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by Celeste Biever HOW intelligent are you? I'd like to think I know how smart I am, but the test in front of me is making me reconsider. On my computer screen, a puzzling row of boxes appears: some contain odd-looking symbols, while others are empty. I click on one of the boxes. A red sign indicates I made an error. Dammit. I concentrate, and try again. Yes, a green reward! Despite this small success, I am finding it tough to make sense of what's going on: this is unlike any exam I've ever done. Perhaps it's not surprising that it feels unfamiliar - it's not your average IQ test. I am taking part in the early stages of an effort to develop the first "universal" intelligence test. While traditional IQ and psychometric tests are designed to home in on differences between people, a universal test would rank humans, robots, chimps and perhaps even aliens on a single scale - using a mathematically derived definition of intelligence, rather than one tainted by human bias. What's the point? The idea for a universal test has emerged from the study of artificial intelligence and a desire for better ways to measure it. Next year, the most famous test for gauging the smarts of machines will be widely celebrated on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, its creator. The Turing test is, however, flawed. To pass it, a machine has to fool a human judge into believing he or she is conversing with another person. But exactly how much smarter are you than the cleverest robot? The test cannot tell you. It also cannot measure intelligence greater than a human's. Machines are getting smarter - possibly smarter than us, soon - so we need a much better way to gauge just how clever they are. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15805 - Posted: 09.15.2011

By Christopher Eppig Being smart is the most expensive thing we do. Not in terms of money, but in a currency that is vital to all living things: energy. One study found that newborn humans spend close to 90 percent of their calories on building and running their brains. (Even as adults, our brains consume as much as a quarter of our energy.) If, during childhood, when the brain is being built, some unexpected energy cost comes along, the brain will suffer. Infectious disease is a factor that may rob large amounts of energy away from a developing brain. This was our hypothesis, anyway, when my colleagues, Corey Fincher and Randy Thornhill, and I published a paper on the global diversity of human intelligence. A great deal of research has shown that average IQ varies around the world, both across nations and within them. The cause of this variation has been of great interest to scientists for many years. At the heart of this debate is whether these differences are due to genetics, environment or both. Higher IQ predicts a wide range of important factors, including better grades in school, a higher level of education, better health, better job performance, higher wages, and reduced risk of obesity. So having a better understanding of variations in intelligence might yield a greater understanding of these other issues as well. Before our work, several scientists had offered explanations for the global pattern of IQ. Nigel Barber argued that variation in IQ is due primarily to differences in education. Donald Templer and Hiroko Arikawa argued that colder climates are difficult to live in, such that evolution favors higher IQ in those areas. © 2011 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 15776 - Posted: 09.08.2011

PERTH, Australia — Dolphins in one western Australian population have been observed holding a large conch shell in their beaks and using it to shake a fish into their mouths — and the behavior may be spreading. Researchers from Murdoch University in Perth were not quite sure what they were seeing when they first photographed the activity, in 2007, in which dolphins would shake conch shells at the surface of the ocean. "It's a fleeting glimpse — you look at it and think, that's kind of weird," said Simon Allen, a researcher at the university's Cetacean Research Unit. "Maybe they're playing, maybe they're socializing, maybe males are presenting a gift to a female or something like that, maybe the animals are actually eating the animal inside," he added. But researchers were more intrigued when they studied the photos and found the back of a fish hanging out of the shell, realizing that the shaking drained the water out of the shells and caused the fish that was sheltering inside to fall into the dolphins' mouths. A search through records for dolphins in the eastern part of Shark Bay, a population that has been studied for nearly 30 years, found roughly half a dozen sightings of similar behavior over some two decades. Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0:
Link ID: 15744 - Posted: 08.30.2011

by Michael Marshall Anyone who has used an in-car satnav will be familiar with Jane, the calm voice that tells you to turn around because you've gone the wrong way. Many users will also be familiar with the response: yelling "Shut up, Jane!" while performing illegal turns. Bumblebees, it turns out, could give Jane a run for her money. Despite having a brain the size of a poppy seed, these insects can solve a fiendish navigational problem that modern supercomputers struggle to crack. Not so bumbling Bumblebees have been changing their name for centuries. From Shakespeare through to Darwin they were known as "humblebees", because of the humming sound they make. Then in the 20th century, for no good reason, they became "bumblebees". Like honeybees and ants they are social insects, with a queen who controls hordes of sterile workers. Among other ingenious behaviours, they keep their nests at a constant temperatureMovie Camera, avoid foraging close to homeMovie Camera for fear of leading predators to it, and become paranoid when camouflaged predators are aboutMovie Camera. Buff-tailed bumblebee workers fly from flower to flower in search of nectar and pollen. But each flight costs energy and time, so they need to minimise the distance they fly. To do that, they have to solve one of the hardest problems in mathematics: the travelling salesman problem. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15697 - Posted: 08.20.2011

by David DeGusta and Jason E. Lewis Stephen Jay Gould claimed unconscious bias could affect even seemingly objective scientific measurements. Not so TRUTH is hard to come by, as personal lives and politics readily illustrate. Since science lays claim to providing some form of truth, it is bound to draw criticism on that count. Surprisingly, one of the sharpest attacks came from within, and from one of the giants, Harvard University's Stephen Jay Gould. Gould was a man of many parts - invertebrate palaeontologist, evolutionary theorist, historian of science, crusader against creationism and a prolific populariser of science with a slew of bestselling books. He was an iconic scientist of the late 20th century, a stature confirmed by that arbiter of cultural relevance, The Simpsons, in which he was a featured guest star in one episode. Even so, Gould harboured grave doubts about the ability of science to remain free from social pressures and bias. He made a series of statements in a 1978 Science paper that are startling given his role as a spokesperson for science: "...unconscious or dimly perceived finagling, doctoring, and massaging are rampant, endemic, and unavoidable in a profession [science] that awards status and power for clean and unambiguous discovery"; "unconscious manipulation of data may be a scientific norm"; "scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth". This was blasphemy from the pulpit. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15608 - Posted: 07.26.2011

By Stephanie Pappas Senior writer Parrots are capable of logical leaps, according to a new study in which a gray parrot named Awisa used reasoning to figure out where a bit of food was hidden. The task is one that kids as young as 4 could figure out, but the only other animals that have been shown to use this type of reasoning are great apes. That makes gray parrots the first non-primates to demonstrate such logical smarts, said study researcher Sandra Mikolasch, a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna. "We now know that a gray parrot is able to logically exclude a wrong possibility and instead choose the right one in order to get a reward, which is known as 'inference by exclusion,'" Mikolasch wrote in an email to LiveScience. Parrots are no birdbrains. One famous gray parrot, Alex, even understood the concept of "zero," something children don't grasp until they are 3 or 4. Alex, who died in 2007, had a vocabulary of 150 words, which he seemed to use in two-way communication with the researchers who worked with him. Other animals have also revealed high levels of intelligence. Elephants, for example, know when and how to cooperate. And hyenas are even better than primates at cooperation. Earlier studies had shown that about one out of five chimps and other great apes could use logical reasoning to find hidden food. © 2011 msnbc.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15478 - Posted: 06.23.2011

Sandrine Ceurstemont, video producer How does an octopus locate a hidden meal? In this video, filmed by Michael Kuba and his team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, food is placed in one compartment of a maze denoted with a visual cue. The octopus picks the right route and successfully retrieves the treat. It's the first time that an octopus has been shown to guide one of its arms to a location, based on sensory input, using a complex movement. In the wild, octopuses use their arms to search for food in small crevices. Previously, it's been thought that they feel their way to a food source by simply using sensors on their tentacles. Now this research is showing that they are capable of more complex processing, in this case by combining information from their tentacles with visual input to achieve a goal. Six out of the seven octopuses tested successfully learned the task and used the strategy more often once it was mastered. It's only one example of clever tricks used by cephalopods. Check out our full-length feature to find out more about these animals' astounding mental skills. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15442 - Posted: 06.16.2011

By Daniel Bates The key to being intelligent could be a thick ‘insulation’ on the brain’s wires, scientists have discovered. A fatty layer covering the neural wires helps brain signals travel faster and makes the brain work more quickly. Just as a thick coating on an electrical wire stops current leaking out, a good layer of insulation helps the brain’s ‘circuits’ function more efficiently. A magnified portion of the brain created using diffusion imaging. The bright red areas show the thick fibre tract - the corpus callosum - which transfers information between the left and right sides of the brain A magnified portion of the brain created using diffusion imaging. The bright red areas show the thick fibre tract - the corpus callosum - which transfers information between the left and right sides of the brain The research is among the first to link ‘neural architecture’ to the health of individuals. It also suggests that this characteristic is something we are born with, indicating that intelligence is something we inherit. The researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles studied images of brain scans from 92 sets of identical twins to determine the amount of myelin - a fatty layer - around the brain’s neural wires. © Associated Newspapers Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 15323 - Posted: 05.14.2011

By Jennifer Viegas The brainier a bird is, the better its chances are of thriving in a city, according to a new study that found many big-brained birds can succeed in urban environments. "Big" in this case refers to brain size relative to body size. In other words, the larger the ratio of brain to body, the more likely the bird will thrive in an urban environment. "Species with relatively larger brains tend to have broader diets, live in diverse habitats and have a higher propensity for behavioral innovations in foraging," lead author Alexei Maklakov told Discovery News. "They are better able to establish viable populations when introduced to new habitats by humans." Maklakov, a researcher in the Department of Animal Ecology at Uppsala University, and his colleagues studied how well -- or not -- 82 species of passerine birds belonging to 22 avian families did in and around a dozen cities in France and Switzerland. Bird species that were able to breed in city centers were considered successful colonizers. Birds that bred around the cities, but not in the urban regions themselves, were considered to be urban avoiders. For the study, which is published in the latest issue of Royal Society Biology Letters, the scientists also looked at the brain size and body mass of each bird. The researchers determined that the following are brainy birds that do well in cities: the great tit, the blue tit, the carrion crow, the jackdaw, the magpie, the nuthatch, the wren, the long-tailed tit and more. Pigeons are not passerines, so these ubiquitous urban dwellers were not included in the study. © 2011 Discovery Communications, LLC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15271 - Posted: 04.28.2011

by Michael Balter Kids who score higher on IQ tests will, on average, go on to do better in conventional measures of success in life: academic achievement, economic success, even greater health, and longevity. Is that because they are more intelligent? Not necessarily. New research concludes that IQ scores are partly a measure of how motivated a child is to do well on the test. And harnessing that motivation might be as important to later success as so-called native intelligence. Researchers have long debated what IQ tests actually measure, and whether average differences in IQ scores--such as those between different ethnic groups--reflect differences in intelligence, social and economic factors, or both. The debate moved heavily into the public arena with the 1994 publication of The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, which suggested that the lower average IQ scores of some ethnic groups, such as African-Americans and Hispanics, were due in large part to genetic differences between them and Caucasian groups. That view has been challenged by many scientists. For example, in his 2009 book "Intelligence and How to Get It," Richard Nisbett, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, argued that differences in IQ scores largely disappear when researchers control for social and economic factors. New work, led by Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and reported online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores the effect of motivation on how well people perform on IQ tests. While subjects taking such tests are usually instructed to try as hard as they can, previous research has shown that not everyone makes the maximum effort. A number of studies have found that subjects who are promised monetary rewards for doing well on IQ and other cognitive tests score significantly higher. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 15268 - Posted: 04.26.2011

by Andrew Moseman Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter are accustomed to making others feel the heat as they blaze through Jeopardy clue after Jeopardy clue. But tonight, the quiz show's two greatest champions will oppose a player who can't be psyched out. It's time for the world to meet Watson. IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer system appears to viewers at home as an avatar of the Earth on a black screen. In fact, it is a system years in the making, and perhaps the most impressive attempt ever to create a question-answering computer that understands the nuances of human language. Watson is not connected to the Internet, but its databases overflow with books, scripts, dictionaries, and whatever other material lead researcher David Ferrucci could pack in. Storing information is the computer's strong suit; the grand artificial intelligence challenge of Jeopardy is the subtlety of words. When the bright lights of Jeopardy go up tonight, there will be no human handler to tell Watson where inside its mighty databases to seek the answers. It must parse each clue and category title to figure out what it's being asked. It must race through its databases, find relevant search terms, and pick out the right response with a high level of confidence. It must understand the puns and geeky quirks of America's Favorite Quiz Show. It must beat two Jeopardy champions to the buzzer. And it too must voice its responses in the form of a question. © 2011, Kalmbach Publishing Co.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 15181 - Posted: 04.07.2011

By Victoria Gill Old World monkeys have better numerical skills than previously thought, researchers have discovered. In a basic numeracy test, long-tailed macaques were able to work out which of two plates contained more raisins. Strangely, they only excelled in this test if they were not allowed to eat the raisins they were shown. The scientists report in the journal Nature Communications that the animals have the ability to understand the concept of relative quantities. The team of researchers from the German Primate Center in Goettingen initially tested the macaques by showing them two plates containing different numbers of raisins. When the animals spontaneously pointed to one of the plates, they were fed the raisins. But in this test, the monkeys often got it wrong - choosing the smaller amount. Lead researcher Vanessa Schmitt said that this was because, rather than thinking about quantities, the animals were thinking about how much they wanted to eat the raisins. "This impulsiveness impaired their judgement," Ms Schmitt told BBC News. BBC © MMXI

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15164 - Posted: 04.02.2011

by Virginia Morell Elephants know when they need a helping hand—or rather, trunk. That's the conclusion of a new study that tested the cooperative skills of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Thailand and showed that the pachyderms understand that they will fail at a task without a partner's assistance. The ability to recognize that you sometimes need a little help from your friends is a sign of higher social cognition, psychologists say, and is rarely found in other species. Elephants now join an elite club of social cooperators: chimpanzees, hyenas, rooks, and humans. To test the elephants' cooperation skills, a team of scientists modified a classic experiment first administered to chimpanzees in the 1930s, which requires two animals work together to earn a treat. If they don't cooperate, neither gets the reward. For the elephants, the researchers used a sliding table with a single rope threaded around it. Two bowls of corn were attached to the table, but the elephants could reach them only by pulling two ends of the rope simultaneously. Working with mahout—Asian elephant trainers—trained elephants at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, the researchers first taught individual animals to pull the rope with their trunks. The 12 elephants were then divided into six pairs, and each pair was released to walk to their waiting ropes. If one animal pulled the rope before the other, the rope would slip out, leaving the table—and treats—in place. "That taught them to pull together," says Joshua Plotnik, a postdoc in experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and the lead author of the study, which appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15085 - Posted: 03.08.2011

by Andrew Moseman Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter are accustomed to making others feel the heat as they blaze through Jeopardy clue after Jeopardy clue. But tonight, the quiz show's two greatest champions will oppose a player who can't be psyched out. It's time for the world to meet Watson. IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer system appears to viewers at home as an avatar of the Earth on a black screen. In fact, it is a system years in the making, and perhaps the most impressive attempt ever to create a question-answering computer that understands the nuances of human language. Watson is not connected to the Internet, but its databases overflow with books, scripts, dictionaries, and whatever other material lead researcher David Ferrucci could pack in. Storing information is the computer's strong suit; the grand artificial intelligence challenge of Jeopardy is the subtlety of words. advertisement | article continues below When the bright lights of Jeopardy go up tonight, there will be no human handler to tell Watson where inside its mighty databases to seek the answers. It must parse each clue and category title to figure out what it's being asked. It must race through its databases, find relevant search terms, and pick out the right response with a high level of confidence. It must understand the puns and geeky quirks of America's Favorite Quiz Show. It must beat two Jeopardy champions to the buzzer. And it too must voice its responses in the form of a question. © 2011, Kalmbach Publishing Co.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 15062 - Posted: 03.03.2011

by Michael Marshall When we look for examples of intelligent animals, certain species always leap to mind. Ourselves of course, and our close relatives the chimpanzees and other primates. Perhaps the cunning corvids – crows and scrub jays – with their prodigious memories and talent for deception. Dolphins and whales are pretty bright. Many would even agree that there is a sort of intelligence governing the behaviour of social insects like ants. But sheep? Sheep are just thick. Except that they aren't. Over the past few decades, evidence has quietly built up that sheep are anything but stupid. It now turns out that the humble domestic sheep can pass a psychological test that monkeys struggle with, and which is so sensitive it is used to look for neurological decline in human patients. Woolly thinkers Laura Avanzo and Jennifer Morton of the University of Cambridge were interested in a new kind of genetically modified sheep. These animals carry a defective gene that in humans causes Huntington's disease, an inherited disorder that leads to nerve damage and dementia. The hope is that the Huntington's sheep could be a testing ground for possible treatments. For that to work, they reasoned, researchers will have to be able to track changes in the cognitive abilities of the Huntington's sheep. So they decided to find out whether normal sheep could pass some of the challenging tests given to people with Huntington's. If the sheep passed, that would mean that the Huntington's sheep could be seen losing the ability as their disease progressed – and maybe regaining it if any treatments worked. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 15025 - Posted: 02.21.2011

* Jonathan Leake LIFE really is unfair. Researchers have found that handsome men and beautiful women tend to be cleverer, with IQs averaging up to nearly 14 points above the norm. The finding, based on studies in Britain and America, suggests that the stereotype of blondes or good-looking men being dimmer than average needs to be revised. Instead it seems that evolution favours the already blessed, rewarding attractive people with partners who are not just good-looking but intelligent too. The research, by the London School of Economics, suggests that since both beauty and intelligence tend to be inherited, the children of such couples will end up with both qualities, building a genetic link between them. This link then becomes reinforced with successive generations. “Both in the British and American samples, physical attractiveness is significantly positively associated with general intelligence, both with and without controls for social class, body size, and health,” said Satoshi Kanazawa, the LSE researcher who carried out the research. “The association between physical attractiveness and general intelligence is also stronger among men than among women.” Dr Kanazawa found that in Britain men who are physically attractive have IQs an average 13.6 points above the norm, whereas physically attractive women are about 11.4 points higher than average. Copyright 2011 News Limited.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 14884 - Posted: 01.18.2011

This would be a whole lot easier—this quest for ways to improve our brain—if scientists understood the mechanisms of intelligence even half as well as they do the mechanisms of, say, muscular strength. If we had the neuronal version of how lifting weights increases strength (chemical and electrical signals increase the number of filament bundles inside muscle cells), we’d be good to go. For starters, we could dismiss claims for the brain versions of eight-second abs—claims that if we use this brain-training website or practice that form of meditation or eat blueberries or chew gum or have lots of friends, we will be smarter and more creative, able to figure out whether to do a Roth conversion, remember who gave us that fruitcake (the better to retaliate next year), and actually understand the NFL’s wild-card tiebreaker system. But what neuroscientists don’t know about the mechanisms of cognition—about what is physically different between a dumb brain and a smart one and how to make the first more like the second—could fill volumes. Actually, it does. Whether you go neuro-slumming (Googling “brain training”) or keep to the high road (searching PubMed, the database of biomedical journals, for “cognitive enhancement”), you will find no dearth of advice. But it is rife with problems. Many of the suggestions come from observational studies, which take people who do X and ask, are they smarter (by some measure) than people who do not do X? Just because the answer is yes doesn’t mean X makes you smart. People who use their gym locker tend to be fitter than those who don’t, but it is not using a gym locker that raises your aerobic capacity. Knowing the mechanisms of exercise physiology averts that error. Not knowing the mechanism of cognitive enhancement makes us sitting ducks for dubious claims, since few studies claiming that X makes people smarter invoke any plausible mechanism by which that might happen. “There are lots of quick and dirty studies of cognitive enhancement that make the news, but the number of rigorous, well-designed studies that will stand the test of time is much smaller,” says neuroscientist Peter Snyder of Brown University Medical School. “We’re sort of in the Wild West.” © 2011 Harman Newsweek LLC

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 14834 - Posted: 01.04.2011

By Kirsten Traynor Intelligent people live longer—the correlation is as strong as that between smoking and premature death. But the reason is not fully understood. Beyond simply making wiser choices in life, these people also may have biology working in their favor. Now research in honeybees offers evidence that learning ability is indeed linked with a general capacity to withstand one of the rigors of aging—namely, oxidative stress. Ian Deary, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, has proposed the term “system integrity” for the possible biological link between intelligence and long life: in his conception, a well-wired system not only performs better on mental tests but is less susceptible to environmental onslaughts. Gro Amdam of Arizona State University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences was intrigued by the idea and last year devised a way to test it in bees. Honeybees are frequently used as a neurobiological model for learning—they can be trained, using positive or negative reinforcement, to retain information. In Amdam’s experiment, individual bees were strapped into a straw, where they learned to associate an odor with a food reward in a classic Pavlovian conditioning scenario. After only one or two trials, many bees learned to stick out their tonguelike proboscis in anticipation of a sugary droplet. Some bees took a little longer—as in humans, there are quick learners and slower ones. © 2010 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 14773 - Posted: 12.14.2010

By Gregory Park , David Lubinski and Camilla P. Benbow Ninety years ago, Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman began an ambitious search for the brightest kids in California, administering IQ tests to several thousand of children across the state. Those scoring above an IQ of 135 (approximately the top 1 percent of scores) were tracked for further study. There were two young boys, Luis Alvarez and William Shockley, who were among the many who took Terman’s tests but missed the cutoff score. Despite their exclusion from a study of young “geniuses,” both went on to study physics, earn PhDs, and win the Nobel prize. How could these two minds, both with great potential for scientific innovation, slip under the radar of IQ tests? One explanation is that many items on Terman’s Stanford-Binet IQ test, as with many modern assessments, fail to tap into a cognitive ability known as spatial ability. Recent research on cognitive abilities is reinforcing what some psychologists suggested decades ago: spatial ability, also known as spatial visualization, plays a critical role in engineering and scientific disciplines. Yet more verbally-loaded IQ tests, as well as many popular standardized tests used today, do not adequately measure this trait, especially in those who are most gifted with it. Spatial ability, defined by a capacity for mentally generating, rotating, and transforming visual images, is one of the three specific cognitive abilities most important for developing expertise in learning and work settings. Two of these, quantitative and verbal ability, are quite familiar due to their high visibility in standardized tests like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). A spatial ability assessment may include items involving mentally rotating an abstract image or reasoning about an illustrated mechanical device functions. All three abilities are positively correlated, such that someone with above average quantitative ability also tends to have above average verbal and spatial ability. © 2010 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 14629 - Posted: 11.04.2010

by Adrian M Owen You might think it's obvious that one person is smarter than another. But there are few more controversial areas of science than the study of intelligence and, in reality, there's not even agreement among researchers about what this word actually means. Unlike weight and height, which are unambiguous, there is no absolute measure of intelligence, just as there are no absolute measures of honesty or physical fitness. Nonetheless, over the decades, legions of scientists have devised tests that can show that one person is smarter than another just as surely as Olympic events can shed light on how much you can lift or how far you can jump. Now my team at the UK Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge has come up with the ultimate test of intelligence. Like many researchers before us, we began by looking for the smallest number of tests that could cover the broadest range of cognitive skills that are believed to contribute to intelligence, from memory to planning. But we went one step further. Thanks to recent work with brain scanners, we could make sure that the tests involved as much of the brain as possible – from the outer layers, responsible for higher thought, to deeper-lying structures such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory. Here's a longer explanation of the theory and evidence that we used when devising the tests. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 14599 - Posted: 10.28.2010