Twentysomethings may have the sharpest minds but over-70s have a superior way with words

Twentysomethings may have the sharpest minds but over-70s have a superior way with words, Great British Intelligence Test reveals

  • The test was developed by the BBC and Imperial College London neuroscientists
  • More than 250,000 Britons have already participated in the online brain study
  • Results suggest that our problem solving abilities are at their peak in our 20s
  • This means that a 40 and a 12-year-old have the same problem solving capacity
  • The findings will be presented in a Horizon special scheduled to air on May 4

If you want to impress your children with your mental prowess, you might want to give escape rooms a miss and pull out the scrabble board instead.

Twentysomethings may have the sharpest minds — but over-70s have a superior way with words, the Great British Intelligence Test has revealed.

The BBC’s online test — developed in tandem with neuroscientists from Imperial College London — has been taken by more than 250,000 people from across the UK.

Researchers found that our ability to solve problems appears to peak in our twenties — and then declines steadily as we get older.

As a result, the experts say that forty-year-old adults have the same problem solving capacities as their twelve-year-old children.

However, it’s not all bad news for those of us getting on in years.

The researchers also found that our vocabularies continue increasing well into our 80s, rather than peaking in our 50s–60s as previously thought.

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Twentysomethings may have the sharpest minds — but over-70s have a superior way with words, the Great British Intelligence Test has revealed

Twentysomethings may have the sharpest minds — but over-70s have a superior way with words, the Great British Intelligence Test has revealed

BATTLE OF THE BRITISH BRAINS!

In an upcoming ‘Horizon’ special, the BBC will be putting the public’s smarts to the test — pitting young vs old, men against women and readers vs techies.

The test, however, has already revealed some ‘winners’ and ‘losers’:

  • The UK’s top problem solvers live in Bristol.
  • Meanwhile, Londoners have the greatest emotional intelligence.
  • Midlothian in Scotland harbours those with the best verbal abilities.
  • Cat owners have greater vocabularies than dog owners.
  • People who eat more fruit and veg. have better problem solving abilities and verbal intelligence.
  • Students at the University of Cambridge have better problem-solving skills than their Oxford peers.

‘Our online IQ test is different from a conventional one,’ explains BBC presenter and trained psychiatrist Michael Mosley.

‘it measures lots of different aspects of intelligence, from cognitive skills like problem-solving to memory and verbal ability.’

But, he added, the tests also asks people ‘to provide information about things like their age and how much time they spend on social media.’

This enabled the researchers to explore how our present use of technology is impacting our intelligence.

For example, researchers found that those people who reported showing signs of internet addiction — such as by getting up to check their smartphones in the middle of the night — appear to have a greater likelihood of experiencing anxiety and depression.

This association was particularly pronounced in the younger generations, the survey found.

‘I think the most shocking finding was the tight link we found between time spent on social media and mental health,’ Dr Mosley added.

‘Although there has been lots of concern about this, no-one has done a study which is quite as big as this one.’

However, modern technology does come with some benefits, the results also suggest — with scores on verbal intelligence tests found to increase the more time people spent searching the internet.

In addition, more time spent playing video games seems to be associated with a better performance in tests of spatial working memory, attention and verbal reasoning.

The BBC's online test — developed in tandem with neuroscientists from Imperial College London — has been taken by more than 250,000 people from across the UK. Pictured, presenters Hannah Fry (left) and Michael Moseley (right) will present the results of the Great British Intelligence Test in a Horizon special that will air on BBC Two during May 2020

The BBC’s online test — developed in tandem with neuroscientists from Imperial College London — has been taken by more than 250,000 people from across the UK. Pictured, presenters Hannah Fry (left) and Michael Moseley (right) will present the results of the Great British Intelligence Test in a Horizon special that will air on BBC Two during May 2020

'I think the most shocking finding was the tight link we found between time spent on social media and mental health,' Dr Mosley said. 'Although there has been lots of concern about this, no-one has done a study which is quite as big as this one'

‘I think the most shocking finding was the tight link we found between time spent on social media and mental health,’ Dr Mosley said. ‘Although there has been lots of concern about this, no-one has done a study which is quite as big as this one’

Dr Mosley concluded that he hopes the public realises that intelligence is not an inherent trait that one is born with, but something that can be cultivated and preserved as one frowns.

‘We all have the power to affect our own intelligence,’ agreed his co-presenter and mathematician Hannah Fry, of the University College London.

‘Exercise, grit, determination and practice can all have an effect on what we’re good at,’ she added.

‘Horizon: The Great British Intelligence Test’ will air on BBC Two on May 4, 2020.

During the programme, viewers at home will be able to put their own intelligence to the test be visiting the BBC website.

‘INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT’ (IQ) IS A MEASURE OF MENTAL ABILITY

IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient and it is used to measure mental ability.

The abbreviation ‘IQ’ was first coined by psychologist William Stern to describe the German term Intelligenzquotient.

Historically, IQ is a score achieved by dividing a person’s mental age, obtained with an intelligence test, by their age.

The resulting fraction is then multiplied by 100 to obtain an IQ score.

An IQ of 100 has long been considered the median score.

Because of the way the test results are scaled, a person with an IQ of 60 is not half as intelligent as someone with an IQ of 120.

The arrangement of IQ scores also means that results are ‘normally distributed’, meaning just as many people score either side of the average.

For example, the same amount of people score 70 as people who score 130.

Although the accuracy of intelligence tests is somewhat disputed, they are still widely used.

For Mensa, the acceptance score requires members to be within the top two per cent of the general population.

Depending on the IQ test, this can require a score of at least 130.

Famous people’s IQ scores:

  • Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking – 160
  • Donald Trump – 156
  • Emma Watson – 138
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger – 135
  • Nicole Kidman – 132

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