1. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Reading and Writing Augmenting Intelligence

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by mbinks89, Apr 20, 2013.

    This is something I've been mulling over for a bit. Would like your two cents.

    I don't think reading or writing can make you a genius. Perhaps it won't even elevate your IQ (but maybe it can). Do you guys think that reading and writing, every day, can make you "smarter?"

    I think that by reading you can: exercise your imagination, expand your vocabulary (provided you look up every word you don't know and you should already be doing that), lengthen your attention span, and hone your abilities of analysis and scrutiny. For instance, I'm reading Lolita right now. I have to be very wary of what Humbert Humbert tells me, because he's such an unreliable narrator, and I keep picking up on all these subtle patterns that give me glimpses into his mind. It can generate new ideas, and put your train of thought on whole new tracks. I can't tell you how much I loved Fahrenheit 451, and how much it made me think about today's society, the trend for things to be flashier, of a shorter-duration, and for people to eschew learning. (Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those decriers of modern society that thinks each successive generation
    is more and more degenerate).

    As for writing, similar things apply. You need a good attention span to write for any long duration. Your memory gets a workout, by remembering words, plots, characters, settings, etc. By doing this everyday (and a writer should write everyday, in my opinion), this becomes more and more engrained into your mind.

    And might not all this constant mental exertion spur the growth of your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex? If all learning results in the development of new neural networks (neuroplasticity), the strengthening of old networks, and an acceleration of the speed of which transmissions are carried along these networks, and we are learning by reading, and by writing, for I've always thought writing stuffs the mind as much as empties pent-up idas, then wouldn't that mean we have to be getting smarter?

    I don't think results would be drastic. You won't be doing calculus at the drop of a hat. You won't become a chessmaster. But, I think, you will become more thoughtful, more perceptive, and your memory and attention span will increase, opening up vistas to further learning.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think reading gives you a lot of information and writing allows you to synthesize it. So, yes, I think it does, in a way, make you "smarter." IQ, specifically, is just one measure of intelligence. It is not the be-all, end-all indicator of how smart one is, which is difficult to define.
     
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  3. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Yeah, agreed. Intelligence is such a nebulous term.
     
  4. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    It made me start winning every game of Words with Friends, lol.

    Other than that, writing generally makes me scatter-brained, because I can't stop thinking about what I'm working on. So it makes me smarter in some ways, but really stupid in other ways, heh. (Like when I start, repeatedly, putting dinner in the oven, but not turning it on, forgetting to put water in the coffee pot, etc.) Hopefully that's just me though. Because it sucks and I wouldn't wish it on any of you!
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you learn things from what you're reading every day, of course it can make you 'smarter' because you'll have more knowledge afterwards, than you did before...

    i don't see how simply writing every day can make one any smarter... though the practice could make you a better writer, if you're improving over time and not simply repeating the same mistakes and continuing to write at the same level...
     
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  6. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    First of all, you'll need to define what you mean by intelligence, smarter, IQ, genius, attention span et.al. Although I'm sure we all get your drift.

    I know people that are highly intelligent, able to retain information, yet have little common sense. If one or the other, which would you choose? And I know people with immense common sense, but aren't widely read (or at all), can't formulate a worldview, have only the basic education - you get it.

    A higher IQ can be obtained by diligently practising IQ tests - but what will it prove? Still no overall common sense or knowledge of the world. It won't help you to be smarter, to reason (only to a point), play an instrument, apply initiative, debate, or even allow you to be curious.

    'Smartness' involves so many aspects of life, that just reading/writing won't give you all that you want or need - but it's a start.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I just hope reading makes me a better writer ;) I'm not so concerned about gaining intelligence - wisdom is the way to go.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Intelligence is the ability to form new relationships from a set of facts or assertions to derive answers or predictions. In less precise terms, it's the ability to find answers from a limited set of facts. But applying formulas learned by rote isn't intelligence. Intelligence is seeing a relationship without having been taught it, and seeing the significance of that relationship to a problem space.

    Unfortunately, intelligence tests cannot distinguish between memorized solutions and actual intelligence. All they can do is try to present a problem in unconventional ways and see if the person under test can connect the elements in a meaningful way. It;s imperfect.

    I don't believe reading and writing can do much to change a person's actual intelligence. I do think extensive reading can make a person moe familiar with different patterns and solutions, so they may test higher. Writing may exercise latent intelligence so the person's natural abilities are sharpened, but I still don't think the actual base intelligence is increased significantly.
     
  9. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I found that writing nightly love poems (really cheezy and bad love poems) to my wife made me faster at finding rhyming words in conversation. It also expanded my vocabulary (as I began looking for more words to work with). Reading other people's works has made me much better at spotting vague pronouns and greatly improved my knowledge of the English language's structure (when reading with an editorial eye).

    At best, yes it makes you smarter; at worst, it does no harm.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also may be healthy for the marriage. Especially if reading them to each other occasionally drops you to the floor gasping with mirth.
     
  11. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be lying if I said it didn't help thing out. I got published in the local paper because of it, and in the print version she mentions that she had wanted a bracelet from a local jeweler, but instead got a blank love poem book. The jeweler saw the article and gave her the bracelet as a thank you for mentioning them. It was a fun Valentine's weekend.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Reading is obvious, lots to learn there.

    I find writing helps me refine my conclusions and understanding of the evidence.
     
  13. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I think intelligence is fixed you have it or you don't. Knowledge is like a tool box, better tools means better results. Just like tangible tools they do not do the job for you, they just make the job more accessible.

    I also agree that intelligence is a nebulous concept and not something we can truly quantify with total accuracy. There are different types of intelligence, e.g. emotional intelligence, social intelligence, practical intelligence (common sense), etc. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. ;)
     
  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What writing has mostly offered to me is knowledge about the world and other people because of all the research I've done. Of course my linguistic skills have improved as well and, in comparison to my peers, my vocabulary is larger. But whether it has "augmented" my intelligence... well, I may appear more intelligent to others? Which I doubt, though. E.g. I'm not sure if writing has helped me with problem solving or with making logical decisions.

    Considering that there're several definitions of what is intelligence, a part of me hopes this really isn't the case (How does one "acquire" intelligence? By education? By trial and error?). I think anyone can become a person who's considered "intelligent" by others, especially because, at least to me, there are multiple intelligences. All it really takes is a lot of work.
     
  15. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I've always felt intelligence was the capacity for learning and understanding. I don't think you can grow your brain's capacity. I do believe you can unlock it's existing potential.

    The facts, words, and all other things you know are knowledge, not intelligence. People can be ignorant and still be intelligent. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge not a lack of intelligence. You can fix ignorance but you can't fix stupid. :p

    Learning more will change how people perceive you because I think a lot of people confuse intelligence with knowledge. Most people think being knowledgeable automatically means you are intelligent or wise but I believe the three exist separately yet also overlap in many areas. I see intelligence as the ability to grasp and learn new concepts and solve problems not how many facts you can memorize and regurgitate on cue (which is why I've never been a big fan of a lot of the testing/teaching methods they use in a lot of schools). If that makes sense. :p
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with this, but if one has a lot of knowledge, he or she also has to have the capacity to remember it, access it, and utilize it, so I think that having a lot of knowledge is indicative of some types of intelligence.

    Standardized tests are a big, complicated issue. I hate the reliance on them and how it forces teachers to teach to the test. I wish they weren't so high stakes. But I was talking to a friend the other day -- in some respects, they do measure one type of intelligence. I've taken many, many different standardized tests, and I've never met someone who did well on them who I thought was stupid. However, I have known many people who did poorly on them, but whom I knew to be very smart. Standardized test-taking is a skill, and one that can be sharpened, but I think it would be difficult to go from doing very badly on them to doing very well. (Although this is just my perception -- I haven't seen any studies or scholarly articles abou this, so I could be wrong.) But, I think there is a kernel of validity to them, in that they can measure one type of intelligence.

    Also, as far as IQ levels/potential -- it's a very interesting subject. I suspect that we are born with some level of potential and whether we realize that potential depends on environmental factors. I found it very interesting to learn about studies that showed adopted people's IQs were closer to those of their adoptive parents than they were to their biological parents. There's a lot to ponder there.
     
  17. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this, I think. I believe pretty much every "normal" person has far more capacity for intelligence and wisdom that can be unlocked via diligent "exercising" of the brain/mind and expanding one's life experience and knowledge than if they just settled for the intelligence and wisdom they gain without conscious effort. In that sense I believe the brain to be kinda like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the better you can access its true capacity and perhaps even increase its capacity to function.

    And of course writing generally requires lots of research about various subjects so a person who has gained a lot of knowledge about different subjects can certainly appear more intelligent than s/he is when s/he is able to participate in conversations spanning multiple specialized topics. And I think my mind has become "faster," i.e. I can come up with answers and solutions faster than before, but I believe it's more about having gained more life experience and insight into various subjects than having increased my IQ, i.e. I can connect the dots faster.
     
  18. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    All really good points. I'm a little on the fence, however. On the one hand, I agree, for the most part, with what people have been saying: intelligence, as in the capacity to find solutions from a set of data, is innate -- more or less. There seems to be an incredibly high genetic determinant with intelligence, as studies of twins have revealed extremely high correlates with IQ tests (although they're imperfect, as Cogito mentioned). So in this way, I think that intelligence is a foundation upon which concepts and facts are built. To use a metaphor: the groundwork upon which walls of bricks are built, the bricks being facts bound together by the mortar of memory.

    On the other hand, changes in the structure of the brain result from learning.

    This makes a lot of sense, and it may very well be right, but I wonder if the brain's ability to rearrange and structure itself would impact on overall intelligence, or would just sharpen our memories and lengthen our attention spans. For instance, heavy, long-time meditators have been shown in studies to have longer attention spans. People can recover from drug-inflicted brain damage, which usually manifests itself in the form of memory and mood problems. Now like I said, this might be a different idea altogether. The brain's plasticity may affect memory and attention, which are needed tools for the mind to digest and assimiliate knowledge, but that would mean that the brain is not becoming better at determining relationships and patterns in sets of data, but rather, whetting the tools by which it cultivates knowledge.

    But then again: bilingualism. I remember reading somewhere that bilingual people have certain regions in the hippocampus that are larger than monolingual people's. I'm not sure about this, I'll try and do some research to back it up, but I think I also heard that once you're bilingual, the acquisition of further languages becomes easier. Maybe this is just because the languages have some degree of mutual intelligibility, common overlapping grammatical and syntax structures, but, might it be that the brain is now also more sensitive to the detection of linguistic patterns, and is thus, "smarter" in the sense that it can easily infer relationships from a set of data, with regards to languages at least. Or is that just it using already-known templates of decipherment on a new language?

    I guess what I'm saying is that I don't really know haha, but I'm leaning more towards the intelligence as innate than neuroplastic augmentation, although it does have some appeal for me too.

    @LordKyleofEarth: That's a cool idea. Me and my friends like rap, and sometimes we "freestyle." I've found that doing that by myself if I'm in my room or walking my dog or whatever helps me freestyle better when I'm around my friends, because I have sets of rhyming words already memorized, and maybe because I'm better at generating rhyming verses from practice and strengthening whatever faculty is responsible for that. I'm thinking of writing alliteration-heavy (I love alliteration) raps every night now, even if they're just a line or two.

    And about the writing, yeah, it does require lots of research, which even if it doesn't make you "smarter," is just nice to have accessible. Having a stockpile of information certainly aids in the generation of new plots/characters/settings.

    Hopefully everything I said makes sense and isn't convoluted.
     
  19. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    They really are. I don't think they are an end all be all indicator of intelligence or capability. I tested off the charts in reading based things when I was little but I bombed an honors reading class because the teacher gave us such a heavy work load I couldn't keep up (unfortunately it was just a massive amount of thee same work regular reading classes had rather than more difficult work). The amount of work, time, the teacher, and the environment you are in can all affect performance. Some people can process information at lightning speed and others have to chew it over for a bit. Neither is more or less intelligent it's just the process for arriving at the conclusion. Tests can put a person in a position where they can't achieve peak brain performance due to a number of reasons e.g. nerves, time constraints, or the classroom environment itself.

    That's how I think of it. It really is an interesting topic. Nature vs nurture is an interesting argument as well. For me, I think it is a combination of the two. I'll have to look up that study, it sounds fascinating. :)

    That's an excellent way to put it. Our muscles all have potential but whether or not they reach their potential is up to how they are used.

    I think the brain's ability to repair and rearrange itself, while completely amazing, is also limited. I think it's more of a sharpening than a total structural change. My dad did a lot of drugs back in his day but it had no impact on his intelligence but rather on his brain chemistry. He was already predisposed to clinical depression and this seems to have worsened it. Then again it was long before I was born so I have no memories of it this is just based upon his words and my mom's. It also depends on the type of drugs or injuries the brain is dealt. Some things will alter the chemistry rather than the structure and some will alter the structure rather than the chemistry. Brain chemistry is very complex and delicate so messing with it can result in some pretty bad extremes. There are some brain injuries people can come back from and be as sharp as they were prior to the injury and others are devastating blows that the brain never fully recovers from. I think it is highly dependent on the nature of the trauma and the person. Some people's bodies are much more resilient. Age can also play a role in this. The average person's brain is not fully developed until their mid twenties. Well, that is the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed in most people until their mid twenties, not the entire brain. From my understanding the brain making new connections is more of working with existing things and connecting them like a road system. So that it is not altering the intelligence of said person but rather the route that gets them from point A to point B. That is my understanding of it. I'm not a neurologist so I can't say with certainty that I am correct. :p

    I've heard things like this with language as well. I think the theory you stated above about the brain being able to recognize patterns in language, recognize syntax, etc is correct. I have also heard it is easier to learn new languages when you are a child. I imagine this is because the brain is already restructuring itself at that point in time and so it's easier to pick up new things. I've heard our highest capacity for learning new things is when we are children. It makes sense if you think about the sheer amount of new information babies and children are constantly processing while learning.

    It has an appeal for everyone I think. Who doesn't want to be smarter? I agree working your brain will make it stronger and faster. I guess what I'm thinking is you can sharpen what you have but there's a limit, like with physical strength.

    It made sense. Don't worry. :)

    I'm really enjoying this conversation. Thanks for all the replies, guys. :D
     

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