Growing up through elementary school, I always personally found reading to be a daunting task. Generally, the only literature I was exposed to were typical mundane assigned readings that I simply was not interested in. It was not until the eighth grade that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon HBO’s hit mega-series Game of Thrones, an adaption of George R.R Martins’ bestselling series “A Song of Ice and Fire.” After the first season of the show was over, I was starved for more content and eventually decided I might as well give the novels a read. After eviscerating all 694 pages of the first installment, I knew reading for pleasure was something I was going to invest far more time in for the rest of my life. Interestingly enough, I hypothesize that the many hours upon hours I invested into this new hobby for enjoyment had two major effects on my academic career. Firstly, and more obviously, that my time spent on reading bolstered certain aspects of my “intelligence” with attributes like more advanced vocabulary and stronger reading comprehension. However, I also believe that since I spent such a significant amount of time dedicated to reading opposed to other pursuits like math science, I ultimately did myself a disservice. This was proven after receiving my SAT results, with my reading and writing scores being appallingly higher than my math score. After evaluating these facts about myself, the prominent question that arose in my mind was whether reading actually had a direct correlation on ones’ intelligence, and if not; are there any reliable ways to reinvigorate parts of the brain I should have spent more time developing in my youth?
Training one’s brain certainly is not a new concept, and you have undoubtedly heard commercials for companies like Lumosity and CogniFit Brain Fitness if you live in the United States. These million dollar companies sprouting left and right now claim they have the ability boost your intelligence and IQ by “training” your brain with video games designed to keep your mind active. Their hypothesis testing generally consists of the fact that by continuing to keep your brain active by playing interactive games, one can improve their intelligence or IQ. Before analyzing the various sources and the differentiating opinions concerning applications like these and traditional reading for improving intelligence, it is especially important to define intelligence in a valid, reliable, and standard way. The most popular and widely used examination is the famous intelligence quotient test, popularly referred to as simply the “IQ Test.” According to Instructor Wind Goodfriend of study.com, Alfred Binet designed the IQ test in the early 1900’s to differ from its standard general knowledge counterparts by measuring your capacity to learn to new material, not what you already have been taught.
After analyzing this information and growing curious over whether these sites were a hoax, Goodfriend spent a great deal of time visiting and interviewing psychologists that truly understand the bolstering of intelligence. Unfortunately, while reading will in fact enhance certain aspects of your intelligence, it does not quite make you “smarter.” Vocabulary and reading comprehension will increase with more time devoted to reading, but the act itself will not make you more overall intelligent. You can increase specific factors of your cognitive ability, and reverse causation is an obvious factor in these studies, as Binet proved that regardless of your age, while spending time improving your working memory, reading comprehension is increased. This is especially true for those of an older age, and according to same article from the New York Times, those above 60 gain greater memory and reading comprehension skills from similar applications and seem to benefit from keeping their mind active.
In conclusion, while reading excessively will not necessarily make you more intelligent, it can help with certain aspects of your academic ability and cognitive function, especially when aging. Neuroplasticity is not particularly understood, with the mind molding and changing with no circumstances. As people continue to live longer and unfortunately succumb to neurological diseases, these results could potentially shed some light on impactful treatments for those in the future for those with diseases like Alzheimer’s.