I admit it, I feel somewhat guilty and ashamed. Ashamed, for feeding the ridiculous Internet craze that was Rebecca Black (with not one, but two posts); guilty for possibly lowering my readers’ IQ in the process.
To make amends (and because it is Sunday, Sunday) I offer a way that you may be able to raise your IQ.
I have mentioned Dual-N-Back training before and while I am not a blank-slatist, I believe that it may have some benefit. I believe that not only might it help you gain a higher score on IQ tests but it may have real-world benefit.
N-back training presents you with a series of stimuli (e.g., letters or numbers) and your task is to note when the current one matches the one seen n times back. Dual-N-Back presents you with two stimuli each round (e.g., color and letter) and your task is to note for each single stimulus (e.g., color or letter) if it appeared n times ago.
I suspect that any increase in intelligence from n-back training is due to an improvement in attention and an increase in working memory. Working memory is what allows you hold several things in mind at once (e.g., the seven digits of a telephone number). IQ tests require you to hold sequences and figures in mind while you puzzle the solution, so an increase in working memory (and of course greater attentional strength) will aid you in answering the questions.
Outside of a “silly test” the same skills apply: the ability to hold several concepts in mind at once, the ability to parse more complex sentences, and the ability to provide sustained attention will together facilitate understanding more complex ideas. Even skills we consider non-cognitive such as sports or driving rely, to some degree, on working memory to keep track of the moving variables.
I am uncertain of the more grand claims for such training but believe, at the least, it could help those smart but scattered types who may not reach their intellectual potential because of poor mental habits. I did try this for a while and increased my game score, I am less certain over real-world benefits (slightly better at holding phone numbers in my head, perhaps). I also suspect boundary limitations on any benefits of training; it is more likely to make you as smart as you can be, rather than smarter than you are. The “game” is not that interesting and needs twenty minutes per day, so perhaps it is merely the discipline that provides any effect – perhaps you would be better served by twenty minutes of reading, or heaven forefend, physical exercise.
Wikipedia provides a reasonable overview on N-Back.
You can try a “classic” version of Dual-N-back that uses the same form as used in research at: http://www.soakyourhead.com/
You can download program that gives you all manner of options (e.g., Triple-N-Back – three stimuli to keep track of, Arithmetic N-Back – perform a sum on the n-back number, etc.) at: http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/