Dome Improvement

Over the last 50 years, we’ve had to cope with an explosion of media, technologies, and interfaces, from the TV clicker to the World Wide Web. And every new form of visual media – interactive visual media in particular – poses an implicit challenge to our brains: We have to work through the logic of the new interface, follow clues, sense relationships. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are the very skills that the Ravens tests measure – you survey a field of visual icons and look for unusual patterns.

The best example of brain-boosting media may be videogames. Mastering visual puzzles is the whole point of the exercise – whether it’s the spatial geometry of Tetris, the engineering riddles of Myst, or the urban mapping of Grand Theft Auto.

The ultimate test of the “cognitively demanding leisure” hypothesis may come in the next few years, as the generation raised on hypertext and massively complex game worlds starts taking adult IQ tests. This is a generation of kids who, in many cases, learned to puzzle through the visual patterns of graphic interfaces before they learned to read. Their fundamental intellectual powers weren’t shaped only by coping with words on a page. They acquired an intuitive understanding of shapes and environments, all of them laced with patterns that can be detected if you think hard enough. Their parents may have enhanced their fluid intelligence by playing Tetris or learning the visual grammar of TV advertising. But that’s child’s play compared with Pokémon. —Steven JohnsonDome Improvement (Wired)

IQ test scores are rising around the globe. Maybe we’re getting smarter, or maybe our increasingly technological lives are giving us more daily experience doing the abstract reasoning tasks that, in a simpler age, most people only encountered during an IQ test.