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Last week on NPR's Fresh Air, host Terry Gross talked with Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and author of Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To

The book, included in our recent Summer of Innovation Reading List, explores the messy, fallible, and wonderful ways the brain works. In their conversation, Gross and Burnett discuss how the human brain is like a computer that files information in a way that defies logic, as well as how brains can alter memory, cause motion sickness and affect intelligence.

Here's a preview of their conversation:

GROSS: So how much is intelligence based on having a good memory? Like, if you have a hard time remembering things you've learned, then you can't build on those things. You can't use those things to synthesize, you know, an analysis of, you know, a text or politics or whatever. So are memory and intelligence intertwined and dependent on each other?

Fluid intelligence [is] your ability to use that information and extrapolate from it and to apply it in real world situations.

BURNETT: Yes, to a certain extent. A lot of psychologists differentiate between two types of intelligence. There's crystallized intelligence, which is like things you remember, things you've learned and the information you have access to. So someone on a quiz show, for example, would be - you know, someone who's a champion of a quiz show, they would have very high crystallized intelligence because they can just remember all this information, all these facts and recall them at a moment's notice as and when they need to. So that's a very high crystallized intelligence.

But that's not the only element of intelligence. There's also something we call fluid intelligence. And that's the ability to apply the information, the ability to work with it, the ability to process it. So let's say Sherlock Holmes - like, he's presented with three different things. And he can go ah - put these things together. They show that the killer was there at midnight, and he had a brown dog.

And that's more like fluid intelligence because taking abstract information and processing it and working with it and applying it to the situation in front of you - so crystallized intelligence is, like, the information you have. Fluid intelligence would be your ability to use that information and extrapolate from it and to apply it in real world situations.

Lisen to the podcast or read the complete transcript of the discussion on the Fresh Air website.


Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist working as a lecturer and tutor for the Center for Medical Education at Cardiff University. He writes the Guardian's most-read science blog, "Brain Flapping," and dabbles in stand-up comedy.

Katie Franke is a Marketing Comunications Specialist and Concept Writer at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.

©2016 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Katie Franke

Katie Franke is a Marketing Communications Specialist and Concept Writer at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.