Can You Be Born Smart?

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Can You Be Born Smart?

The influence of the genetic predisposition for intelligence increased as people grew older / Photo by sharpshutter via Shutterstock


Many of us wish that we could’ve had much better traits and characteristics as a person. One of the most common gripes is wishing that we had been born smarter in order to have a better time at school or to be better at completing work tasks.

But this begs the question: Are people actually born smart?


Measuring and Studying Intelligence

Intelligence, or more distinctly known as general cognitive ability, is an incredibly complex trait that human beings exhibit in many of the actions they perform. From talking to texting to balancing a checkbook, we can only do these things with the intelligence that separates us from many animals and other creatures. However, being labeled as smart is a different thing altogether.

There are a number of ways that we can measure intelligence, and one of the most common is through IQ or intelligence quotient tests. You can also say someone is smart if they have the ability to reason out and voice their thoughts, learn from past experiences, understand complicated and complex ideas, plan out and solve problems, and adapt to changing environments. However, IQ remains to be the one most often used, especially in clinical studies. With this, scientists have been poring over the question of whether being smart is in the genes.


Hereditary Factors

Many think that being intelligent can be hereditary, and some go as far as to assume that a couple considered intelligent will have an intelligent child, as well. However, the truth is more complicated than having a gene that makes you smart.

In several studies, scientists have tried to relate intelligence to specific genes and compared a number of families. They also looked within the families themselves, especially in situations with siblings and twins. They found that around 50% of intelligence can be attributed to genetic factors. Even after biological twins were separated at birth, with one reared by the biological parents and the other reared by adoptive ones, both twins shared similar levels of intelligence, and also shared those levels with their parents.

When looking even further, they tried to study whether specific genomes and areas in the DNA influenced intelligence. According to Genetic Home Reference, these studies showed that no specific genome was responsible. It was more likely that a combination of the traits from several genomes, each contributing a small part to the person’s overall intelligence.

General cognitive ability, is an incredibly complex trait that human beings exhibit in many of the actions they perform / Photo by Vadim Guzhva via 123RF


Changes in Predisposition

It was found in many studies that genetics played a part in the differences between IQ test scores. However, as stated by the Scientific American, this applied to average scores only and not to actual individuals. In fact, even if a person had the potential to become highly intelligent, there were other factors that came into play, such as illness or diseases that could render someone unable to learn further.

Other studies also showed that the influence of the genetic predisposition for intelligence increased as people grew older. Genetics had about a 20% influence in intelligence in infancy, which then increased to 60% in adulthood. This was attributed to the possibility that as children grew older, they would seek out more opportunities for improving their own intelligence.

The answer would then be yes and no. You can be born with certain genomes and the right genes that would denote intelligence, but having them won’t mean anything unless you consider other factors.


Environmental Factors

More than genetics, the environment of a person is a strong influencer to one’s growth, especially when considering mental capabilities. The parenting and home environment can help set the child to a path of learning and curiosity. There are matters of proper education, the resources for learning, and even the food they eat can become factors that influence intelligence in later life.

Of course, there is also the consideration that intelligence is not predetermined by the time that you are born, and a baby’s intelligence increases as they grow. Social exposure, as well as certain activities, has also shown to have great effects on one’s intelligence. Music has been proven by many studies to be an effective factor in improving higher brain function and even mathematical prowess. This was thought to be because it helps improve the brain’s capability in space and time visualization, as stated by About Intelligence.

A stimulating environment that allows for children to use their hands frequently, as well as one with more opportunities to engage with others, were also linked to increased intelligence.

The problem then lies with which of these factors become more dominant or which has attributed more to the person’s intelligence. If a person’s IQ is similar to their parents, was it because it was inherent in their DNA, or because they were raised in an environment with parents that set the ideal conditions for their intelligence to form in that way?

As scientists continue to tackle these concepts, we may be able to learn more about what makes humans so adept at thinking and learning.



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