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3 New Findings On Human Intelligence

New insights on imagination, the Flynn effect, and behavioral genetics

The annual meeting of the International Society for Intelligence Research is being held this month in Russia. The full program includes a number of fascinating lines of research on human intelligence that provide cutting edge ideas on where the science of intelligence currently is. I have pulled out just a few of them here.

What causes the Flynn effect or rise in IQ scores over the decades? Are parents becoming increasingly proficient in supporting their children’s cognitive growth?

Joseph Lee Rodgers and Patrick O'Keefe: “We posit that many parents use varying mechanisms to assist their children in their intellectual development – e.g., parents optimize nutrition, school and community programs, vacation time, test-taking training, etc, to support their children's cognitive growth. Such parents provide an executive function to their developing children, and parents likely become more and more proficient in performing this function over time. Reasons to expect this increasing proficiency are proposed and examined.”

Does imagination lie at the intersection of intelligence and personality?

Hannah R. Scott and Sophie von Stumm: “the findings suggest that imagination occupies a construct space that is relatively independent from cognitive ability and is more closely associated with personality, implying that imagination may be an investment trait and part of intelligence-personality interface.”

Is behavioral genetic research increasingly relevant to education, including academic ability, motivation, grit, academic anxiety, choice of academic subject, and achievement?

Yulia Kovas: “Many important for education findings have recently emerged from genetic research, suggesting that genetic effects are not static or deterministic, but change throughout life and in different educational and cultural contexts. For example, academic achievement – such as performance in reading, language and mathematics – has been found to be highly heritable throughout school education in the UK. On the contrary, heritability of general cognitive ability is only moderate in the early school years and increases gradually, reaching substantial levels in adulthood. It is possible that high heritability of reading and mathematics can be explained by the high homogeneity of educational environments. For example, the UK National Curriculum is highly uniform and therefore may decrease the environmental contribution to the variance in these traits. On the contrary, general cognitive ability is not explicitly taught at schools, and therefore may be under highly variable environmental influences across children, especially early in development. Gene-environment correlations, whereby children experience, modify, and select their environments – partly because of their genetic propensities – may contribute to the observed increase in heritability of IQ. Recent large-scale twins studies also provided insights into the origins of individual differences in such educationally-relevant characteristics as motivation, grit, academic anxiety, and choice of specific academic subjects. Incredible recent advances in molecular genetic research have led to identification of specific DNA polymorphisms responsible for ubiquitous genetic influence. Moreover, new methods allow us to make predictions about development directly from DNA, which opens up unprecedented opportunities for further research and educational practice.”

© 2016 by Jonathan Wai. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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