Why are some people smarter than others? This book is about what neuroscience tells us about intelligence and the brain. Everyone has a notion about defining intelligence and an opinion about how differences among individuals may contribute to academic success and life achievement. Conflicting and controversial ideas are common about how intelligence develops. You may be surprised to learn that the scientific findings about all these topics are more definitive than you think. The weight of evidence from neuroscience research is rapidly correcting
outdated and erroneous beliefs.
I wrote this book for students of psychology and neuroscience, educators, public policy makers, and for anyone else interested in why intelligence matters. On one hand, this account is an introduction to the field that presupposes no special background; on the other hand, it is more in-depth than popularized accounts in the mass/social media. My emphasis is on explaining the science of intelligence in understandable language. The viewpoint that suffuses every chapter is that intelligence is 100% a biological phenomenon, genetic or not, influenced by environment or not, and that the relevant biology takes place in the brain. That is why there is a neuroscience of intelligence to write about.
This book is not neutral, but I believe it is fair. My writing is based on over 40 years of experience doing research on intelligence using mental ability testing and neuroimaging technology. My judgments about the research to include are based on the existing weight of evidence. If the weight of evidence changes for any of the topics covered, I will change my mind, and so should you. No doubt, the way I judge the weight of evidence will notplease everyone, but that is exactly why a book like this elicits conversation, potentially opens minds, and with luck, fosters a new insight or two.
Be advised, if you already believe that intelligence is due all or mostly to the environment, new neuroscience facts might be difficult to accept. Denial is a common response when new information conflicts with prior beliefs. The older you are, the more impervious your beliefs may be. Santiago Ramon Cajal (1852-1934), the father of neuroscience, once wrote, “Nothing inspires more reverence and awe in me than an old man who knows how to change his mind” (Cajal, 1924 1. Students have no excuse.