“Smarter” people may just be better at filtering distractionsKatia Fonti/Shutterstock
With this thinking on distractions and the brain comes another theory of intelligence—that smart people’s are just better at ignoring stuff that’s distracting. A study from the University of Rochester found that people with higher IQs were better at detecting the movements of small objects on a screen, but worse at detecting movements of larger, background-like objects. This may be because in nature, large movements like the wind in the trees are irrelevant, but the harder-to-see animal about to pounce is more important. So in our info-laden modern world, the ability to better focus might give some people an edge. Check out these people with higher IQs than Einstein.
Memory isn’t as fixed as we thinkurbazon/Shutterstock
Although some of us do have impressive powers of recall, memories are in fact, constantly in flux—and this has the potential to alter how we remember things. “Our brain is not a ‘video cam’ that takes in information and stores it in our memory center precisely as it happens; instead we process scenes, conversations, and outings through our filter of rich experiences, perspectives, and thinking biases,” Dr. Chapman says. “This is why two people can witness the same event and come away with very different memories.” Even studies of so-called “flashbulb” memories of major events, like the Challenger explosion or the events of September 11, 2001, show our recollections aren’t always accurate. One good thing? We do tend to look back on our life through rose-colored lenses. “Our memories are altered and typically become more positive over time,” Dr. Chapman says. Check out the daily habits of people with an amazing memory.
You can train your memory with mnemonicsA. and I. Kruk/Shutterstock
The brain can strengthen its powers of recollection through certain memory-boosting techniques. “If you want to remember something accurately, write it down as soon as possible,” Dr. Chapman says. “Our brain is not inspired by memorizing information, but by doing something with it.” Other mnemonic devices, or ways to “do something” in order to create a better memory, include repeating the information—when you meet someone, say their name out loud. Or, make up a phrase that rhymes: “Claire has red hair.” For longer stretches of info, create an acronym (at the market, we need MELT—milk, eggs, lemons, and thyme). These tricks work by forming connections in the brain with already established knowledge, reshaping brain networks to better remember. Learn about another simple activity that boosts memory by 20 percent.