The Loh Down On Science

Anxious Amygdalas

Is IQ set in stone? Permanent, unchangeable, till death do us part?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying maybe not.

Neuroscientists at Caltech and four other universities say it can be influenced by--hello!--social status.

In their study, seventy subjects who'd previously been IQ tested were separated into groups of five people with similar scores.

The subjects then took a second, computer-based IQ test. After each question, a box on the screen told each person their accuracy ranking within the group, plus that of one other person. Yikes!

Some people improved their performance during the test. But others did steadily worse.

Why the big difference in different subjects' outcomes?

Brain scans done during the test hint at an answer.

Everyone's brains initially showed activity in the amygdala, which governs fear and emotional arousal. But the amygdalas of people who scored high calmed down during the test, while low performers' amygdalas did not. Women were especially sensitive to the effect.

That's why it's good to tell yourself: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me." Oh so wise, that Stewart Smalley, oh so wise!



The Loh Down on Science, online, at lohdown.org. Produced by 89.3 KPCC and the California Institute of Technology, and made possible by TIAA-CREF.

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