IQ, which stands for intelligence quotient, is a score derived from a test designed to measure one’s ability to solve problems, reason, remember information, and understand conceptual ideas. Since the popularization of this testing in the early 20th century, many studies have attempted to determine whether it is possible to increase IQ. As of the early 21st century, research has not conclusively proven whether or not IQ can be increased. Some experts argue that one’s IQ is fixed. Others suggest that it is possible to increase IQ through mental exercise or even through diet.
Many researchers believe that one’s IQ is relatively fixed by heredity, and cannot be improved. This is largely because IQ tests are designed to measure not how much an individual knows, but rather how well he solves problems, applies reason, interprets concepts, and remembers information. In other words, these tests are primarily a measure of how someone thinks rather than what he knows. It thus holds, these researchers argue, that increasing one’s knowledge or store of information will not affect his performance on an IQ test. This conclusion appears to be supported by the fact that IQ tends to remain fairly steady throughout one’s life.
Some research has suggested, however, that it may be possible to increase IQ not by enriching one’s knowledge, but rather by exercising one’s brain. A 2008 study conducted at the University of Michigan tested the theory that enhancing one’s short-term memory through mental exercises could lead to improved performance on those IQ test questions which require testers to process novel concepts or information. After working with two experimental groups and two control groups, these researchers found that testers who had been trained in short-term memory techniques scored slightly better on IQ tests than testers from the control groups. While this study appears to support the idea that individuals can increase IQ slightly, experts agree that more research is needed before the link between short-term memory and IQ is fully understood.
Certain studies have suggested that a natural childhood diet may increase IQ. Researchers have observed, for instance, that children who are breastfed for the first six months of life tend to have slightly higher IQs than children who are formula-fed. In addition, researchers have noted that the IQs of children whose diets consist largely of fatty, processed foods between infancy and age three tend to be lower than those whose diets consisted of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy items. It is important to note, however, that the relationship between childhood diet and IQ has not been determined to be causal. Other factors, such as home environment and parental involvement, may also play a key role in both childhood nutrition and IQ.