Skip to content
Surprising Science

Early Education Plays Major Role in Developing Intelligence

Your IQ wasn’t set at birth. Turns out, intelligence is quite malleable. Genes play a role in influencing your intelligence, but not as much as your upbringing.

What dictates a person’s intelligence? Is it something in our genetic code that helps us become brainier, or does how we were raised play a role in our intellectual fate? Tom Jacobs from Pacific Standard writes that this question has been debated by scientists for years. But two recent studies provide evidence against the idea that intelligence is static.

Kenneth Kendler of Virginia Commonwealth University led a study that looked into records of adopted Swedish siblings. He found that “adoption into improved socioeconomic circumstances is associated with a significant advantage in IQ at age 18.”

“Despite being demonstrably related to genetic endowment, cognitive ability is environmentally malleable.”

David Baker, the lead author of a similar study, looked more at the American population. He found that the “mean IQ test scores of cohorts of American adults increased by approximately 25 points over the last 90 years.” This data correlates to increasing school attendance over the years.

The studies both seem to indicate that in order for a genius to thrive, the environment needs to be suitable enough for them to grow. It’s not all about natural ability.

Similar scientific studies into how we learn the basic building blocks of language echo these ideas. The wild-children studies — chance opportunities where a child has been brought up without language and re-introduced into society — have shown that there’s a window of time to influence the genes dedicated to learning communication. However, once that window is closed, it’s difficult for the subject to grasp the finer points of communication patterns and its structure.

We are all born into this world with certain set advantages and disadvantages, but in the early stages of our lives, we have the capacity to grow our abilities beyond their original programming. It’s all dependent on whether that child’s environment will allow it.

Read more at Pacific Standard.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Up Next