Becoming smarter in adulthood?

Can how you spend your time in adulthood make you smarter? Does it slow a decline of intelligence?
For example, take 2 people of equal intelligence who get the same college degree. After college, they take the same job for the same company. In their free time, one watches sitcoms and other “fluff” TV, never reads non-fiction, stays involved mainly with their home and family, etc. The other person rarely watches TV, is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, is active in clubs and community service, takes community college classes for fun, etc.

Will person 2 become smarter over time? Will person 1 lose intelligence or plateau?

Opinions are OK, but actual factual answers are great, too.

I read some on the subject and from that the consensus on “Intelligence” appears to be that intelligence is dependant on both nature (genetics) and nurture (environment). In fact - as one gets older he or she has more of an opportunity to pick the nurture side - which lessens the environmental hold. For example - when responding to the same outside condition / environment, one adult may choose to analyze and another may just react. So —not only are choices made in regards to the outside environment BUT generally, as one gets older – the ‘inside environment’ (that is, the specialized, unique internal environment / our thinking) plays more of a role in how ‘intellectual’ – or not – someone becomes. Whether one becomes interested in TV sitcoms or in the word of books and ideas (the reactions to both create their internal environments) might also be driven by nature based personality choices. So it would appear to make a big difference. So, as I understand this - the smart tend to get smarter (and wiser) and the dumb stay that way —

IMO, the brain is a muscle. Like any other muscle, if you don’t exercise it regularly, it gets flabby.

I’ve always said that the older I grow, the smarter my Dad gets.


She told me she loved me like a brother. She was from Arkansas, hence the Joy!

Right — Mark Twain said something like ‘When I was 16 my father was a fool, by the time I reached 21 I was amazed at the amount he had learned in five years.” (this is not even close to an exact quote by the way) I’ll add as one gets older he or she will probably lose the mental speed of youth - that person may more than compensate with the depth and range of knowledge that time brings (if ‘he or she’ is paying attention to life). That fund of information doesn’t make older people quicker thinkers, or as spontaneously witty, or more adept at learning and retaining new information – but it does allow them to draw connections that only those with experience can — So - "Does it slow a decline of intelligence?’ IMO - getting older doesn’t mean you’re getting dull.

you assume that things you think show inteligence really do. it could very well be that you gain the same amount of information no matter what you do, but some of it is more impressive to outsiders. if I watch 50 hours of sitcoms and you study 50 hours of rocket science you can probobly define yourself as “smarter” but if you chopped up my brain and your brain you could look and see we had gained similar amounts of knowlage and its simply that yours is something more universally (probobly rightfully) judged as worthwhile.

after watching 50 hours of sitcoms I imagin I can tell you thousands or millions of facts about the plots and charactors and storylines and jokes and sets and commercials and all sorts of things.

it depends on if you count the usefulness in the current enviroment as part of inteilgence. (there COULD be a situation where your life depends more on sitcom trivia than rocket science, its not around here but its not physically impossible)

The things that you expose yourself to do not necessarily increase or decrease you intelligence. Instead sensory input broadens your “experience”. What you do with your experience is dependent on your intelligence. In time it will not really matter. Only a few people make history.

I’m assuming your responding to my post – if you’re not I apologize.

No doubt — Putting yourself in novel situations gives you more thinking opportunities.
Sure if you actually analyzed 50 hours of “storylines and jokes and sets and commercials” during those 50 hours of TV watching you might provide similar mental simulation to reading and analyzing for 50 hours – HOWEVER ----- for the large, large majority of people watching TV is a very passive activity. You can go into a TV stupor while watching certain TV programs ---- while reading is active. –

Hmm… your question seems somewhat circular. Nobody has come up with a completely satisfactory definition of intelligence as far as I know. The problem is that we tend to define it in terms of performance on things like IQ tests. A person who watched Nova might be more likely to score higher because they’ll encounter more of the subject matter on intelligence test than the sitcom viewer. Sorta meaningless as you’d essentially be saying that people are better at storing and manipulating information after repeated exposure to it. Hardly earth shattering.

LabRat, I don’t think you’re referring literally to IQ tests. No one has a completely satisfactory definition, but the psychologists are more or less content that they’ve got a working approach.

An IQ test is not designed to test subject matter. When I have taken IQ tests, they rely heavily on analogies and visual or mathematical puzzles. The SAT, an aptitude test, has a little more subject matter component, but tries to vary the subject matter so that it isn’t biased toward someone knowledgeable in a particular area. In other words, one space exploration section, one gardening section, one financial section, but what they’re really measuring is reading comprehension. IQ tests really aren’t subject matter tests. You’re correct in that the fact that studying for a subject matter test improving your score is in no way earth shattering.

So what I’m asking about is intelligence, not subject matter knowledge.

My argument is based on an assumption on my part that sitcoms, for example, repeat relatively few fairly trivial patterns, and there is not much to learn from them. But I think non-fiction books have many complex patterns. So does repeatedly challenging yourself with complex activities increase (or at least prevent the decline) of intelligence?

LabRat, I don’t think you’re referring literally to IQ tests. No one has a completely satisfactory definition, but the psychologists are more or less content that they’ve got a working approach.

An IQ test is not designed to test subject matter. When I have taken IQ tests, they rely heavily on analogies and visual or mathematical puzzles. The SAT, an aptitude test, has a little more subject matter component, but tries to vary the subject matter so that it isn’t biased toward someone knowledgeable in a particular area. In other words, one space exploration section, one gardening section, one financial section, but what they’re really measuring is reading comprehension. IQ tests really aren’t subject matter tests. You’re correct in that the fact that studying for a subject matter test improving your score is in no way earth shattering.

So what I’m asking about is intelligence, not subject matter knowledge.

My question is based on an assumption on my part that sitcoms, for example, repeat relatively few fairly trivial patterns, and there is not much to learn from them. But I think non-fiction books have many complex patterns. So does repeatedly challenging yourself with complex activities increase (or at least prevent the decline) of intelligence?