It’s long been perceived that smarter people process information more quickly; however, such a theory has never been proven. Instead, scientists are now observing that people with higher IQs have the ability to weed out irrelevant data and focus on the key issues. They’re not necessarily thinking faster, just more efficiently.
A team of researchers conducted a simple visual exercise. Volunteers with IQs from 80-140 were made to watch movies riddled with black and white bars flashing onscreen. The bars appeared in small, medium or large sizes. Onlookers had to quickly assess the bars’ direction. What the psychologist-led team found was that as IQ increased, the subjects tracked the smaller bars, and as IQ decreased, the subjects tended to monitor the larger bars but lose track of the smaller.
This is giving scientists a better explanation and understanding of intelligence. People who are less engaged with details in their visual environment but primarily picking up on the larger, more obvious stimuli will tend to have lower IQs and the appearance of slower processing. It’s only when you can allow larger details to fall into the background that you might home in on the small but crucial elements that make all the difference.
Imagine you’re in a classroom. There are noises and people all around you. On the other side of windows are trees, a sweet breeze fills the room, there are noisy colorful posters on the surrounding walls. Your points of focus need to be the teacher, and a textbook. They make up a much smaller ratio of the “stuff” in your space, but you’ll receive the most information in the class if you can tune out the larger details and tune in to one voice.
Likewise, when you’re at the coffee shop working. You might be missing the bigger activities of coffees being delivered, moms walking in with strollers, people talking, couples making out and the like, while you’re engrossed in the screen of your tiny little iphone. So it is with strategizing. To come up with unique solutions, you may need to put aside the glaring problems and find the tiny seed of opportunity that’ll grow into a fruitful enterprise. Perhaps the reason highly intelligent people can appear peculiar, and think quite differently than the rest, is because they’re literally seeing life and the world around them differently.
Concluding their report, the team wrote, “High-IQ individuals, although quick at perceiving small moving objects, exhibit disproportionately large impairments in perceiving motion as stimulus size increases.” Strangely, the smarter we are, the more impaired we may actually be in detecting what is considered irrelevant. It could be that this explains why so often we are brilliant in one thing, and totally clueless in another subject, which we’ve deemed unimportant; and why geniuses may be equally confused in one area of life as they are sharp in another. The report continues,” We conjecture that the ability to suppress irrelevant and rapidly process relevant information” finally helps to explain the cognitive differences among smarter folk.
Now the question is, can you expand your capacity to cut out excess and develop a laser sharp vision for the smaller, crucial details? Most experts say yes, absolutely. Practice everywhere you go and in everything you do by looking for the otherwise hidden gems amidst the noise. Doing brainteasers and mental exercises are proven to increase brain function and cognition. Don’t be distracted by the obvious. Go deeper not by seeing more, but by seeing what matters.