Role of intelligence overestimated: Practice makes perfect!

Even less intelligent people can perform well in their field, and the pattern of their brain activation does not differ significantly from that of their smarter counterparts. Neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists show for the first time experimentally that the patterns of brain activation in differently intelligent persons hardly differ from each other, as long as they solve tasks in their field.

Smart people use their brains more efficiently

Since scientists have been able to virtually observe the brain in thinking with imaging techniques, the debate about the fatefulness of intellectual achievements has flared up again. For intelligent people have an advantage over less intelligent conspecifics, which is physiologically detectable: They solve difficult tasks with less brain activity and obviously use the brain more efficiently.

Learning and practicing does not help, you could conclude. But that is not correct, as a new experiment shows, which the brain researchers Roland Grabner and Professor dr. Aljoscha C. Neubauer from the University of Graz and the cognitive psychologist Professor Dr. med. Elsbeth Stern from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

Taxi drivers made the test

The scientists recruited 31 experienced taxi drivers from Graz for their test series. These experts for the Graz road network differed as expected in their intelligence test performance.

1. Experminant:
In the first experiment, the taxi drivers were given a route in Graz and then defected Grazer street names on a computer screen over. The subjects had to decide under pressure, whether they would cross these roads on the way to their destination or not. They carried a cap with 27 electrodes, which recorded an electroencephalogram (EEG) and registered the changes in the electrical activity of different brain regions.

All men solved these familiar tasks without great mental effort: only small areas in the brain showed a certain activity and this sparing pattern hardly differed in the individual subjects.

2nd experiment:
In the second experiment, however, the taxi drivers were given an unfamiliar task, which appealed to their spatial intelligence: On a fictional road network, they were allowed to memorize a specific route for 30 seconds. Then, red dots appeared on a blank card on the screen and they had to decide whether that item was on their route or not.

This new problem solved the smarter with significantly less mental energy expenditure than their peers, who had done worse in the intelligence test. In familiar tasks, as they occur in everyday professional life, differences in intelligence obviously do not affect the efficiency of brain processes.

Other experiments also suggest that people can optimize their brain processes in specific areas by practicing.

Learning progress does not depend on intelligence

The learning researcher Stern is not surprised by this clear finding. Rather, the neurophysiological data confirm what their psychological experiments with pre-school and primary school children show: learning progress does not depend primarily on the intelligence. "Preliminary knowledge and practice can make up for a lower level of intelligence, but conversely, a high level of intelligence can not compensate for a lack of knowledge, " emphasizes Stern.

A highly intelligent person can conquer more complex areas by a corresponding effort than a less gifted contemporary, but in a work-sharing society, there are tasks with very different requirements. As soon as the intelligence is sufficient to acquire certain competences, even people with less favorable mental conditions can perform well with as efficient a "brain operation" as the high-intelligent.

Exercise and motivation do the trick - there is no scientific reason why around one fifth of young people leave school without adequate reading skills.


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