Education, education, education and memory

Improve your intelligence.

Brain training, it is a way to improve your intelligence, isn’t it?

Well, no.

The Association for Psychological Science thinks otherwise. It says that these programs and apps which are popular do not boost intelligence, only working memory. Not that that is a bad thing, improving your working memory is a good thing to do.

BrainReading the February edition of the Mensa magazine, (online it is behind a members only wall, you’ll have to trust me on this) there was an article on memory. It talked about feats of memory such as memorising pi to thousands of decimal places, and being able to remember a string of numbers which are shown for one second.

We can’t all do that. I am a long way from having a good memory.  But it does mention that memory and the sort of intelligence measured by IQ tests are two different things. Towards the end, and almost incidental to the article, it says that memory rather than intelligence is now a better indicator of GCSE results in British schools. It cites the Times Educational Supplement. Success at GCSE is dependent on having a good memory, and  IQ had no impact on exam performance said the TES article.

Memory is good. But if our educational system is geared towards producing people with good memories and not problem solving and innovation where will the country go. We need those who can think things out as well as those who can remember. The changes which led to the TES article, the report was from 1999,  may not all have been good.

So whether you think it is a rather encouraging finding if GCSE is not just a test ofintelligence, or bemoan the fact that examinations favour those who can reproduce memorised material rather than those who are capable of devising original solutions, we need something that favours different kinds of intelligence. Even emotional intelligence, why are pupils with great empathy discriminated by the school examination system?

Focussing on one kind of intelligence is to the detriment of society as a whole. If the focus is on memory, where are the innovators going to come from. If the focus is on reason and problem solving we could end up being dominated by people like John Nash, played by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind, a mathematical genius with schizophrenia.

I think the balance can be summed up by a quote from a deleted scene in that film, where Nash says, ” Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.”


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