Three things that you didn’t know were making you smarter

Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 8:09pm

Last week I depressed you by saying three things that were making you dumber without you knowing it. And I feel bad about that, I really do. In effort to make things up, I’ve decided to perk you up with this newest article, and so without further ado, I present you with three unsuspecting things that can boost your brain power in ways that you would never expect. Things like…

3-What you’re wearing: Throughout this article I will make reference to studies done by scientists and researchers because, well, most of us accept that scientists are smart guys. But what made them qualified? Genes? That so called education? What if it turns out that their secret is those fancy lab coats they’re always wearing? Well surprise! In a study known as a Stroop test (it measures brainpower) scientists tested a group of participants where half of them were dressed in a lab coat while the others were dressed normally. The results? Those wearing the lab coats only made half the mistakes of those who didn’t wear the coats.

While I would like to wish that it simply takes a lab coat to suddenly have 45 extra IQ points, apparently it doesn’t work like that. And just to make sure that this wasn’t some sort of insane fluke, they made another test, where participants had to find the differences between similar pictures. With this test, some of the participants were given lab coats while the other stayed in their ordinary clothes. Of those in the lab coats, half knew they were in actual lab coats while the others were told they were in simple painters clothing. Again the results showed that those in the lab coats had scored significantly higher than those who thought they were in painter’s clothes as well as those in regular clothes.

The researchers believe that wearing a lab coat simply makes us feel smarter, and as other psychologists have found; simply believing you’re smarter actually makes you smarter. Of course on the other hand, this seems to mean that we all think that painters are idiots.

2 -Your Attitude. Yes I know that many people are fans of a positive outlook on life and say thanks to it, they make it through the day, leave their house with a smile and come back with that same one plastered over their face. To them, the world and their job is nothing but sunshine and gumdrops. Psychologists, society, even our parents would like us to believe that our positive mood swings make us and the world a better place. Better? Debatable. But more intelligent - absolutely not.

Multiple studies have proven this, and one Australian researcher has even gone as far as to say, “Angst and sadness promote information processing strategies best suited to dealing with more demanding situations.” To prove this he made participants watch short films about cancer and death which provided a natural excuse for the somber mood before passing out different tests. These tests were designed evaluate arithmetic, past recollection and even judgment. When the time for grading came, he found that those who had been subjected to the films had made fewer mistakes, were better judges of character, and were even able to better discern what was rumor and what was fact.

1-Nicotine: Apparently some “scientists” learned that smoking doesn’t have a lot of benefits, that is if you’re one of those people who is opposed to cancer and offending people around you. But it seems that, despite being able to ruin everything inside and around you, nicotine has some beneficial affect on the brain.

The University of Amsterdam discovered that the nicotine found in cigarettes enhances both learning and memory. To prove this, they tested elderly people with Alzheimer’s (since learning and memory loss are key areas of the disease) by giving them nicotine patches. The results were stunning in that they showed that after regular doses, the patients were two times faster and significantly more consistent at answering memory-based questions than the control group. This is all possible because nicotine is able to improve communication among the learning centers of the brain. Even if you can remember how the beginning of this article began (proving that you don’t have Alzheimer’s), nicotine has the same effect on you as on the elderly.

This time, instead of pumping a teenager’s blood with the stuff they went for a more standard approach by first filling mice with the stuff and then testing them on their special learning and memory later in their adult life. They were able to find that those who had received small, steady levels of nicotine learned faster and had performed significantly better, even months later.

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