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January 21, 2002
10:29 AM   Subscribe

Is intelligence hereditary or environment? A new theory sees the brain as a plastic mold of potential with the more neuron connections the better [hereditary] and environment stimulation shapes the mold untill maturity. "You could present a person with an IQ of 200 with the appropriate phenomena when they are 20 years old, after the critical learning period, and they would not have the capacity to adapt their brains to the new phenomena". People of low IQ perform poorly because their brains do not adapt well to environmental stimulation.
posted by stbalbach (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I would have called this theory "common sense", but then I'm biased (I used to work in AI research).
posted by walrus at 10:42 AM on January 21, 2002


A theory that has something for everyone.
posted by rschram at 10:51 AM on January 21, 2002


Here's an article on the possible role of Neural Plasticity in evolution [found via MITECS].
posted by walrus at 10:53 AM on January 21, 2002


Not only common sense, but not particularly new.
posted by gordian knot at 11:38 AM on January 21, 2002


As with most things - nature AND nuture.
posted by quirked at 12:08 PM on January 21, 2002


Does one have to be a child Einstein to be an adult Einstein? Yes, if the developing brain has the ability to make the right connections, according to this theory.

So much for this theory. Even Einstein was not a "child Einstein": slow in school.

What I have yet to see in any of this intelligence debate is any talk about motivation or desire. When I was young I was branded "smart" in math (typical geek). But the rest of my life has convinced me I have no excess of "intelligence". I did well in math because I worked at it. I worked at it because I enjoyed it, and I was driven to know more.

I have yet to believe that there is anything to this "intelligence" stuff apart from this drive, which leads to practice, which leads to improved performance.
posted by anewc2 at 12:35 PM on January 21, 2002


Actually, from what I remember from reading Hawking's 'Universe in a Nutshell', Einstein wasn't quite as slow in school as many people make him out to be. Not surprising, really. Indeed, he had pretty fair grades while in high school.
posted by adrianhon at 1:20 PM on January 21, 2002


I thought Einstein just did badly in math, and in later life he just hired mathematicians for any math specific stuff....
posted by Iax at 2:04 PM on January 21, 2002


When did it become common sense to argue that people cannot learn or adapt after the age of 20? Being over 20 I just can't seem to learn that I am not suppossed to learn.
posted by srboisvert at 2:48 PM on January 21, 2002


Anewc2.. I think your statement points to environment shapeing your abilities. You "worked" at it, meaning you shaped the nature of outside stimulas to structure your brain in a certain direction (math).

srboisvert .. I agree %100 this theory is not common sense at all. That we "harden" after age 20 sucks.
posted by stbalbach at 2:56 PM on January 21, 2002


> People of low IQ perform poorly because their brains do
> not adapt well to environmental stimulation.


Another way of saying they don't think about what they see.

"Your problem, Watson, is that you see but you do not observe.

-- Mr. Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson
posted by jfuller at 4:09 PM on January 21, 2002


I saw something about Einstein on the Discovery Channel that stated that his poor performance in school was a myth, that he actually performed very well, but that he got into bitter arguments with teachers (= "bad" student).
posted by Mach3avelli at 7:17 PM on January 21, 2002


FWIW, my "common sense" epithet was not directed at the 20 years old thing, but towards the nature versus nurture debate, where it's always seemed common sense to me that the brains plasticity provides the mechanism for intelligence, through learning in response to environmental stimuli.

I don't know where they pulled the "You could present a person with an IQ of 200 with the appropriate phenomena when they are 20 years old, after the critical learning period, and they would not have the capacity to adapt their brains to the new phenomena" quote from, but I expect it was taken out of context, or exaggerated in the reporting. Learning does slow as we age, and I think that's indisputable, but I don't believe there is a "freeze" at any age.
posted by walrus at 2:50 AM on January 22, 2002


I think it is high time that metifites took on the plasticians!

I haven't really been convinced that our brains 'harden' as we age in the sense that people commonly believe. You can teach an old dog a new trick but it is harder. Is this because of a change in the underlying neural structure that provides the plumbing for cognition? Maybe, but it could also be because we are no longer blank slates. It is a lot more difficult to fit new ideas into a pre-existing conceptual structure. It require resolving conflicting evidence, logical contradictions, dissonance, etc...
posted by srboisvert at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2002


I think it is high time that metifites took on the plasticians!

Leave 'em to it. Neural Plasticity is such a vagary that one can hardly "take it on". The brain learns by changing synaptic "weight" or synaptogenesis. So?

This notion of not being able to learn after a certain age is demonstrably ridiculous, but I still think we're probably arguing a quote taken out of context. Learning does slow down as we get older: or as srboisvertput it, tou can teach an old dog a new trick but it is harder. I think whether you see the "why" as having a logical or a physical basis is somewhat moot: it's probably a bit of both.
posted by walrus at 9:17 AM on January 22, 2002


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