IQ is commonly hailed as an important driver of success, significantly in fields corresponding to science, innovation and know-how. In truth, many individuals have an limitless fascination with the IQ scores of well-known individuals. However the reality is that a few of the biggest achievements by our species have primarily relied on qualities corresponding to creativity, creativeness, curiosity and empathy.
Many of those traits are embedded in what scientists name “cognitive flexibility” – a ability that allows us to change between totally different ideas, or to adapt behaviour to attain objectives in a novel or altering setting. It’s basically about studying to study and having the ability to be versatile about the best way you study. This contains altering methods for optimum decision-making. In our ongoing analysis, we try to work out how individuals can greatest enhance their cognitive flexibility.
Cognitive flexibility gives us with the power to see that what we’re doing shouldn’t be resulting in success and to make the suitable adjustments to attain it. If you happen to usually take the identical path to work, however there at the moment are roadworks in your normal route, what do you do? Some individuals stay inflexible and keep on with the unique plan, regardless of the delay. Extra versatile individuals adapt to the sudden occasion and problem-solve to discover a resolution.
Cognitive flexibility could have affected how individuals coped with the pandemic lockdowns, which produced new challenges round work and education. A few of us discovered it simpler than others to adapt our routines to do many actions from house. Such versatile individuals might also have modified these routines occasionally, looking for higher and extra diversified methods of going about their day. Others, nonetheless, struggled and in the end grew to become extra inflexible of their considering. They caught to the identical routine actions, with little flexibility or change.
Versatile considering is vital to creativity – in different phrases, the power to think about new concepts, make novel connections between concepts, and make new innovations. It additionally helps tutorial and work expertise corresponding to downside fixing. That mentioned, not like working reminiscence – how a lot you possibly can bear in mind at a sure time – it’s largely impartial of IQ, or “crystallised intelligence”. For instance, many visible artists could also be of common intelligence, however extremely inventive and have produced masterpieces.
Opposite to many individuals’s beliefs, creativity can also be necessary in science and innovation. For instance, we’ve got found that entrepreneurs who’ve created a number of corporations are extra cognitively versatile than managers of an analogous age and IQ.
So does cognitive flexibility make individuals smarter in a manner that isn’t all the time captured on IQ exams? We all know that it results in higher “chilly cognition”, which is non-emotional or “rational” considering, all through the lifespan. For instance, for kids it results in higher studying skills and higher faculty efficiency.
It will probably additionally assist shield towards quite a lot of biases, corresponding to affirmation bias. That’s as a result of people who find themselves cognitively versatile are higher at recognising potential faults in themselves and utilizing methods to beat these faults.
Cognitive flexibility can also be related to larger resilience to unfavorable life occasions, in addition to higher high quality of life in older people. It will probably even be helpful in emotional and social cognition: research have proven that cognitive flexibility has a powerful hyperlink to the power to know the feelings, ideas and intentions of others.
The alternative of cognitive flexibility is cognitive rigidity, which is present in quite a lot of psychological well being issues together with obsessive-compulsive dysfunction, main depressive dysfunction and autism spectrum dysfunction.
Neuroimaging research have proven that cognitive flexibility depends on a community of frontal and “striatal” mind areas. The frontal areas are related to larger cognitive processes corresponding to decision-making and downside fixing. The striatal areas are as an alternative linked with reward and motivation.
There are a selection of the way to objectively assess individuals’s cognitive flexibility, together with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Check and the CANTAB Intra-Further Dimensional Set Shift Activity.
The excellent news is that it appears you possibly can prepare cognitive flexibility. Cognitive behavioural remedy (CBT), for instance, is an evidence-based psychological remedy which helps individuals change their patterns of ideas and behavior. For instance, an individual with melancholy who has not been contacted by a buddy in every week could attribute this to the buddy now not liking them. In CBT, the objective is to reconstruct their considering to think about extra versatile choices, such because the buddy being busy or unable to contact them.
Construction studying – the power to extract details about the construction of a posh setting and decipher initially incomprehensible streams of sensory data –
is one other potential manner ahead. We all know that any such studying entails comparable frontal and striatal mind areas as cognitive flexibility.
In a collaboration between the College of Cambridge and Nanyang Technological College, we’re at the moment engaged on a “actual world” experiment to find out whether or not structural studying can really result in improved cognitive flexibility.
Research have proven the advantages of coaching cognitive flexibility, for instance in kids with autism. After coaching cognitive flexibility, the kids confirmed not solely improved efficiency on cognitive duties, but in addition improved social interplay and communication. As well as, cognitive flexibility coaching has been proven to be helpful for kids with out autism and in older adults.
As we come out of the pandemic, we might want to be certain that in educating and coaching new expertise, individuals additionally study to be cognitively versatile of their considering. This can present them with larger resilience and wellbeing sooner or later.
Cognitive flexibility is important for society to flourish. It will probably assist maximise the potential of people to create modern concepts and artistic innovations. Finally, it’s such qualities we have to remedy the large challenges of at the moment, together with world warming, preservation of the pure world, clear and sustainable vitality and meals safety.
Professors Trevor Robbins, Annabel Chen and Zoe Kourtzi additionally contributed to this text.