Can Your IQ Change?

Human intelligence, as measured by IQ (Intelligence Quotient) scores, is a complex and multifaceted trait influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and cultural factors. Here are some key considerations related to changes in IQ.

IQ brain cute girl thinking over bright puzzle cube

Intelligence, as measured by the Intelligence Quotient (IQ), has long been a subject of fascination and scrutiny in human society. It serves as a numerical representation of cognitive abilities, encompassing reasoning, problem-solving, memory, and more. People often view IQ as a fundamental aspect of one’s capabilities, shaping educational and career opportunities.

For generations, it has been widely held that IQ remains a fixed attribute, an inherent trait bestowed upon individuals at birth, unchanging and unwavering throughout their lives. This belief has not only shaped perceptions of human potential but also guided educational systems and societal expectations.

However, recent scientific discoveries and ongoing research have sparked a profound question: Can your IQ change? Is the notion of a static intelligence quotient an accurate reflection of our cognitive abilities, or is there room for growth and enhancement? In this exploration, we will delve into the dynamic nature of IQ, examining the factors that influence its trajectory and whether, indeed, it can evolve over time.

William Stern, a German psychologist, is known for introducing the concept of the “intelligence quotient” or IQ. He developed the formula for calculating an individual’s IQ score based on their mental age and chronological age. The formula is as follows:

william stern iq calculator

William Stern did not directly contribute to the development of the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test. The IQ test was developed by Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, in the early 20th century. Binet’s IQ test was designed to assess a child’s intelligence relative to their age, and it was first introduced in 1905.

Stern’s contribution was to create a standardized way of expressing intelligence test scores, which became widely adopted. The IQ score allowed for the comparison of an individual’s performance on intelligence tests with that of their peers.

It’s important to note that the concept of intelligence and intelligence testing has evolved over time, and there are now various types of IQ tests and measures of cognitive abilities used in psychology and education. William Stern’s work in introducing the IQ concept was influential in the history of intelligence testing, but the development of specific IQ tests is attributed to other psychologists, primarily Alfred Binet.

Nature vs. Nurture: The IQ Debate

The debate over the origins of intelligence has persisted for centuries, often framed as a battle between nature and nurture. At its core, this discussion centers on the relative influences of genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) in shaping an individual’s IQ.

Genetic factors are undeniably a part of the intelligence equation. Studies involving identical twins, who share nearly identical genetic makeup, have shown higher IQ concordance rates between these siblings compared to fraternal twins. These findings suggest that genes do play a role in determining intelligence.

On the other side of the debate, environmental factors have a substantial impact on IQ. Early childhood experiences, quality of education, socioeconomic status, and access to resources all contribute to cognitive development. The influence of a stimulating and supportive environment should not be underestimated.

This ongoing debate underscores the complexity of intelligence’s origins, with neither nature nor nurture alone providing a comprehensive explanation. Instead, it’s the interplay between these factors that shapes an individual’s cognitive abilities.

Several factors can influence changes in IQ, including genetic factors, early childhood experiences, access to education, socioeconomic status, nutrition, exposure to toxins, and cognitive stimulation.

How Neuroplasticity Shapes IQ

The concept of neuroplasticity reveals the brain’s astonishing ability to adapt and reconfigure itself throughout a person’s life. This process allows the brain to reorganize its structure, functions, and connections in response to experiences and learning.

Neuroplasticity plays a pivotal role in the potential for IQ change. When individuals engage in new experiences, acquire knowledge, or face cognitive challenges, the brain responds by forming new neural pathways and strengthening existing ones. This rewiring enhances cognitive abilities, potentially leading to improvements in IQ.

Everyday experiences, intellectual pursuits, and overcoming mental challenges are the driving forces behind neuroplasticity’s impact on IQ. Exposure to diverse stimuli, such as learning a new language, mastering a musical instrument, or engaging in complex problem-solving, prompts the brain to adapt and refine its cognitive processes.

WAIS-IV (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Fourth Edition) Classification

IQ Range (“deviation IQ”)IQ Classification
130 and aboveVery Superior
110–119High Average
80–89Low Average
69 and belowExtremely Low

Lifelong Learning and Education

The Impact of Formal Education on IQ

Formal education plays a significant role in shaping cognitive abilities. It provides structured learning environments, equipping individuals with knowledge and cognitive tools. Educational systems aim to enhance problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and analytical abilities, all of which contribute to IQ development.

The Flynn Effect: Evidence of Rising IQ Scores

The Flynn Effect, a notable phenomenon observed over decades, demonstrates that IQ scores have been steadily rising. This suggests that as societies invest in education and create enriched learning environments, individuals tend to score higher on IQ tests. The Flynn Effect supports the notion that intelligence is not static but subject to change.

Lifelong Learning and Its Effects on Cognitive Abilities

Beyond formal education, lifelong learning fosters intellectual growth. Continuously acquiring new knowledge, pursuing hobbies, and engaging in intellectual pursuits throughout adulthood can positively influence cognitive abilities. Learning new skills, exploring different subjects, and staying curious all contribute to maintaining and potentially increasing IQ over time.

The Flynn Effect is a phenomenon in which average IQ scores have been increasing over time across generations. It suggests that environmental and cultural factors have contributed to IQ score improvements.

The Connection Between Mental Health and IQ

There exists a significant interplay between mental health and cognitive function. Emotional well-being, stress levels, and overall mental health can impact how the brain operates. Understanding this connection is pivotal in exploring the malleability of IQ.

High levels of chronic stress and anxiety can have detrimental effects on cognitive function. These emotional states can impair memory, attention, and problem-solving skills, potentially leading to a decline in IQ performance. Recognizing the toll of stress and anxiety on the brain is essential when considering IQ’s adaptability.

To foster cognitive growth and potentially boost IQ, it’s imperative to prioritize mental well-being. Strategies such as mindfulness, stress reduction techniques, and seeking professional help when needed can contribute to a healthier mental state. A calmer and more stable mind is better equipped for cognitive challenges and learning experiences.

Stanford–Binet Fifth Edition (SB5) Classification

IQ Range (“deviation IQ”)IQ Classification
140+Very gifted or highly advanced
130–140Gifted or very advanced
110–119High average
80–89Low average
70–79Borderline impaired or delayed
55–69Mildly impaired or delayed
40–54Moderately impaired or delayed

Lifestyle Choices and Cognitive Growth

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in supporting cognitive function. Adequate intake of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals ensures that the brain receives the fuel it needs to operate optimally. A well-balanced diet can positively influence memory, attention, and overall IQ performance.

Regular physical activity not only benefits the body but also has a profound impact on the brain. Exercise promotes better blood flow to the brain, encourages the release of neurotrophic factors, and enhances cognitive processes. Additionally, quality sleep is crucial for memory consolidation and cognitive restoration, ultimately affecting IQ.

Adopting a brain-boosting lifestyle involves making informed choices. Practical tips such as staying hydrated, managing stress, engaging in regular physical activity, and ensuring sufficient sleep can collectively contribute to cognitive growth. These lifestyle choices are accessible to everyone and can make a significant difference in IQ potential.

The Difficulties of Increasing IQ

While the potential for IQ change exists, it’s essential to acknowledge the challenges. Significant increases in IQ can be challenging to achieve and often require dedicated effort over an extended period. It’s not a quick or effortless process.

Genetics does play a role in determining an individual’s cognitive potential. There are limits to how much IQ can be increased due to an individual’s genetic predisposition. It’s essential to recognize that genetics influence the range within which IQ can vary.

Intelligence is a multifaceted concept that extends beyond what an IQ test can measure. It encompasses various cognitive abilities, including creativity, emotional intelligence, and practical problem-solving skills. Focusing solely on IQ may not capture the full scope of human intelligence.


In our exploration of the question, “Can your IQ change?” we’ve uncovered a complex and dynamic landscape. The IQ test’s measure of intelligence is a multifaceted concept rather than a fixed attribute. Summarizing our findings helps distill the essential points.

It’s clear that IQ can be influenced and potentially enhanced over time. However, the path to cognitive growth is neither straightforward nor uniform. To maximize one’s cognitive potential, it’s essential to take a holistic approach that includes factors like education, mental well-being, lifestyle choices, and ongoing learning.

As we conclude our exploration, we leave you with a thought-provoking insight: Intelligence is not a static entity but a dynamic, adaptable facet of our lives. Embracing the idea that your IQ can evolve opens up exciting possibilities for personal growth and development.

In the end, the answer to whether your IQ can change is a resounding “yes.” It’s a testament to the remarkable adaptability of the human mind and the potential for lifelong cognitive growth.