Many people think of our brain as a mystery – it is hidden from sight and therefore we cannot properly understand it.
In the same way, many of us don’t really know much about intelligence – what it is and how it works.
When we do think about intelligence, we tend to think that a person is born either smart, average or dumb – and stays that way for life.
However, new research into the brain (neuro-science) shows that it is more like a muscle – it can change and “grow”, and it gets stronger and better when we use it. The brain forms new connections between brain cells (called neurons) when we practise and learn new things. This is how it “grows”.
When we learn new things, these microscopic connections in the brain multiply and get stronger. The more we learn, the more our brain cells “connect” with each other – and in that sense, our brain “grows”. When our brain “grows”, we find it easier to learn things that had been hard – like how to walk, how to talk, how to add up, how to learn a foreign language. The fact is that the human brain is “wired to learn” – it is designed that way. The brain is an amazing learning machine. It wants to learn. But we have to help it, by practising.
And the result of all this is a bigger, stronger, smarter brain.
Carol Dweck in her book, “Mindset: the new psychology of success”, describes what can happen when children and young people learn these important facts about the brain. She describes Jimmy, a hard-core, turned-off student who responded to this realisation by saying:
“You mean I don’t have to be dumb?”
IQ (or Intelligence Quotient) is the same. Some people would have you believe that a person’s intelligence is fixed. But because the brain can “grow” in the way we have described, your intelligence can also grow and change.
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