Posts Tagged ‘Intelligence’

Amazing Crows

June 7, 2019

This post is based on content taken from “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny O’Dell. Appreciating nature and learning about our fellow creatures is important to a healthy memory.

Crows are amazing indeed. They’re highly intelligent and can recognize and remember human faces. They have been documented making and using tools in the wild. They teach their children to distinguish between “good” and “bad” humans. Good humans are those who feed them and bad humans are those who try to catch them or otherwise displease them. They can hold grudges for years.

Jenny O’Dell started leaving a few peanuts out on the balcony of her apartment. For a long time the peanuts remained undisturbed. Occasionally one peanut would be missing. Then a couple of times she saw a crow come by and swipe a peanut, but the crow would quickly fly away. After a while the crows began hanging out on a nearby telephone wire. One crow started coming every day around the time that Ms. O’Dell was eating breakfast, would sit exactly where she could see it from the kitchen table, and it would caw to make her come out on the balcony with a peanut. One day this crow brought its kid, which she knew was his kid because the big one would groom the smaller one and because the smaller one had an undeveloped, chicken-like squawk. She named them Crow and Crowson.

She soon discovered that Crow and Crowson preferred it when she threw peanuts off the balcony so they could do fancy dives off the telephone line. They’d do twists, barrel, rolls, and loops, which she made slow-motion videos of with the obsessiveness of a proud parent. Sometimes, they wouldn’t want any more peanuts and would just sit there and stare at her.

This is a very interesting story of how Crows managed to develop a relationship with a human, and train her to do what they wanted to foster their recreational activities.

Intelligence and the Tri-Process Model of Cognition

November 3, 2013

The immediately preceding post was on the Flynn Effect, which referred to a 3-point increase in IQ scores over the course of each decade since 1930. However, Flynn himself did not think that there had been an actual increase in intelligence over time, but rather an increase in IQ scores. Criticisms of the IQ test are nothing new. Stanovich has been criticizing the IQ test for years and has started research to address this shortcoming (enter “Stanovich” into the healthymemory blog search box to find more posts on Stanovich).

Stanovich (2011) is doing this by building on Kahneman’s Two System View of Cognition (See the healthymemory blog post “The Two System View of Cognition”). System 1 is named Intuition. System 1 is very fast, employs parallel processing, and appears to be automatic and effortless. They are so fast that they are executed, for the most part, outside conscious awareness. Emotions and feelings are also part of System 1. Learning is associative and slow. For something to become a System 1 process requires much repetition and practice. Activities such as walking, driving, and conversation are primarily System 1 processes. They occur rapidly and with little apparent effort. We would not have survived if we could not do these types of processes rapidly. But this speed of processing is purchased at a cost, the possibility of errors, biases, and illusions.

System 2 is named Reasoning. It is controlled processing that is slow, serial, and effortful. It is also flexible. This is what we commonly think of as conscious thought. One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 1 for processing errors, but System 2 is slow and System 1 is fast, so errors to slip through.

It is clear that System 2 is very important and covers a lot of territory, but there remains much to be done to develop System 2. This is precisely what Stanovich is doing. He calls System 1 the Autonomous Mind. System 2 is divided into what Stanovich terms the Algorithmic Mind and the Reflective Mind. It is the Reflective Mind that catches errors in System 1 processing. However, the Algorithmic Mind can still commit errors and terminate processing prematurely. The algorithmic mind engages in serial associative cognition. Consider the now famous bat and ball problem. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 total. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? The mind tends to offer the answer $0.10 because the answer seems simple, just the parsing of the $1 from the $0.10 In fact, 50% of Princeton students and 56% of the students at the University of Michigan came up with this answer. But this answer is wrong. If the bat costs $1 more than the ball and the ball costs $0.10, then the bat would cost $1.10, which when added to the ball cost would reach $1.20. The correct answer is $0.05. That would mean that the bat costs $1.05, and the two added together would yield the desired $1.10. Now if the Reflective Mind is on the job, the Algorithmic Mind will run a check and discover that the ball costing $0.10 would yield an erroneous total of $1.20, conduct some mental arithmetic and arrive at the correct answer of $0.05.

Wason’s four card selection task provides another example of how the Tri-Process Model works. A research participant is presented four cards: K, A, 8, and 5. She is told that there is a letter or number on the opposite side of the card. The rule is that if a card has a vowel on its letter side, then it has an even number on its opposite side. The task is to decide which card or cards must be turned over to determine if the rule is true or false. The correct answer is A and 5, the only two cards that could show that the rule is false. However, the majority of research participants typically respond A and 8. So presumably they are engaging the Algorithmic Mind and making choices that would confirm the hypothesis. If the Reflective Mind is doing its job, it will catch this error and engage in simulations of all the possibilities and discover that there could be an even number on the other side of the K. The Reflective Mind might also be aware that a confirmation bias pervades most of our thinking and that we typically look for confirming, not disconfirming information. But it is disconfirmation information that refutes rules or hypothesis.

There is no way I can do justice to the Tri-Process Model of Cognition, but it is fleshing out the Two System View and addressing serious problems in intelligence tests. Perhaps Stanovich can develop a Rational Quotient (RQ) in addition to the IQ, or perhaps a more comprehensive intelligence test can be developed.

Stanovich, K.E. (2011). Rationality & the Reflective Mind. New York: The Oxford University Press..

© Douglas Griffith and, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flynn on the Flynn Effect

November 1, 2013

The Flynn effect refers to the gain in IQs over time.1 IQs seem to have risen about 3 points per decade since about 1930. Gains have been larger for fluid than for crystallized intelligence. A wide range of reasons for this increase have been offered to include nutrition, schooling, urbanization, technology, television, the preschool home environment, and so forth.
However, Flynn himself did not endorse any of these causes.2 He believes that, in some sense, these gains in intelligence are not “real.” Although there were IQ gains, there might not have been intelligence gains. He felt that cultural flowering would have been evident from true increases in intelligence. He noted that “the number of inventions patented in fact showed a sharp decline over the last generation and the Who’s Who books of eminent scientists were not bursting at the seems.
So although IQ tests are measuring something and can predict fairly accurately success in school, they are missing some factor that makes for great science and innovation.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy Holidays 2012!

December 22, 2012

Besides the wish expressed in the title, all I have to offer you is this healthymemory blog. It consists of more than 350 posts devoted to the topic of growing and maintaining a healthy memory. It has blog posts on memory, how it works, and how it malfunctions. Posts explain how to improve memory performance with mnemonic techniques, and through both human and technological transactive memory. These posts are divided into three categories:

Human Memory: Theory and Data

Mnemonic Techniques

Transactive Memory

Clicking on those categories listed on the sideboard yields the pertinent posts.

Are there specific topics of interest to you? Just enter them into the search box and see what the healthymemory blog has to offer. You might be surprised on the wide range of topics covered. Try entering “emotions,” or “intelligence,” for example.

Believing You Can Increase Your Intelligence Is Important

February 26, 2012

A recent study1 demonstrates why this is so. How people respond to their mistakes depends on what they believe about learning and intelligence. People who believe that intelligence develops through effort see mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve. People who believe that intelligence is a stable characteristic see mistakes as indications of a lack of ability. The former group is said to have growth mind-sets, and the latter group is said to have fixed mind-sets. The nature of an individual’s mind-set can be determined from questionnaire items. The researchers examined performance-monitoring event-related potentials (ERPs) to study the neural mechanisms underlying these different reactions to mistakes.

Twenty-five experimental participants performed a classification task, in which accuracy and speed were equally emphasized, while their ERPs were recorded. Upon completion of the experimental task, the participants completed a questionnaire using a Theory of Intelligence Scale to assess their implicit theories of intelligence (fixed or with growth potential). The findings indicated that participants with a growth mindset showed an enhancement of the error positivity component (Pe) of the ERP. This component reflects awareness of and allocation of attention to mistakes. So participants with a growth mind-set were more aware of their mistakes and allocated more attention to correcting these mistakes.

For a long time the argument was made that IQ tests indicated a fixed level of intelligence that was difficult or impossible to change. Recent research has indicated that this view of intelligence is not fixed, and that it can be improved. However, for intelligence to be improved the individual must believe that it can be improved. When this is believed, attentional resources are allocated for improvement. Otherwise, attentional resources are not allocated for improvement. This is in accordance with what makes a person a true expert. Many, many, many hours of deliberate practice are required to achieve true expertise (See the healthymemory blog post, “Deliberate Practice.”. Similarly to improve your IQ, you need to believe that it can be improved and work to improve.

It appears that whether or not you improve your intelligence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe it can be improved, it will likely improve. If you don’t believe that it can be improved, then it will not be improved. In other words, if you believe you are stupid or of average intelligence, you will remain being stupid or of average intelligence. To increase your intelligence, believe and apply yourself.

1Moser, J.S., Schroder, H.S., Heeter, C., Moran, T.P., & Lee, Y.H. (2011). M ind Your Errors Evidence for a Neural Mechanism Linking Growth Mind-set to Adaptive Posterror Adjustments., Psychological Science, 22, 1484-1489.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Are We Becoming More Intelligent?

December 11, 2011

The Flynn Effect1 refers to the substantial and long-sustained increase in intelligence test scores that has occurred over the last one hundred years in the industrialized countries. The average score for an IQ test is 100. Periodically these tests are redone and renormed (that is the average is recomputed with a standard deviation of 15). When the scores of people taking the new test are compared against the scores of the same people taking the previous test, the scores are typically higher. One estimates is that an IQ of 80 today would equate to an IQ of 100 in 1932. How can this be? Are we becoming more intelligent? If we are becoming more intelligent this increase is occurring much more quickly than could be explained by genetic evolution.

According to Flynn, statistical estimates are that genes account for 36 percent of the IQ variance and that environmental and experiential factors account for the remaining 64 percent. The problem is that it is impossible to conduct a study where genetic and environmental factors are independently controlled. The reality is that there is an interaction between these two factors, and it is this interaction that explains the Flynn effect.

Flynn uses an analogy with basketball to make his point. Suppose a pair of identical twins genetically endowed to play basketball are separated at birth. Regardless of the different environments under which they are raised, they are both likely to play basketball and to practice assiduously. Consequently they will excel at basketball and eventually attract the attention of coaches who will further foster their talents and abilities. A similar interaction between genetic inheritance and environmental factors can be found with identical twins with high IQs who are raised in different environments. Regardless of their respective environments they are more likely to be drawn to learning and will perform better in school. They are more likely to be admitted to competitive universities where their IQs will be increased even more.

Flynn says, “There is a strong tendency for genetic advantage or disadvantage to get more and more matched to a corresponding environment.” Accordingly, the environment will always be the determining factor of whether or not a genetic predisposition gets expressed. This applies to all our cognitive powers, not just IQ. So we can increase our own cognitive powers by our own deliberate efforts. This calls to mind what Thomas Edison said about genius, that it was one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

So the answer to the question, “Are We Becoming More Intelligent?”, the question to the answer is “What is Intelligence?” But we do have the ability to increase our cognitive powers throughout our lifetimes through our own deliberate efforts.

1Flynn, J.R. (2007). What Is Intelligence? Cambridge University Press.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why Have Our Brains Shrunk?

October 12, 2011

According to an article1 in the New Scientist in the past 10,000 to 15,000 years the average size of the human brain compared to the human body has shrunk from 3 to 4 per cent. The question is why. One explanation for this shrinkage is that the brain has evolved to make better use of less gray and white matter. Some genetic studies suggest that our brain’s wiring is more efficient than it was in the past. However, another explanation is that this shrinkage is a sign of a slight decline in our cognitive abilities.

David Geary of the University of Missouri-Columbia believes that after complex societies developed, the less intelligent could survive on the backs of their more intelligent peers. Previously, the less intelligent would either have died or failed to mate. It appears that this decline might be continuing. Studies have found that the more intelligent people are, the fewer children they have. Today intellectual and economic success are not linked with larger families.

It is interesting to speculate whether this trend will continue or perhaps even accelerate given the widespread use of technology. Is this technology making us smarter by giving us greater access to computations and to external storage (transactive memory)? Or is it making us dumber due to our increasing reliance on technology? At one time multiplication tables needed to be memorized. Now the use of calculators is widespread. At one time more information needed to be committed to memory. Now it can be looked up.

There is even the suggestion that at some point we might no longer need our biological brains. Ray Kurzweil contends that there will be a singularity in the future when our biological brains are replaced by silicon brains (See the Healthymemory Blog Posts, “Are Our Memories Becoming Too Dependent on Technology,” “Achieving the Max in Technical Transactive Memory,’ and “Brain, Mind, and Body”). These questions are interesting to ponder.

1Robson, D. (2011). A brief history of the brain. New Scientist, 24 September, 40-45.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Improving Cognition

June 16, 2011

Improving Cognition was the title of the presentation John Jonides made as his William James Fellow Award address at this year’s meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). The specific cognition Jonides sought to improve was fluid intelligence (see the blog post “Fluid Intelligence and Working Memory”). Typically intelligence is broken down into two generic types: crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Crystalized intelligence is comprised of everything we know. This component of intelligence, absent pathology, typically remains intact as we age. As we age, it might take longer to remember certain information, but we typically can recall it given enough time and cues. Fluid intelligence is the component that deals with processing new information and novel problems. Fluid intelligence consists of the capacity of working memory (the amount of information it can hold at one time) and the attentional processes that work on this information and solve the novel problems. It is this component of intelligence that tends to decline as we age.

Jonides reported a program that after seventeen days of training produced an average gain of six IQ points in fluid intelligence. I will not get into the specifics of the training program, but it was quite demanding . The general characteristics of this program were as follows. It energized all processes of working memory. It did not use material specific processes. Task difficulty was increased as performance became better. However, performance needed to reach a stable level before difficulty was increase. If performance fell, then the task difficulty was decreased. Practice periods were spaced.

fMRI of the brains of research participants was also done. The trained regions brain requied less blood flow indicating that the trained brains had become more efficient.

This was great news, but the question remains whether this training can remediate age-related loss in cognitive skills. Jonides intends to address this question in future research. I think we can count on him following through on this research. He is a baby boomer so this research is of personal significance to him.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What Makes a Nation Intelligent?

June 5, 2011

There were many outstanding presentations at the recent meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). One of the best of these outstanding presentations was one by Earl Hunt with the title, “What Makes a Nation Intelligent?” This was his James McKeen Fellow Award Address. Hunt, who has a rich and diverse background in Physics, Business Administration, and Computer Science as well as Psychology, is currently a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington.

One of his primary interests is intelligence, and he published a book last year on the topic titled, appropriately enough, Human Intelligence. The approach he takes to intelligence is that of a cognitive psychologist rather than the traditional psychometric approach to intelligence. The psychometric approach provides estimates of the percentage of intelligence that is inherited versus the percentage of intelligence that is a product of the environment. The psychometric approach is primarily descriptive and offers few ideas for improving intelligence with the exception of eugenic approaches. The cognitive approach is interested in the cognitive processes that underlie intelligence as well as artifacts and interventions that can improve intelligence.

That is not to say that the psychometric approach is useless. Hunt points out that the correlation between IQ and occupational success is about 0.5 (the coefficient ranges with 0.0, no relationship, to 1.0, a perfect relationship, with a positive or negative sign indicating whether the relationship is direct or inverse). He said that this relationship is about twice as high as various personality measures. IQ tests measure what IQ tests measure, which is what is easy to measure. They’re good at assessing tasks that require speed, but they tend to miss culturally important skills.

To return to the question “What Makes a Nation Intelligent?”, one of his responses is cognitive artifacts. One example of such a cognitive artifact would be written records (e.g., cuneiform tables, papyrus, paper), where both business transactions and ideas could be recorded. I would call these examples of technical transactive memory, he calls them explicit artifacts. Hunt also uses the term implicit artifacts to refer to communication systems and personal trust. I would call these examples of human transactive memory. Regardless of what they are called, they are essential to a Nation’s intelligence.

Nation’s also need to respond to and adopt beneficial new ideas. Ideas spread along the Silk Road Trade Route and countries along this trade route tended to benefit from this intelligence and prosper. However, their needed to be an openness to new ideas. Japan initially closed up and ignored new ideas in favor of their own traditions. This was also true of China and Korea. These countries did not prosper until they opened up to new ideas from foreign cultures. This increased their respective national intelligence and led to increasing prosperity.

So what contributes to a nation’s intelligence? Of course there are explicit and implicit cognitive artifacts, but factors such as nutrition and environmental pollution cannot be ignored. Nutrition is essential to the development of intelligence, whereas environmental pollution degrades intelligence. The family and a formal education system are important. As Diane Halpern noted, “You learn to do what you practice doing”

Cultures, such as the Jewish culture and Northeast Asian cultures, that place a heavy emphasis on education do well on intelligence tests. Although there are sleight differences in mathematical performance between males and females, this gender effect is overwhelmed by practice. In other words, females who work at mathematics to very well on mathematics.

Hunt noted that when three outlier countries were removed, they was a correlation of 0.65 between IQ and financial success. As he put it there is an interaction between intelligence and financial success, the rich get smarter and the smart get richer.

Hunt advocates the creation of a cognitive elite, which he defines as college graduates. But he lists the obstacles to fostering this cognitive elite such as:

Lack of trained teachers and equipment.

The economic costs of a college education (this needs to be affordable and not require the acquisition of heavy financial debts).

The opposition of education aimed at modern cognitive skills.

The opposition to scientific ideas such as the opposing to vaccination because it is not in the Koran (or in our society the opposition to vaccination based on faulty scientific evidence and reasoning).

His conclusion: It is possible, although difficulty, to create better interactive environments to improve national intelligence.