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Do brain games make you stupid? (and other important philosophical questions)

MKRMKR Registered User regular
edited August 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
A lot of people will play "brain games" in an effort to make themselves smarter. I see a lot of people who do this not show any sign of improvement. It often makes them seem dumber because they get it in to their heads that mastering sudoku, or being able to trounce anyone in a trivia game (because of their superior memory capacity) has turned them into some kind of supergenius.

I've personally found that writing my ideas out--whether it's considering something or making a choice--is a great way to refine them. What kind of things do you do to make yourself smarter? Have you ever gotten better at weighing choices, or discussing your ideas after one of these brain games?

MKR on
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Posts

  • QuidQuid Definitely not a banana Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    MKR wrote: »
    Have you ever gotten better at weighing choices, or discussing your ideas after one of these brain games?

    Probably not, but being especially good at that isn't the only definition of a smart person. Most brain games teach people to catch on to patterns faster. Trivia essentially broadens their knowledge base which can help with that a lot depending on what you're doing. Either of these can be particularly applicable to someone's day to day life or not.

    Fact of the matter is, intelligence is not easily defined. Which doesn't mean you can't say someone is smart, or that they've done something dumb. It just means weighing choices or discussing ideas aren't the only metrics for intelligence.

    Quid on
  • GreasyKidsStuffGreasyKidsStuff MOMMM! ROAST BEEF WANTS TO KISS GIRLS ON THE TITTIES!Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I certainly don't think me playing a game of sudoku every morning (well, most mornings) makes me any smarter. Considering how much I struggle with them every time, I'd say that's a good sign pointing towards quite the opposite.

    I still do them everyday though. Almost.

    GreasyKidsStuff on
  • QuidQuid Definitely not a banana Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    For instance! I have a decent knowledge of Chinese stuff. Folk tales, sayings, etc. Occasionally these get brought up to make a point. Given my language capabilities are only mediocre, I don't understand everything they might say. However, simply because of my knowledge of things that are entirely obscure to most English speakers I can understand what someone's meaning much more readily, even without entirely understanding the all of the words themselves. And it's thanks entirely to trivia.

    Quid on
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I thought the idea behind brain games was to keep the mind active, because it does kind of function like a muscle, though that analogy is crude.

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  • Regina FongRegina Fong Allons-y, Alonso Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    These games may not make you smarter, but playing them helps you retain your mental acuity in your later years. Elderly folks who do the morning crossword puzzle every day can stave off mental degradation, even Alzheimer's for years.

    The brain is not a bicep, but it is a use it or lose it organ.

    Regina Fong on
  • OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Does solving a bunch of physics equations make you smarter? Or does it just make you a better physicist?

    Does doing a bunch of sudoku puzzles make you smarter? Or does it just make you a better sudokuer?

    OptimusZed on
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  • Crimson KingCrimson King Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    Does solving a bunch of physics equations make you smarter? Or does it just make you a better physicist?

    Does doing a bunch of sudoku puzzles make you smarter? Or does it just make you a better sudokuer?

    Define 'smart'.

    Crimson King on
  • durandal4532durandal4532 Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: people say "smart" all the time, without stopping to define it.

    I will say that making a concerted attempt to do "smart things" or to get better at "smart things" will generally help you be considered a smart person, though. Probably will help with some aspects of your day-to-day as well?

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  • OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    OptimusZed wrote: »
    Does solving a bunch of physics equations make you smarter? Or does it just make you a better physicist?

    Does doing a bunch of sudoku puzzles make you smarter? Or does it just make you a better sudokuer?

    Define 'smart'.
    Exactly.

    OptimusZed on
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  • JurgJurg In a TeacupRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    People tell me I'm smart all the time, because I get good grades and use uncommon words. But I don't think I'm all that smart. To me, being smart is all about someone's capability to process information and generate new ideas. I guess I'd say that intelligence and creativity are inseparable. Without the ability to generate new ideas from analyzing information, you're at best informed, not really smart. As for me not really feeling smart, I do consider myself creative, but I'm really only in my element when considering videogames or poetry. Not really anything world changing, you know.

    That's my feeble attempt to define "smart".

    Jurg on
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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    All I know is that every time I learn something new I feel dumber for the amount of information that I've still yet to touch.

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  • FiziksFiziks Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Page- wrote: »
    All I know is that every time I learn something new I feel dumber for the amount of information that I've still yet to touch.

    This. In elementary school I felt like a goddamn genius, middle school to a lesser degree, and then high school just made me feel more of the middle of the road B+/A- student. I'm getting better grades in college, but to be honest I don't feel that much smarter, if anything I feel somewhat slower.

    I, too, think this might because of the exponential amount of information I'm aware of that I don't understand.

    Fiziks on
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  • emnmnmeemnmnme Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Wait, what is a genius? A person who can solve completely foreign puzzles quickly or on their first try? Like Tim Robbins figuring out a series of puzzles on the spot in that movie 'I.Q.'

    emnmnme on
  • Crimson KingCrimson King Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
    --William Shakespeare
    God that was so pretentious I actually feel physically dirty.

    Crimson King on
  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Engaging in frequent discussions on this board for 8 years or so has absolutely made a huge impact on my intelligence.

    Yar on
  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Doing crossward puzles allthe time defenetly made me smartere

    Drez on
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  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Drez wrote: »
    Doing crossward puzles allthe time defenetly made me smartere
    lol

    Yar on
  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yar wrote: »
    Engaging in frequent discussions on this board for 8 years or so has absolutely made a huge impact on my intelligence.

    i like the ambiguity here

    Evil Multifarious on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 2010
    What I love is how in the movies, invariably, when they want to show a dude is smart, they have him solve a Rubik's Cube, amazing everyone in the room - cf Armageddon, The Pursuit of Happyness, and a lot of other terrible movies.

    Jacobkosh on
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  • WearingglassesWearingglasses Of the friendly neighborhood variety Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    It's a shortcut that gets overused. Though I can't think of any other things that can quickly establish someone as "Smart" in movie-verse in a very short time.

    Wearingglasses on
  • emnmnmeemnmnme Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    It's a shortcut that gets overused. Though I can't think of any other things that can quickly establish someone as "Smart" in movie-verse in a very short time.

    Impossible mental calculations?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uctSLAEcGIE

    emnmnme on
  • SpoitSpoit *twitch twitch* Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Ignoring the whole definition of the word "smarter," I'm very skeptical that that those games can some how make you less "smart"

    Spoit on
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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    These games may not make you smarter, but playing them helps you retain your mental acuity in your later years. Elderly folks who do the morning crossword puzzle every day can stave off mental degradation, even Alzheimer's for years.

    The brain is not a bicep, but it is a use it or lose it organ.

    That sounds a little... Deepak Chopra/Keven Trudeau-ey. Cite?

    Loren Michael on
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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yar wrote: »
    Engaging in frequent discussions on this board for 8 years or so has absolutely made a huge impact on my intelligence.


    It's made me better on my word-feet when I'm actually talking to people, too.

    Loren Michael on
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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I would feel a lot smarter if my memory weren't terrible.

    And my spelling. That can actually get depressing.

    Page- on
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  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yar wrote: »
    Engaging in frequent discussions on this board for 8 years or so has absolutely made a huge impact on my intelligence.

    i like the ambiguity here
    The funny thing is that it was unintentional, and then I reread it just now and thought, "ha, ambiguous," and only then saw your reply.

    But to follow up... I was always clever and deep. This place made me wiser.
    emnmnme wrote: »
    It's a shortcut that gets overused. Though I can't think of any other things that can quickly establish someone as "Smart" in movie-verse in a very short time.

    Impossible mental calculations?
    I'm old-fashioned... I prefer my movie smarties to be depicted as concentrating intensely as equations and greek symbols zoom around the screen.

    Yar on
  • emnmnmeemnmnme Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Yar wrote: »
    emnmnme wrote: »
    Impossible mental calculations?
    I'm old-fashioned... I prefer my movie smarties to be depicted as concentrating intensely as equations and greek symbols zoom around the screen.

    Ha, I just saw The Hangover two nights ago.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWvC9n8s0-s

    emnmnme on
  • Psycho Internet HawkPsycho Internet Hawk Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Page- wrote: »
    I would feel a lot smarter if my memory weren't terrible.

    And my spelling. That can actually get depressing.

    This, oh god this. I can hold my own at reasoning, puzzles, logic, math, what-have-you, but I'll be damned if I can remember anything.

    Psycho Internet Hawk on
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  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited August 2010
    These games may not make you smarter, but playing them helps you retain your mental acuity in your later years. Elderly folks who do the morning crossword puzzle every day can stave off mental degradation, even Alzheimer's for years.

    The brain is not a bicep, but it is a use it or lose it organ.

    That sounds a little... Deepak Chopra/Keven Trudeau-ey. Cite?

    No cite, but I've heard this, too. It was a study mentioned in some fairly reputable online news source, iirc.

    As I understand it, using certain parts of the brain results in that part generating more neural connections, and more neural connections means faster processing.

    There's also the fact that performing mental feats results in sort of a mental muscle-memory, much like practicing a sport or something. You do something a lot, you get better at both it and related activities.

    Though as mentioned, "smart" is so vague a term, and there a lot of forms of intelligence that aren't always recognized as such. You see someone who's a master violinist, and he's "brilliant". But someone like Michael Jordan is just a dumb jock who's really good at throwing balls at things.

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  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    These games may not make you smarter, but playing them helps you retain your mental acuity in your later years. Elderly folks who do the morning crossword puzzle every day can stave off mental degradation, even Alzheimer's for years.

    The brain is not a bicep, but it is a use it or lose it organ.

    That sounds a little... Deepak Chopra/Keven Trudeau-ey. Cite?

    No cite, but I've heard this, too. It was a study mentioned in some fairly reputable online news source, iirc.

    As I understand it, using certain parts of the brain results in that part generating more neural connections, and more neural connections means faster processing.

    There's also the fact that performing mental feats results in sort of a mental muscle-memory, much like practicing a sport or something. You do something a lot, you get better at both it and related activities.

    Though as mentioned, "smart" is so vague a term, and there a lot of forms of intelligence that aren't always recognized as such. You see someone who's a master violinist, and he's "brilliant". But someone like Michael Jordan is just a dumb jock who's really good at throwing balls at things.

    My (admittedly) surface understanding is that a lot of the "brain-training" games largely serve to make you better at that given task. I can understand being good at one thing and applying analogous ideas toward something similar or relevant (ex: Magic: the Gathering uses concepts that are used in many, many other games and provides the foundation for being god at many other games, and being good at basketball increases your generic eye-hand coordination which can be applied to other sports) but... I'm not convinced that, say, doing Sudoku all the time is going to result in anything significantly more appreciable than being pretty good at Sudoku.

    So... I guess in keeping with what you say, it may, as per my understanding, result in faster processing. But is it faster processing in an appreciable, relevant way?

    Loren Michael on
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  • QuidQuid Definitely not a banana Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Faster processing in discerning simple patterns I'd imagine.

    Quid on
  • OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    According to Information Processing Theory, we forget things because we let the networks our brain stored those things on deteriorate from lack of use. As long as we're using information, we're building or rebuilding those networks, but once we stop they degrade because it's not worth the energy required for upkeep. Those things that we use a lot, on the other hand, are going to be thoroughly networked because we look at them in a lot of different contexts in relation to lots of different things.

    So if you play a lot of Sudoku, you're fleshing out the neural connections associated with it. But it's not going to make you better at speaking French or understanding International Law.

    According to this theory in particular, the way to keep individual connections and networks strong is to use them, which means you need to be using ALL of your networks if you want to avoid degradation overall. So staying active and mentally engaged is probably more useful than playing tons of chess or whatever if you're trying to stave off memory loss due to age.

    OptimusZed on
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  • durandal4532durandal4532 Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    One of the other explanations for that is that people who are active and mentally engaged are more easily able to trick friends and relatives into thinking they're not going a bit off in the head, because they have more and more reliable resources to draw upon.

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  • Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    One of the other explanations for that is that people who are active and mentally engaged are more easily able to trick friends and relatives into thinking they're not going a bit off in the head, because they have more and more reliable resources to draw upon.

    Sounds like Donald Pleasence "seeing" the pin in The Great Escape :P

    In an attempt to make this post relevant, coming up with trivial references like this leads a lot of people to think that I'm smarter than I actually am - that and the fact that whenever anyone asks a question to the room at work, I'm the first one to resort to Wikipedia. I like making connections between things, which could be seen as "smart" but could just as easily be seen as having a train of thought which keeps on swapping tracks.

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  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Like half of the thread, I recall hearing about studies that showed Sudoku and such slowed or reversed cognitive decline in the elderly, but hunting through Google scholar has completely failed to give me a reference. The closest I could find was a study on the prevalence of 'mental fitness' articles in men's and women's health magazines which found that in all cases no source was cited for 'studies' referenced. And this:
    http://www.hammiverse.com/instructionalunits/neuroscience/articles/exerciseonthebrain.pdf

    Which is a NYT article that also fails to cite sources, but was written by the editor of Nature Neuroscience and a professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton. The tl;dr version is: playing video games or doing puzzles will make you better at the tasks involved, the gains from which may last for years, but that the best overall way to decrease cognitive decline with age is physical exercise.

    That said, I don't think any leisure activity that doesn't involve oxygen deprivation or the ingestion of chemicals can possible 'make you stupider'. You may not be learning anything new by engaging in your hobby but it won't make you any dumber.

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  • ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
    --William Shakespeare
    God that was so pretentious I actually feel physically dirty.

    Shoulda gone oldschool.

    Wisest is he who knows that he knows not.
    --Socrates
    Hi5 pretentious buddy!

    Forar on
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  • Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Forar wrote: »
    The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
    --William Shakespeare
    God that was so pretentious I actually feel physically dirty.

    Shoulda gone oldschool.

    Wisest is he who knows that he knows not.
    --Socrates
    Hi5 pretentious buddy!

    All we are is dust in the wind, dude.

    Rhesus Positive on
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  • EchoEcho ski-bap ba-dapModerator mod
    edited August 2010
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    Though as mentioned, "smart" is so vague a term, and there a lot of forms of intelligence that aren't always recognized as such. You see someone who's a master violinist, and he's "brilliant". But someone like Michael Jordan is just a dumb jock who's really good at throwing balls at things.

    Theory of multiple intelligences

    Michael Jordan would have high kinesthetic intelligence.

    Echo on
  • OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Echo wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    Though as mentioned, "smart" is so vague a term, and there a lot of forms of intelligence that aren't always recognized as such. You see someone who's a master violinist, and he's "brilliant". But someone like Michael Jordan is just a dumb jock who's really good at throwing balls at things.

    Theory of multiple intelligences

    Michael Jordan would have high kinesthetic intelligence.
    MI isn't really a terribly respected view of human intelligence in the cognitive science community. It's viewed more positively than Learning Styles and such, but it's mostly seen as a set of false categorizations that don't have a whole lot of resonance in actual mental processes.

    Most approaches to defining intelligence deal with metacognition, or one's ability to understand how one thinks and apply that appropriately to learning and applying knowledge.

    OptimusZed on
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  • Hockey JohnstonHockey Johnston Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I just saw a NOVA about Alzheimer's where they seemed pretty certain that people who continued working staved off the effects of the disease longer.

    So at least for some kinds of dementia, staying mentally engaged appears to have a real effect. And when middle aged people talk about sudoku or crosswords, they're really worried about their staying sharp over the long haul more than 'becoming smarter'.

    Hockey Johnston on
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