December 8, 2011
More Human Intelligence Comes With A Price
When researchers asked why we are not more intelligent, given the adaptive evolutionary process, their conclusion was that problems would arise if we had too much intelligence.
Thomas Hills of the University of Warwick and Ralph Hertwig of the University of Basel looked at a wide range of studies including drug studies of Ritalin patients, studies of people with autism, debilitating synaesthesia and neural disorders linked with enhanced brain growth.
People with attention disorders take Ritalin to help improve their ability to pay attention, whereas people who take the drug and don´t need it often are worse off when than if they didn´t take any drugs. This conclusion suggests there may be a limit to how much we need to pay attention.
Hills says, “This makes sense if you think about a focused task like driving. Where you have to pay attention, but to the right things – which may be changing all the time. If your attention is focused on a shiny billboard or changing the channel on the radio, you´re going to have problems.”
Enhanced memory also has its problems and can prove difficult. Medicalxpress.com notes that post-traumatic stress disorder is an example where people can´t stop remembering an awful episode. According to Hills, “if something bad happens, you want to be able to forget it, to move on.”
Even an above average IQ could turn out to be troublesome. The researchers studied a population of Ashkenazi Jews whose IQ are higher than the general European population. It turns out that this population has a high occurrence of Tay-Sachs disease that affects the nervous system. The increase in brain function may cause an increase in disease.
According to Hills, there may never be a ℠supermind´, which is only in the minds of science-fiction writers. The research suggests that if the mind evolves beyond its limits, then there are consequences for that increased cognitive ability that affects different parts of the brain. Hills says, “If you have a specific task that requires more memory more speed or more accuracy or whatever, then you could potentially take an enhancer that increases your capacity for that task. But it would be wrong to think that this is going to improve your abilities all across the board.”
The study, titled “Why Aren´t We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements” can be found in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
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