

  1. Supposition: Concentration affects IQ
    (no such supposition, check purpose of paper)
  2. Test: Non-verbal memory tests on subjects
    (both verbal and non-verbal tests were conducted; read article)
  1. 48 subjects. Nobody takes a study seriously with less than 1500 subjects, particularly when there are many variables such as in this one.
    (According to a news release by the journal Nature Neuroscience: The results may help researchers to understand the neural basis of individual differences in cognitive ability, Describing the study as "impressive" in part because of its relatively large number of participants, the journal suggests the findings "will help to constrain theories of the neural mechanisms underlying differences in general intelligence.")
  2. He has not IN ANY WAY show that one causes the other.
    (Read the conclusion, the word used is 'correlation')
  3. The tests he uses are not IQ representative, as you should know.
    (I think you have missed the point of the test. The authors tested for fluid intelligence using Raven's APM; then tested subjects on their tests and checked fMRI; saw those with higher gF tended to do better on their tests; and these good performers tended to use their prefrontal cortex more actively and efficiently than other performers)


********************************

[ Parent ]
I'm not aware of any such findings (5.00 / 2) (#17)
by Delirium on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 12:05:37 PM EST

most of them, like the SAT and ACT, tend to favour educated whites
Given that Asian-Americans on average do better on the SAT than whites, I don't see how this is possible.

[ Parent ]
No they don't (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by bjlhct on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 02:19:08 PM EST

The SAT & ACT favors asians, if you go by the numbers. And I suggest you come up with a test where the performance ranking of diff. demographics taking the SAT or ACT is reversed, even one without a semblance of testing knowledge.

And guess what, psych has changed in 10 years.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

I'm not sure how this is "obvious" (none / 0) (#10)
by gyan on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 09:54:24 AM EST

Concentrate, and you will understand.

 How do you know this statement holds unconditionally?

 It's possible that each person has a 'limit' beyond which he/she can't focus any further, or that this maximum focus will necessarily lead to "understanding".

********************************

[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#13)
by psychologist on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 11:11:10 AM EST

Yes, each person has his limit, I agree. But all things equal, if 2 people have got the same problem solving ability, and one can concentrate better, then that one will rate as having a higher IQ.

[ Parent ]
Chances are... (none / 0) (#16)
by autonomous on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 11:52:33 AM EST

They had the participants IQ scores, and could confirm that those with higher IQ's had better concentration abilities and did better on both exams. You could then check backgrounds on those scoring higher and lower on both exams, and various combinations thereof with the backgrounds on the participants and look for interesting links between education and ability. I'd say this is good science.
-- Always remember you are nothing more than a collection of complementary chemicals worth not more than $5.00
[ Parent ]
Faulty? (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by thelizman on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 10:07:16 AM EST

Regardless of the fact that most IQ tests are inherently faulty, what makes you think non-verbal tests are any more or less valid? Intelligence doesn't necessarily required specific language skills.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Intelligence distribution (4.50 / 2) (#14)
by psychologist on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 11:18:42 AM EST

What makes you think IQ tests are faulty? IQ tests are not faulty, they simply are not representative of measuring the mental ability of a person. An IQ test does not measure the mental flexibility or reaction speed, for example, and those are parts of intelligence. Do you think Einstein would have been much better than 130 or 140 on a standardised IQ test? I don't think so.

Einsteins mental superiority lay in his imagination, not in his problem crunching ability. He could see the big picture, and match what he saw with previous things he knew, and form his theories from that. Do you think that counting the sides of a triangle would have been able to point out this mental advantage to his testers? I don't think so.

Non-verbal tests test different mental abilities. The tests that this group of people seemed to have performed, to me, tests their memory, rather than their intelligence. And how do you define intelligence?

Humans receive information verbally. They process this information verbally also. From a certain age, and with about 90% of the population, they think in words. Thus verbal communication is a good test of real world intelligence, since it demonstrates how quick they will be on the uptake in the real world.

That is why the tests are biased against ghetto children. They don't learn to speak good, so they don't understand the high level english that is often used in the tests.

And noté that those tests he uses are really old.

[ Parent ]

Re: Intelligence distribution (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by JensAAMC on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 05:42:38 AM EST

>An IQ test does not measure the mental >flexibility or reaction speed, for example, and >those are parts of intelligence.

While it is true that IQ tests are not designed to measure reaction speed there is actually a positive correlation between IQ scores and measures of reaction speed.

>Einsteins mental superiority lay in his >imagination, not in his problem crunching >ability. He could see the big picture, and match >what he saw with previous things he knew, and >form his theories from that. Do you think that >counting the sides of a triangle would have been >able to point out this mental advantage to his >testers? I don't think so.

I think you´re jumping to conclusions. Just because these areas seem somewhat different in the real world, one cannot conclude that they are as separate concepts in the brain. And why should problem crunching ability not aid you in seeing the big picture?

>And noté that those tests he uses are really old.

The RAPM test is actually very well respected within the psychometric community. While it is old, one should note that it gets updated and recalibrated on a regular basis.

[ Parent ]

Bias in tests (none / 0) (#26)
by tekue on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 07:21:44 AM EST

That is why the tests are biased against ghetto children. They don't learn to speak good, so they don't understand the high level english that is often used in the tests.
By that logic, they are also biased against white male christian rednecks. Maybe, for once, the tests aren't biased, but those children simply don't understand them? After all, we don't say high school mathematics is biased against ghetto children, because they don't understand the high level abstraction and calculation used in it?
--
A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither. -Milton Friedman
[ Parent ]
Are you shilling for Nature? (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by bukvich on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 12:25:22 PM EST

from my connection it costs money to view that linked paper.

Emotions involved in reasoning processes? (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by jdrugo on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 07:03:02 PM EST

According to AR Damasio's book "Descartes' Error. Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain" (1994, I read the German edition), the prefrontal cortex is significantly important for a person's emotions. In his studies he tested serveral people with damages in this brain region and came to the conclusion that the participants were not only not able to show emotions or even have emotions to any subjects regarding anything including themselves and their future. They were also unable to make any desicions regarding their own future and plans.

Assuming that the study in discussion shows relevant support that this brain region is correlated to fluild intelligence (I couldn not read the paper as my browser does not seem to be able to cope with Nature's registration process) it seems to me that emotions play a significant role in intelligence as it is publicly seen.

Although the notion of intelligence is very vague by itsself I will try to make my thoughts somehow clear. Seeing intelligence as a person's ability to cope with new situations requires abililities such as being able to draw parallels to already encountered situations and a not to small portion of creativity (especially in the process of finding these parallels). As all of this happens implicitly, it is so hard to get a clear understanding of the process. However, my thoughts are that it heavily relies on emotions how we feel about these new situations. Maybe 'emotions' is the wrong word to use as it may be something closely related to the thing we call 'emotions' but still not the same.

I will try to make my point clear with an examples: Where do fresh ideas come from? They are usually not a result of thinking logically about the domain and deducing new propositions from existing ones. They just pop into our minds when thinking about and arround the problem domain. This is also related to concentration (here we go, the first useful link to the article) and attention as concentrating on the domain will probably 'activate' the search for new methods to solve the problem.

I have not yet sortet out all my thoughts about this idea, so it might sound a bit weird. However, there is some scientific backup in the field of cognitive psychology about reasing processes by drawing parallels to prior experience (I am just too lazy right now to search for the proper references).

Genius Explained (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by danny on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 12:51:46 AM EST

I read (and reviewed) an interesting book on this subject not so long ago - Michael Howe's Genius Explained. That argues that genius is the product of environment, personality, and sheer hard work.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Well I read your review and this comment of yours (none / 0) (#24)
by Kalani on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 10:03:14 PM EST

But I am still wondering exactly how it is that "genius" is necessarily a function of environment, personality and hard work when the lives of many geniuses have been (seemingly) so fundamentally different. For instance, compare Richard Feynman to Isaac Newton. Feynman had a fantastic home life (by his own descriptions and stories related by his younger sister) but Isaac had a horrible home life including some threats to his mother's second husband (whom his mother may have abandoned him for). Feynman was an open "down to Earth" kind of guy who is well known for teaching his artist neighbor about Science and Scientific philosophy while Newton specifically obfuscated his Principia to avoid popular debate (and that's the least of his antisocial behavior ... the fights with Hooke and Leibniz and the various stories about his time at the mint can make him seem like an absolute villian at times). It does seem that they had hard work in common (although I would bet my life that neither of them would describe what they did as "work" in the same sense that the reluctant dock worker means the word), and perhaps that is a more important point than environment or personality.

Anyway, I'm not going to dismiss an entire book that I haven't read. I only wonder what it is about environment, personality and hard work (if the author is to be believed) that Newton and Feynman shared. Perhaps that explanation can illustrate his point more clearly (if it is valid).

-----
"Satan is the spiritual Microsoft of reality."
-- The Sociology of Cybers
[
Parent ]
without digging out the book... (none / 0) (#25)
by danny on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 12:41:06 AM EST

The determination and other traits necessary (but not sufficient) for genius can be the result of different kinds of environments - there's no simple "environmental feature X produces genius talent Y" rule, but rather "features A, B, and C are likely to produce character traits P, Q, and R, which in turn contribute towards acquisiton of genius level skills".

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Well that's like what I expected (none / 0) (#28)
by Kalani on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 12:41:56 PM EST

So given what you've just said, wouldn't it be more accurate to say that certain character traits are the most important contributing factors to genius? It sounds like "environment" is a bit of a red herring in this explanation except to say that sometimes it brings out the necessary character traits (and at other times a totally different environment brings out the same traits). Perhaps I'm just being too thick here, but it seems to me that the question of what character traits are necessary is hard enough without also asking how to shape the environment to encourage "genius character traits" (two distinct and seemingly difficult problems). But maybe the question of what character traits are necessary is already answered (I guess I'd have to read the book to find out).

-----
"Satan is the spiritual Microsoft of reality."
-- The Sociology of Cybers
[
Parent ]
This book looks good & may be useful here. (none / 0) (#27)
by Nicht Ausreichend on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 11:22:22 AM EST

I just saw a blurb for "the blank slate, The Modern Denial of Human Nature," in which Steven Pinker addresses the nature vs. nurture debate.

As might be expected from "The Language Instinct" he's evidently partial to the nature side.

[ Parent ]

The geniuses might be brighter after all | 28 comments (25 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!