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This is how education and training influence your intelligence

This is how education and training influence your intelligence

August 11, 2022

There is still someone who says that intelligence is a trait that you are born with and is completely impervious to change . As if it were the color of your eyes, the height or shape of your hair.

If this really were the case, there would be no differences between people who have received education and people who have never been to school, or people who have grown up in stimulating environments and people who have grown up in poverty.

We know that intelligence is lodged in the most malleable and changing organ of all. It is expected, then, that the intellect has the same properties and is capable of being trained and empowered in various aspects.

One intelligence or several?

The models that theorize the composition of intelligence or intelligences are so many that we will not stop to examine them. But it is important to keep in mind that there is no single unifying theory, although all speak more or less of the same and refer to the same psychological phenomenon.


When we talk about intelligence, we talk about the ability of our mind to face and adapt with the greatest speed and efficiency to the demands of the environment. These demands can be of all kinds, mathematics, linguistics, kinetics, music, and so on. Maybe there is a single intelligence that manifests through these skills to a greater or lesser extent depending on the person, or maybe it is separate intelligence that can be used to successfully face different types of tasks. For the purpose of this article let's stay with the general definition of intelligence as ability .

  • You may be interested in this article by psychologist Bertrand Regader: "Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences"

The inherited intelligence

Through studies of twins, we know that there is a strong correlation between IQs of monozygotic twins separated at birth, while the correlation of IQs of blood siblings not genetically identical is not as strong. Also, when we take families with adopted children, we see that the IQ of adopted children correlates more with biological parents than with current ones .


Thus, we know that intelligence, or at least the IQ that we obtain by measuring it, is largely determined by DNA. Some here would shelve the development of intelligence and be content with this explanation. Fortunately the question is more complex.

The trained intelligence

That one is born with a certain capacity does not mean that he will keep it forever for free . One can be born with a genetics that allows you to develop athlete's legs and end up atrophy after spending hours and hours sitting. Something similar happens with intelligence: the one who does not train ends up staking it.

Environments rich in stimulation such as books or interactive games promote the intellectual development of children. We know this through adoption studies, where children who come from very impoverished environments, by receiving stimulation in adoptive families with a higher purchasing power and more stimulation, manage to achieve IQ levels well above average. Not only families play a fundamental role in intellectual development, schooling, the type of methodology that teachers use influence decisively on the intelligence of children.


At this point someone will ask: if the environment is such a powerful force, Can not we optimize the didactic methodology of schools to improve student intelligence? The truth is that it is possible and a multitude of projects have been developed over the last 30 years under this same premise.

The Intelligence Project

An example is found in the Intelligence Project of Venezuela . It is a program of the 80s aimed at improving the thinking skills of students and detect how the way of teaching could be optimized as well as the didactic material itself. The units of this program include lessons on reasoning, language comprehension, verbal reasoning, problem solving, decision making and inventive thinking.

The innovativeness of the program is not only its content, but the way in which students are taught. Moving away from the traditional approach that considers that learning is only the transmission of knowledge, the program is groundbreaking because it sees learning as a process of preparation and incentive to manage one's personal development.

The results after the implementation of this program were positive. Teachers pointed to changes in academic performance, especially those that apply the knowledge learned about other subjects.In addition, due to the more affective relationship that is generated between the students and the teaching staff, behavioral and affective changes occur on the students. This closer relationship between teacher and student has a facilitating impact on learning.

The North Carolina Alphabet Project

This project developed by the University of North Carolina in the 70s it aims to produce long-term positive effects on the intellectual development of children through high-quality education, with an emphasis on early interventions that cushion the disadvantages of children from poor backgrounds.

It is a project that is applied from birth to the age of five years. In this program children go five days a week to a center where they receive high quality educational attention that addresses the intellectual needs of children through language and conversation activities, close care and educational games.

Not all children participate in the same games, the allocation of games is personalized. These interactive games between children and adults include some traditional ones, such as the "cucutrás" or "peek-a-boo" in English, and as their development progresses, others are added that are more focused on specific concepts and skills.

Children who pass through this program have greater proficiency in reading, math, and a slight increase in IQ. Likewise, these children have a better school setting, such as longer school time, lower school dropout rate, higher percentage of children who complete the university period and less probability of being adolescent parents.

Although the results should be interpreted with caution, in general it seems that it is a beneficial program for children's intelligence that translates into greater academic competence and a better perspective of work in adult life.

These programs shed light on the relationship between training, both early and throughout schooling, and greater intellectual competencies. The old vision of intelligence as an immovable monolith is discarded, because now we know that it is malleable and susceptible to change according to how we educate it.


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