In Understanding Your Inner Genius, presenter Laura Helmuth reveals the latest scientific thinking on genius and intelligence—from the making of a genius, to the increase of worldwide IQ scores, and the mysteries of acquired savantism. With myth-busting exhilaration and more than a bit of controversy, scientific studies point the way to increasing the intellect. This course will introduce you to the new, scientifically valid concepts that take the place of old myths regarding intelligence—concepts you can use to your advantage when educating your children, your students, or yourself.
Understanding Your Inner Genius
We are all a guru in our own way. Discover your own inner guru as we reveal what scientists have discovered through a fascinating study on intelligence.
Laura Helmuth is the editor in chief of Scientific American. She earned a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley, and a graduate certificate in Science Communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Laura has served as the health, science, and environment editor for The Washington Post; director of digital news for National Geographic Partners; science and health editor for Slate; science editor for Smithsonian Magazine; and editor for Science. She is currently on the advisory boards for Spectrum, an autism news website, and SciLine, an organization that helps journalists find the best scientific sources. She also serves on the board of directors for High Country News, a magazine that covers the American West. She is a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication and was previously president of the National Association of Science Writers.
01: The Science of Genius
What exactly makes a genius? Were extraordinary scientists like Einstein and Hawking just born with superior intellect or did they acquire it? And if they did acquire it, how? Explore the many theories of genius put forward by psychologists, psychiatrists, and philosophers over the last 150 years. Learn how “blind variation and selective retention” might be the most unifying theory of intelligence yet.
02: Fit Body, Fit Mind?
If you’re trying to retain your cognitive powers into your older years, or maybe even improve them, chances are you’re learning new skills, taking classes, or challenging yourself with crossword puzzles or sudoku—all of which are great. But is there another type of workout that could be of even greater benefit? Learn about the fascinating and surprising results of the latest research into cognition and aging.
03: The Aha! Moment
What a great feeling it is when you finally solve the problem you’ve been working on—or better yet, when you suddenly see that an entirely new direction of inquiry will lead to an even more powerful answer. That is your “aha!” moment. Explore the results of recent research that can help all of us get closer to that magical spark of insight. How do the most innovative people approach problem-solving, and is that method something the rest of us could learn to mimic?
04: Creativity Is Collective
We often think of a genius as a rugged individual living in their own little world. But none of us lives or works completely alone—genius or not. Explore the recent studies showing that the nature of people’s creativity depends on group norms, even when that is not immediately obvious. Whether the creativity in question is mathematical or artistic, the research shows that engagement with other can help stimulate creative ideas for change.
05: Nurturing the Young Genius
How can teachers and parents recognize talent in even the youngest of children? Certainly, an entire industry exists to support parents in their quest to create little geniuses. But does any of it really work? What outdated myths do we continue to hold onto? Learn what the latest research shows about the benefits and limitations of IQ tests for students, as well as the skills that really can predict success in school and in life—skills that show up as early as kindergarten.
06: Lessons from Studying Supersmart Children
Learn about the longest-running current longitudinal survey of intellectually talented children. What have researchers learned from 48 years of tracking the careers and accomplishments of 5,000 individuals, many of whom have gone on to become high achievers in science, the arts, business, and more? But the research is as controversial as it is fascinating. What might we be missing in our desire to identify and provide resources for those whose talents are possibly just easier to identify than others’ talents?
07: Can We Keep Getting Smarter?
You might be shocked to discover that IQ scores have been steadily increasing since the beginning of the 20th century. Scientists were surprised, too. The tests revealed that something in the environment was having a significant influence on components of intelligence in populations all over the world. Explore what could be causing this “Flynn effect” and what its ramifications could be for our children’s future.
08: Boosting the Brain?
If you’ve ever wished you could just take a pill to become smarter, you’re not the first. Discover some of the chemicals scientists have studied for this exact purpose, including the controversial drug modafinil. But beyond drugs, explore the attempted brain hacking known as transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS). Could tDCS help people with neurological concerns? And what might we learn about tDCS and acquired savantism that could be related to the intelligence we all possess?
09: The Brilliance Trap
Why are women and minorities significantly underrepresented in academic fields that openly value and look for “brilliance”? Explore the fascinating answers to this question as you discover the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset—and the many ways in which gender stereotypes broadly affect the ways children exhibit these mindsets as early as age six.