Intelligence and How to Get it

Some time ago, I read a book called Intelligence and How to Get it: Why Schools and Cultures Count, written by Richard E. Nisbett.

That’s when I became intelligent.

The book has some very interesting research about intelligence. It basically tries to argue that intelligence is not completely in the genes.

Anyway, while I was reading the book, I started writing up some interesting stuff that I read, and emailing it to some friends. The idea was of course, to archive things so that, you know, when 10 years from now, I start writing my New York Times bestseller, I have access to all the material I was reading.

Now, I realized that the emails can actually be shared online. So here is a pdf that has all the emails in this series. When I was writing those emails, I was not trying to make them into well organized essays. Thus this pdf looks like a collection of various independent thoughts. I have separated those indpendent thoughts with a line made of asterisks.

I did the same thing with some other books that I read too. I will post their respective pdf’s here as well.


5 thoughts on “Intelligence and How to Get it

  1. Enlightening! Few comments (because I’m somewhat interested in fluid intelligence too)..

    – Dual N-Back is a great way to increase your fluid intelligence so it’s not just downhill from 20 (you can download an open source app to practice the dual n-back test and it’s scientifically proven to work).
    – My own views towards learning are remarkably similar in gauging the importance of self-discipline/hard-work and the environment over hereditary biases.
    – Genetics is seriously overrated (“I’m not `talented` enough to do X”). The marshmallow experiment and your basketball-player-theory provide very strong arguments.
    – I’d include Japanese and the Chinese along with the Jews in being “successful” in a general sense i.e. outside of just Nobel laureates. It could be that their system of religious beliefs or cultures are more conducive to understanding the principles of delayed gratification and hard work. The Hindus are more familiar with the concept of promising gifts for their deities if things should turn out in their favor–hence the high incidence of corruption in our country maybe! πŸ™‚

    • Yes, I did read about the Dual N-Back exercise. The claim that it’s downhill after 20 is from the book. It’s not mine. Perhaps they meant that if you don’t put any efforts into it, then your fluid intelligence goes downhill after 20.

      It is true that Chinese and Japanese people have an extra drive to succeed that North Americans do not. I remember some data from the book about the number of days per year that a kid spends in school in China. This was larger than that spent in North America.

  2. An observation about Jews. I wouldn’t talk about Holocaust as the historical phase where Jews were “filtered”. And not because I want to be politically correct. It’s just that Hitler’s plan was persecuting Jews because they were already smarter than average and they were occupying leading roles in economics. As almost everything in the history of mankind, Holocaust was manly for business. If there was ever an “intelligence filter” in the history of Jews, this was before the Holocaust. They have been persecuted through their whole history by any possible rulers, nations. That’s where they became smarter?
    About Chinese people, why do you claim that they are smarter? If you consider IMO or IOI winners, or TopCoders, then many of them are Chinese. But that’s just because Chinese people are many πŸ™‚ When you compare China (or India) with, say, Italy there is a factor of 20 to consider. That’s a huge factor! Is there something else that leads you to the claim “Chinese people are smart”?

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