Alcohol consumption and IQ

Alcohol consumption and IQ
Alcohol consumption and IQ are positively correlated

A study published in 2010 has suggested that brighter children in the UK and the US grow up to drink more alcohol. There is a very strong monotonic association between childhood intelligence (measured before the age of 16) and the frequency of alcohol consumption in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Very bright British children (with IQs > 125) grow up drinking nearly one full standard deviation more alcohol than their very dull classmates (with IQs < 75). So there is a clear association between alcohol consumption and IQ. The author concludes that in early humans, alcohol consumption would be accidental and achieved by consuming fermented fruits. So the liquid form of it can be traced back less than 10,000 years is therefore considered evolutionary novel. Because of this, it is posited that more intelligent humans would tend to seek its liquid consumption because doing so is evolutionary novel.

A recent study by the University of Illinois in Chicago also found a link between alcohol consumption and IQ, or at least cognitive function. Specifically, men who drank the equivalent of two pints of beer were found to be better at solving brain teasers and puzzles than their teetotal counterparts. The study found that men with a blood-alcohol level of 0.07% or higher solved 40% more problems than the sober control group and took 12 seconds to complete the task compared to 15.5 seconds for the sober group.  The study found that men who drank a moderate amount of alcohol performed worse in tasks involving working memory but significantly better in creative problem solving.

A third study from the London School of Economics also found that women who graduated from college were more likely to admit daily drinking.

Alcohol consumption and IQ are related. So what should you do about it?

Despite what appears to be a clear relationship between alcohol consumption and IQ, is it not clear whether drinking alcohol can increase IQ. In fact, binge drinking can have disastrous consequences on the brain that are likely to adversely affect neurological functions including IQ.

One thing is for sure, if the smartest among us tend to drink more, it is probably OK to consume moderate amounts of alcohol in the context of a healthy diet and overall lifestyle. Who knows? Your most creative moments may appear after a glass of wine or a beer (or two).

If you want to test the results yourself, you can take an IQ test here, and see whether you score improves after a beer or two. CLICK HERE


IQ boosting foods

Gotu Kola: is it really on the list of IQ boosting foods for healthy adults?
IQ boosting foods may include Gotu Kola supplements for children with mental retardation

Diet most definitely plays a part in improving or maintaining your IQ. There are plenty of foods which are reported to enhance mental alertness and even possibly enhance IQ. So you not only need to consider your waist line when it comes to diet, but you also need to consider the impact of what you eat on your brain and your mental processing abilities.

Let’s look at a list of possible IQ boosting foods. We will attempt to categorize them into moderately high evidence, medium evidence and low evidence of possible effects on the brain.

Moderately high evidence

  1. Creatine: often used by bodybuilders, creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps supply energy to all cells in the human body. An Australian study found that creatine supplementation in the short term provided a significant boost in brain power including memory. Refinements on this study found that creatine supplementation was able to negative the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
  2. Omega and fish oils: supplementation by either pregnant mothers or to young infants has been shown to increase IQs of children by up to 3.5 points. A study in northern England also found that pupil performance improved with fish oil supplementation. Some studies have also found that consumption of fish oils conferred an IQ advantage in adults. Although omega and fish oils are IQ boosting foods, the purity of the oils is also a critical component.

Medium-evidence IQ boosting foods

  1. Gotu Kola: is a pervasive south Asian herb. Its supplementation has been shown to improve IQs of children with mental retardation by up to 10%. It is not clear whether this herb can achieve the same feet in normal children or adults.
  2. Blueberries: some studies have found that their consumption may improve memory in older adults with age-related memory problems. Berries contain flavonoids have recently been found to confer positive benefits to the brain. Whether or not blueberries are really an IQ boosting food remains unknown, but these tasty foods certainly fall in the category of super foods and are thus worth adding to one’s diet.

Low-evidence IQ boosting foods

  1. Gingko Biloba: is a herb that has long been claimed to boost memory and concentration. Although the strongest early evidence in its favor related to the treatment of Alzheimer’s, recent meta analyses have suggested that the herb does not alter the progression of the diseases and that memory or problem-solving abilities are not enhanced by its consumption. This one should really fall off the list of IQ boosting foods.

You may want to test your baseline IQ here, and to re-test once you have added these elements to your diet.

Famous people with high IQ

Da Vinci is one of the most extraordinary famous people with a high IQ
Leonardo da Vinci had an IQ in excess of 160

The list of famous people with high IQ scores is a long one. Before listing some key individuals, let’s first revisit what is means to have a high IQ. In any nation, the average IQ is set to 100 and a normal distribution is able to be set around this mean. Around 95% of the population will have an IQ score between 70 and 130, which implies that roughly 2.5% of the population will score <70 while 2.5% of the population will score above 130. IQ scales are classified as follows:

IQ range (16 SD)


Population distribution


Very Superior






High Average






Low Average



Well below average


69 and below

Lower Extreme



As can be seen from the above table, IQs between 110-119 are still considered to be high average. So one can take the view that an IQ in excess of 120 is a high IQ. An IQ of 120 places you in the top 10.5% of the population (or 1 in 9 people). 5% of the population have an IQ in excess of 125 (1 in 20 people), while only 3% of the population have an IQ in excess of 130 (1 in 33). 1% of the population score in excess of 135, while 1 in 192 people (0.43% of the population) score in excess of 140. Incidentally, an IQ of 140 of more is considered genius or near genius level.

There are plenty of celebrities and famous people with high IQs in excess of 140.

  • Leonardo da Vinci: was estimated to have an IQ of 180, which decreases to 158 adjusting for the Flynn effect. This represents a rarity of 1 in 6,900. In terms of famous people with high IQs, he is perhaps one of the greatest visionaries and most multi-talented. Not only was he a fantastic artist, he also contributed to the world of science with designs of the human body, flying machines, scuba gear and the parachute, and all of this in the mid the late 1470s
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: was estimated to have an IQ of 165, although adjusting for the Flynn effect, his IQ would most likely be 143 in modern terms. Irrespective of the adjustment, an IQ at this level is seen in less than 1 in 278 people. No wonder why Mozart was writing symphonies from the age of 8 and that his music is still being played in households around the world nearly 225 years after his death. It remains to be seen whether even the Beatles are able to achieve such a feat.
  • Albert Einstein: is reported to have an IQ of 160 (1 in 11,000 people). With his theory of relativity E=MC squared, he has changed the world of astrophysics.
  • Bill Gates: has an IQ of 160. It comes as no surprise that he was able to develop a program that would become ubiquitous in the world of computing and modern communication. Bill Gates deserves not only to be included in the list of famous people with high IQs, but also great inventors

There are plenty more famous people with a high IQ. We will revisit this topic in future posts.

To test your own IQ, click here.

High IQ

120 is a high IQ
High IQs can be found to the right of the normal distribution

What does it mean to have a high IQ? Well the first question to ask is “high IQ relative to whom?” Let us provide some background: relatives of modern-day IQ tests have been around since the late 1890s. The millions of test observations have enabled mathematicians and statisticians to establish several important characteristics about IQ scores. Namely, across a population, IQs follow a normal distribution which means that the same proportion of people will score higher than the average IQ score (usually set to 100), as the proportion of people scoring below the average score. In other words, 50% of the population have an IQ which is greater than 100, while the other 50% have an IQ lower than 100.

To be able to get a complete picture of the statistical properties of IQ however, you also need to know the standard deviation of the test that is being employed to measure the IQ score. The standard deviation measures the dispersion around the mean of all the test observations (scores) in your sample, or for the population. Most IQ tests have a standard deviation of either 15 or 16 (some tests such as Cattell have a standard deviation of 24).

A high IQ can be established by looking at statistical properties of the normal distribution

The beauty of the normal distribution is that once you know the mean (average) and the standard deviation, you can then calculate the percentile (and rarity) of a particular test observation or IQ score. Statistics tell us that about 68% of the population will have an IQ score which is 1 standard deviation (SD) away from the mean. So if the SD of a particular test is 15 for instance, we know that 68% of the population have an IQ between 85 and 115 (i.e. the mean of 100 + or – 15 SD points). About 95% of the population will have an IQ falling within 2 standard deviations of the mean. This means that 95% of people will score between 70 and 130 (again SD 15).

So from a statistical standpoint, you are comparing yourself to the average person (which is assumed to have an IQ score of 100) when you are interpreting your score. So let’s revisit the initial question of what a high IQ represents.

Given that the average score is 100, a high IQ will necessary start to the right of the distribution which is centred on the mean of 100. Most psychologists will agree that an IQ score between 90 and 109 falls withing the average category. A score of 110 to 119 is considered high average. 120-129 is superior intelligence, whilst IQs greater than 130 are considered very superior, a category which is something flatteringly referred to as ‘near genius’.

So we have seen that IQs between 110 and 119 are still considered to be high average. It is therefore not unreasonable to argue that a high IQ starts around 120.

The easiest ‘high IQ society’ to qualify for is Tensa, which requires a score in the top 10% or about 120. The International High IQ Society accepts a score in the top 5% (124 IQ with SD=15), while Mensa accepts applicants with an IQ score in the top 2% of the population (130 IQ if SD=15). Several other  societies including the 999 society are much more selective, requiring a score in the top 99.9% to enter.

High IQ societies abound. But on a practical note, It is said that you can do virtually any job if you have an IQ of at least 115. So from a practical standpoint, a high IQ can be said to start at 115.

Find out about your IQ by taking our culture-fair IQ test here.

Improve your IQ

Being a lifelong student can help improve your IQ
Remaining a student for longer can help improve your IQ and intelligence

As discussed in previous posts, IQs can change over time. In particular, IQ scores may change fairly substantially during childhood and typically stabilize in your teenage years. This can be seen as good news as there may be scope to influence the development of IQ . But it is important to distinguish between the different types of intelligence and how easy it is to improve each type. We also emphasize in this post that it it much easier to improve your IQ score than it is to genuinely improve your intelligence, although both are possible with practice, dedication and suitable lifestyle choices.

In simple terms, general intelligence can be decomposed into two parts: (1) Fluid intelligence, which represents one’s ability to solve novel problems; and (2) Crystallized intelligence,  which relates to one’s ability to learn, retrieve and apply concepts that are either taught or learned. Crystallized intelligence for instance, is much higher in people who pursue advanced degrees or who read a lot of intellectually stimulating materials.

Now that we understand the broad types of intelligence, how do these change as we age?Fluid intelligence peaks in our mid 20s, and begins a fairly steep decline thereafter. Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, grows steadily until your mid 50s and begins a gentle decline thereafter. Scientific studies therefore confirm that IQ levels change naturally over time, although is possible to alter the so-called natural trajectory as discussed below.

Improve your IQ as well as your general intelligence

First and foremost, it has been shown that fluid intelligence is more difficult to improve relative to crystallized intelligence. This is so because fluid intelligence is thought to be largely innate and reflects your ability to solve problems that you should never have encountered before. Unlike studying for an exam (which makes higher use of crystallized intelligence, and the left hemisphere of the brain) for which you know broadly what materials may be tested, there is limited scope for teaching someone how to be able to react more effectively to never-before encountered situations. What would the curriculum of this course look like? If fluid intelligence is assessed by measuring someone’s ability to solve novel problems, it clearly would make no sense to have a training session to prepare the student on how to solve the problems that are likely to be encountered on such a test.

But the case for improving your fluid intelligence is not a hopeless one. Enter working memory. Working memory is your mental scratchpad or chalkboard which holds information temporarily while you attempt to solve a particular problem. Training your working memory is one of the few approaches that have garnered some scientific support in respect of your ability to genuinely improve your fluid intelligence. More specific training methods will be discussed on future posts.

All of this said, it is easier to improve your IQ score on fluid intelligence tests (i.e. your IQ score) than it is to genuinely improve your fluid intelligence. You can improve your IQ score on a fluid intelligence test by following these recommended steps:

  1. Practice speed and thinking under pressure: this will help ensure that you don’t lose seconds unnecessarily on a timed fluid intelligence test. Processing speed (Gs) is trainable
  2. Attempt as many different types of fluid intelligence tests as possible as you will then begin to establish patterns in respect of the types of questions that might crop up on these tests. In other words, you are diminishing the surprise element on the test or the novel factor by exposing yourself to more types of situations that are meant to be novel
  3. Take each test more than once, and you will start seeing patterns that you may not have spotted the first time around. Practice effects resulting in improvement of up to 8 IQ points are widely known
  4. Learning new skills has been shown to increase the amount of grey matter in your brain. Learning how to juggle and practicing for at least 30 minutes a day will help your reflexes and processing speed

Again, it is unlikely that the above-mentioned methods will help you in genuinely improving your intelligence, but they will definitely help you improve your IQ score.

Achieving a genuine improvement in crystallized intelligence (and crystallized IQ scores), on the other hand, is much easier.

  1. It has been shown that for groups, each year of additional schooling raises IQ
  2. Read more complex material and stretch yourself
  3. Learning a new language, particularly a complex one with a different alphabet, can also bolster cognition

Lifestyle choices are also critical. I will cover some of these in future posts.

In the meantime, try our fluid IQ intelligence test HERE to get an accurate read of your IQ.

The Flynn Effect IQ gains

Flynn effect IQ gains: higher levels of education could be the cause
Flynn effect IQ gain could be explained in part by greater levels of formal education

In 1984, James R. Flynn made the discovery that that IQs of the American population were increasing at a rate of 3 points per decade. This finding was coined “the Flynn Effect” in the controversial book The Bell Curve. This astonishing finding implied that Americans were increasing their intelligence (i.e. the Flynn effect IQ gain) by nearly 9 points per generation, which is over half of one standard deviation for IQ scores. Zhou and Zao confirmed that the rate of 3pt gain in the USA has continued into the 21st Century. Most scientists agree that this is because of societal factors. In the modern world, the increase in the amount of information that one must absorb and the range of experience that people are likely to go through in life are bound to have some profound impact on the brain and on cognitive ability.

Consider the amount of formal education that people tend to go through today vis-à-vis a Century ago (for instance, nearly 60% of Canadians today undertake undergraduate studies). Also consider the amount of information that you come across on the news, the web and through social media. Although Einstein was said to have an IQ of 160, he never was exposed to nearly as much information as the web-savvy, astute reader of the Financial Times, the Economist and the New Yorker would be today. And because crystallized intelligence is one of the major components of general intelligence, it comes as no surprise that people are in fact increasing their smarts. The Flynn effect IQ gain also persists into adulthood, so that means that people are in fact becoming smarter.

If you thought the USA was a special place, then think again. The Flynn Effect was confirmed globally and it turns out that some countries have been experiencing even faster gain than those recorded in the USA.

The Highest Flynn effect IQ gain nations are as follows:

Netherlands: 6.7

Belgium: 5.8

Canada: 4.6

Norway: 3.2

New Zealand: 2.4

Digging deeper into the data however, the IQ gains are not evenly spread across the distribution of IQs. The largest gains in intelligence are found in the lower half of the IQ distribution and the figures quoted above are most applicable to individuals with IQs centered on the mean of 100 (i.e. the average Joe). At the extreme right of the distribution on the other hand, gains are flat to declining which suggests that people with gifted IQs are not getting the same benefit as people who are intellectually average. The Flynn effect gain is largely benefiting Joe Bloggs. All in all, it might be more accurate to state that the average person is getting smarter.

Because of the Flynn effect IQ gain however, it is critical for people to be taking updated IQ tests that have been normed recently to avoid reporting an inflated score.  In other words, people sitting a 30-year old IQ test dating from the early 1980s would be expected to outperform on that test today relative to taking a brand new IQ test that has been normed recently. Remember that IQ tests are always normed at a particular point in time to reflect a mean of 100.

You can assess your fluid intelligence HERE on our recently normed online IQ test.

Culture-fair IQ test

Culture-fair IQ testing
Fluid intelligence tests are applicable to a global audience

Cattell and Horn distilled global intelligence (G) into two principal components: (1) fluid intelligence or Gf; and (2) crystallized intelligence or Gc.  Fluid intelligence is largely innate and represents someone’s ability to solve novel problems and can therefore be liked to raw processing power or the brain. Fluid intelligence is typically associated with the right hemisphere of the brain (i.e. simultaneous processing). Fluid intelligence peaks in our mid 20s and declines thereafter.

Crystallised intelligence, on the other hand, is associated with the body of knowledge learned in school and through formal education. People with greater schooling will on average have a much higher Gc than those people who have limited formal schooling. Because crystallized intelligence is akin to an accumulated body of knowledge, it is not surprising that Gc peaks in our mid 50s, and begins a slow decline thereafter. Crystallized intelligence is linked to the left hemisphere of the brain (sequential processing).

Most professionally administered tests will be able to measure both types of intelligence. However, different questions and/or tests can be used to measure each type of intelligence. Similarly, in the world of online IQ testing, some tests will be better designed for measuring either Gf or Gc.

From an online testing standpoint (where your audience is global), it would be impossible design a scientific test for Gc that does not suffer from cultural bias – that is, it is not possible to design a culture-fair IQ test for crystallized intelligence when you are testing a global audience. In fact, anything that tests a body of knowledge may favor some groups over others. For instance, a test which asks: “who was the third president of the United States” (Thomas Jefferson is the answer by the way), is a question which is more likely to be answered correctly by American test takers than say, Nigerian test takers. And even then, American history majors may be at a significant advantage in getting this answer right than say, American Psychology majors.

Word definitions or describing certain concepts, also suffers from cultural bias due not only to language fluency problems (i.e. should we be ascertaining French-speakers with questions written in English? Of course not), but also due to the fact that different countries and languages use words in different ways. (e.g. in English, you can say “I love pizza”. But you cannot say “Yo amo Pizza” in Spanish, instead, you would say, “A mi me gusta la pizza”, which essentially means that you like pizza). So a crystallized intelligence test cannot be a culture-fair IQ test.

A Culture-fair IQ test for a global audience

For this reason, fluid intelligence tests are the only types of IQ tests that can be described as ‘culture-fair IQ tests’. Fluid reasoning tests such as our test, Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) or Cattell Culture-fair IIIa tests are based on reasonably abstract picture sequences and missing patterns. It can perhaps be argued that knowledge of geometry (or lack thereof) can induce a cultural bias, but it remains that a triangle is a triangle (3 sides, and internal angles totaling 180 degrees) in every nation on earth.

When it comes to testing the IQ of a global internet audience, a culture-fair IQ test is the only kind of test which has scientific merit to ascribe rankings between different nations (i.e. you can administer the exact same test to everyone, with only the instructions requiring translation), and the only types of culture-fair IQ tests that exist will test Fluid intelligence (Gf), which includes Visual Processing ability (Gv), Processing Speed (Gs) and Working Memory (Gsm). Gv, Gs and Gsm are all sub components of fluid intelligence.

Take our culture-faire IQ test HERE.

Does IQ change as you get older?

IQ and ageAs different people and you will get a different answer. Some say that IQ and age are not related variables. But you look at the data more closely and you can see that the answer is clearly “yes they can change – to some degree”.

Children go through periods of very rapid mental development, so unsurprisingly, mental development and IQ can change year on year for young children.

For Groups, IQs have been shown to be fairly constant from early adulthood through to adulthood (Salter 2008).

  • The coefficient of correlation between IQ at age 5 and IQ at age 40 is 0.50-0.60 (i.e.55%)
  • The coefficient of correlation between IQ at age 9 and IQ at age 40 is 0.70 (i.e. 70%)
  • IQs at ages 10 &12 predict IQs at ages 17 & 18 at a correlation coefficient of 0.98 (i.e. 98%)

Although it is not yet fully established scientifically whether puberty is a defining moment from a brain development standpoint, intuition and statistics suggest that it might be. From Salter’s study, it is clear that IQs at ages 10-12 (very close to puberty) are much better predictors of IQs in adulthood.

There is clearly a relationship between IQ and age.

So it’s not just about ‘feeling good’ on test day which may impact the result of your IQ test, but rather the admission that people’s IQs tend to change slightly over time.

Several studies on ageing have also been performed which suggests that fluid intelligence (i.e. the ability to solve novel problems) may peak in the mid-to-late 20s, whilst crystallized intelligence (i.e. the ability to retain and apply formal educational instruction) may peak in the mid-50s.

So people who argue that IQs are fixed and immutable are simply wrong. There should be no doubt about the fact that IQ and age are related variables. On an absolute basis, IQs vary quite substantially during our lifetime and lifestyle choices can impact the growth of IQ (e.g. learning new skills or remaining longer in formal education can increase IQ) or precipitate its decline (e.g. unhealthy lifestyles or taking drugs). But ipsative IQ tests should be comparing your test scores against those of people in your age bracket to give you a true representation of how bright you are relative to the relevant population subset. When using ipsative tests only, your IQ is likely to be much more stable than would otherwise be the case. In summary, IQ and age are related and is it wrong to think that your IQ will never change as you get older.

Click here to get an accurate assessment of your fluid intelligence on our culture-fair IQ test.

IQ testing is nothing new

Mozart was subjected to IQ testing at age 8Some critics have either attempted to dismiss IQ testing as being baseless or lacking scientific measurement. What these people often forget is that IQ testing is not a new concept and has been around for millennia.

Although the blood relatives of the modern-day IQ test came to life in the late 1890s, cognitive ability tests can be traced back to 4000 B.C. In Asia, it is believed that the Chinese Emperor gave proficiency tests to his officials every third year.

This Chinese tradition continued as 1,000 years later, the Chan Dynasty was reported to have administered proficiency tests to would-be officials, which on the face of it appears like a sensible practice.

Over 700 years later in in Europe, Mozart had been ordered to be tested by King George the 3rd, with the test having been administered by philosopher Daines Barrington around 1763. Mozart had composed his first symphony by age 8.

IQ testing has always been around in one form or another

So human beings have always been interested in the measurement of intelligence, but it was not until Frenchman Alfred Binet came along that cognitive ability tests would receive a major scientific upgrade. Grand children of Binet’s tests are still in existence today, over a century later. But Binet’s greatest contribution to the science of IQ testing are not his questions per se, but rather the introduction of the concept of error in testing. That is, unlike height or body weight, or even strength, the measurement of human intelligence cannot be done with pinpoint accuracy, which is why an individual’s global IQ score must not be viewed as immutable or absolute, but rather a snapshot of someone’s intellectual ability at a particular point in time.

To get a snapshot of your IQ, click here.