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Raising Your Intelligence

Study Tip #15

Outline on raising intelligence.

  1. What is Intelligence?
  2. Some Examples of Thinking Intelligently
  3. Raising Your Intelligence
    • Take courses that require you to think.
    • Read a lot of books.
    • Write a lot.
    • Ask yourself questions and try to answer them.
    • Do imaginative reading.
    • Do mental exercises:
         An object and its parts.
         An object and its traits.
         An object and its categories.
         A category and specific examples.
         A cause and its effects.
         An effect and its causes.
    • Work on content that interests you.

Introduction
People used to think that their intelligence was unchangeable. But psychologists now believe that part of intelligence involves skills we can learn. We can do exercises that will make us smarter. Just as athletes can practice and improve their skills, so you can practice and get smarter!

What is Intelligence?

1. It means that we can see relationships between things. When we look at particular examples, our intelligence helps us think of general concepts and principles that link them.  And when we see general concepts and principles, we can think of specific examples.

2. Intelligence also means that we can see relationships with abstractions. What are abstractions?  They are ideas and concepts about things. They are not the sensations we sense directly by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching things.  Instead, they are ideas about common traits that a group of things share.

For example, if you feel one flat desk, your fingers are feeling its flatness, roughness, hardness, etc.  Those are sensations. But after you have felt several desks and can think of the general concepts of flatness, roughness, and hardness, you are thinking of abstractions. Another example: if you see a group of people, you have a sensation. But if you think the idea that they are a family, you have formed an abstraction.

Some Examples of Thinking Intelligently

1. Here is a problem: "Name three ways that a tree is like an ice cream cone." Here are some of the many possible answers: Both have weight, both are larger than an ant, and both come in different colors.
Did you notice that the answers involve relationships between trees and ice cream cones? The relationships were the three kinds of similarities: weight, size, and colors. Concerning abstractness: When you think of weight, it is abstract, because you have thought of weight by itself, as a separate property common to both trees and ice cream cones.

2. Solve this analogy: "A cat is to a kitten as a butterfly is to a _______ (fly, moth, caterpillar, mosquito)."  The answer is caterpillar because it's a young butterfly like a kitten is a young cat. Notice that you have to think abstractly about adults and youths.

Raising Your Intelligence
The major way to raise your intelligence is to practice thinking about relationships among things and to practice noticing abstractions. The more you practice, the more you will learn.

1. Take courses that require you to think.
Try to do high-quality work. Courses that only give information or only teach a physical skill will not raise your intelligence much.

2. Read a lot of books. Choose books that challenge your ability to understand them. Slightly hard for you, but not impossible.  Work at trying to understand them. But be sensible. Choose books that are within your present ability--not too hard, not too easy.  You can find relationships and notice abstractions in both fiction and non-fiction. Even "junk fiction" can help (romances, spy novels, Westerns). When you read complex books, think.  Look up words you don't understand. Work to figure out hard passages.

3. Write a lot. Write descriptions of events that have happened to you and descriptions of things you have seen. Try to make the reader come close to understanding what you have thought and felt.  Try to use the best words and most descriptive sentences you can invent.  Writing will force you to think of relationships and abstractions.
    Write a personal journal or diary.
    Write letters to friends.
    Write poems and stories and essays.
    Take a writing class and work hard.
    Keep writing over a long period of time, and your skill will rise.
    Study other writers to learn how to write well yourself. Ask others to comment on your writing. Use their input to improve.

4. Ask yourself questions and try to answer them. Develop the habit of asking questions about how the real world works and about the similarities and differences between things. Try to answer your questions. Try to test your answers by seeing if they are consistent with other information that you have about the problem.

    Even if you cannot answer all your questions, your intelligence will grow because when you ask questions, it leads you to notice relationships.

5. Do imaginative reading.  Pick a poem or story or article that is somewhat difficult. Get a dictionary. Then read one line. Now look at the important words and try to imagine what each one means. Talk to yourself or write down your thoughts. (Talking and writing help to clarify your thought and are important.)
    Look for two things:
    (1) What each word means.
    (2) How each word relates to the rest of the sentence, paragraph, and where else it applies.

    Read the following example and see how to do these things on a line from a poem by William Wordsworth.
    "I wandered lonely as a cloud."
    Notice that the person is the poet.  "Wandered" means that one walks in a path that has no goal; one changes direction from time to time. "Lonely" means being alone and not liking it, wanting company. And it is "lonely as a cloud", not just lonely.  "As" means similar to. What is lonely about a cloud? Can you visualize a cloud? Can you see it lonely? Can you imagine Wordsworth walking that way?

  • Try hard to be truthful as you interpret the words. Check your accuracy.
  • Read out loud and talk out your thoughts when you can. Write them down if you are willing. Talking and writing focus your mind.
  • When someone else will do imaginative reading with you, it becomes a lot of fun. Take turns. You read a line and interpret it.  Then the other person does it. After each one's turn, let the other add ideas.
  • Expect your improvement to be slow at first. Don't worry about it.  If you do it daily or several times a week for a period of time, you will get smarter at seeing relationships.

6. Do mental exercises. You can choose objects and practice several systematic ways of thinking about them. They use common relationships that intelligent people often think with.

  An object and its parts.
  Think of anything and analyze it into as many parts as you can. Example object: A table.  Some possible parts: Top, 4 legs, braces, plastic covering, molecules, atoms.

  An object and its traits.
  Think of anything and think of its traits, characteristics, and qualities. Example object: A table. Its traits: Its colors are green and gray, its texture is smooth, its shape is flat, its temperature feels cool, its shape is square.

  An object and its categories.
  Think of anything and try to think of many categories that it fits into. Example object: A puppy. Its categories: young things, dogs, mammals, pets, someone's possession, a living thing.

  A category and specific examples.
  Think of any general category and think of many specific instances, examples, and illustrations of it. Example of category: Buildings. Instances of buildings: My white house, the LCC Center Building, the Washington Monument, an igloo, a mud hut.

  A cause and its effects.
  Take any event that could cause effects and try to think of many effects. Example of a cause: The eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Effects: The mountain's height was lowered, it dropped ash on cities, it killed people, it made interesting news, it aroused fear, it led to a visit by President Carter.

  An effect and its causes.
  Start with any event and try to think of many causes. Example of effect: Mashed potato hit the floor. Causes: A baby threw it, the law of gravity worked, no one grabbed it in time, the baby's eyes saw it, the baby wanted to throw it, the mother gave it to the baby.

7. Work on content that interests you.
     When ideas interest you, you will learn faster. Research proves it. Having fun will encourage you to keep practicing. The more that you practice finding relationships and abstractions, the more you will be able to think intelligently. Practice, practice, practice.


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