Ignoring Distractions Boosts IQ

By Selina Haefeli

Research has shown that people with higher IQs are better at ignoring distractions during tasks.

The question “what makes a person intelligent?” has long been a controversial debate in science and psychology. Does intelligence have to do with the ability to remember massive quantities of information and quickly recall it on demand? Or is a smart person someone who is creative and can make connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of information?

In a new study published in Current Biology, some neuroscientists from the University of Rochester in the USA have shown that the essence of intelligence may lie in the ability to focus on a single task and not get distracted by other things that are going on around us. They tested this link between IQ and sensory discrimination by showing subjects moving bars on a screen.

After seeing the bars slide across the screen for less than a second, the subjects were asked whether the bars were moving to the left or the right. People with higher IQs were better at telling the direction of the lines when they were shown in a little circle in the centre of the screen surrounded by a grey background. Participants with lower IQs, but who were more creative, were better at judging the direction of the lines when they filled up the whole screen. According to the researchers, most people find it difficult to see movement in the larger images because there is no background noise to filter out.

If you want to know how your sensory perception fairs try the test here.

Other researchers, however, are not convinced about the results because the study is based on traditional IQ tests, which may not be very accurate measures of intelligence.

“Suppose that IQ isn’t about intelligence at all but is simply a test which draws on focused sensory discrimination,” said Gresham College London neuroscientist Steven Rose in a press statement. “That would be great. Then we could stop talking about IQ as if it were some absolute measure of ‘intelligence’ but instead as a way of measuring how sensorily focused people were—surely a useful attribute, but nothing so grand as general intelligence.”

Source: [University of Rochester]

Quick question: What qualities do you think make a person intelligent? Your list could include creativity, good memory, concentration, determination and being a quick learner.