The biggest myth about IQ is the assumption that it cannot change.
In fact IQ can increase by as much as 20 points in only four years, research finds.
Across the early to late teens, young people’s IQ shifts dramatically both up and down, research has found.
Although the study was carried out on adolescents, the same might be true of mature adults.
Professor Cathy Price, who led the study, said:
“The question is, if our brain structure can change throughout our adult lives, can our IQ also change?
My guess is yes.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that our brains can adapt and their structure changes, even in adulthood.”
For the study, 33 adolescents were followed over four years.
Ms Sue Ramsden, the study’s first author, explained the results:
“We found a considerable amount of change in how our subjects performed on the IQ tests in 2008 compared to four years earlier.
Some subjects performed markedly better but some performed considerably worse.
We found a clear correlation between this change in performance and changes in the structure of their brains and so can say with some certainty that these changes in IQ are real.”
Professor Price wondered if some children were ‘written-off’ too early:
“We have a tendency to assess children and determine their course of education relatively early in life, but here we have shown that their intelligence is likely to be still developing.
We have to be careful not to write off poorer performers at an early stage when in fact their IQ may improve significantly given a few more years.
It’s analogous to fitness.
A teenager who is athletically fit at 14 could be less fit at 18 if they stopped exercising.
Conversely, an unfit teenager can become much fitter with exercise.”
Just the same might be true of of the brains of adults, Professor Price thinks.
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The study was published in the journal Nature (Ramsden et al., 2011).