Amazing Kids! Magazine

Impacts on Intelligence

By Qirrat Ahmad


Have you ever had someone in your class who aced every quiz and test? Maybe you called that person an alien or a genius. But have you ever stopped for a moment and truly wondered why your classmates were so smart? Is it genetics or the influence of their parents? Is it the environment or just their desire?

First of all, what is intelligence? Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Humans have created different tests to measure the knowledge of every individual person. It is important to remember, however, that these tests are manmade and, therefore, flawed. The question is, “Can intelligence be measured?” The answer is both yes and no. Scientists can measure the knowledge of a single individual through assessments such as the SATs, PSATs, or Iowa Assessments. Yet the results of different tests will differ. Factors such as the difficulty, content, and objective of the questions play a prominent role in these outcomes.

For decades, psychologists have been trying to unlock the secrets of the human mind. Psychologists, scientists, and researchers have long debated over the determining factor of intelligence. Their arguments are centered on the topic of nature versus nurture. Interactions between the environment and genetics are so intricate and systematic that, perhaps, this debate will never truly be satisfied with an answer.

Intelligence is generally considered too complicated to be traced to one source because it is a polygenic trait, influenced by many interacting genes. After conducting numerous experiments, psychologists believe that as we age, we either rely on or reinforce our genes. This relies largely on environment since people with different genes seek out different environments compatible with their respective personalities.

Environmental influences can shape the mind as well. These influences can either be biological or sociocultural. Biological influences act on the physical body while sociocultural influences influence the mind and behavior patterns of an individual.

Biological influences include everything from eating habits to stress. Various reports state that the nutrients a body consumes affect the intelligence of that individual throughout the lifespan. Inadequate nutrients and vitamins have been known to unsettle neural connections, leaving a person unable to recover mentally. Stress also impinges the development of human intelligence. Exposure to violence, trauma-related distress, toxins, and perinatal factors are associated with a decrease in IQ.

Family is one of the most basic influences on a child’s academic progress. For instance, the number of books in a child’s house has been shown to positively relate with intelligence. Is that due to the environmental impact of having parents who will read and encourage their children to read? Or is it an indicator of parental IQ, a highly heritable trait? Recent studies have shown that a youngster’s position in the birth order influences intelligence. However, these studies have been criticized for not controlling the age or family size properly. Your peer groups also mold your intelligence and the person you become. Stereotype threat is the idea that people belonging to a specific group will perform in line with generalizations assigned to that group regardless of their own aptitude. The idea of stereotype threat can affect intelligence scores both positively and negatively. People’s access to different educational levels and extracurricular activities can also determine the level of their deep-rooted intelligence.

There are many factors and variables that affect the level of our intellectual knowledge. There is no simple or completely accurate way to measure knowledge. Having adequate eating habits and reducing your stress levels can be a start towards “growing” your intelligence. We all need to make sure that our environment impacts us in the best way possible. While these things may or may not make a difference, it is essential to remember that we are not obliged to meet anyone’s standards but our own regarding intelligence. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”