Scientists raised two groups of mice and then measured their intelligence. The first group was kept in traditional mouse surroundings. They had a cage, food, water wood chips and nothing else. The other group was given a much more exciting environment. They had balls, running wheels, colored blocks, mazes, tunnels, doors, hanging ropes, pictures, etc.
The mice that were exposed to more variety developed a much higher IQ, than the ones that had a boring environment.
Does this mean that we should all add slides, fire poles, and ball pits to our houses? Maybe. But a less extreme and possibly more effective option is to simply make sure you do new things on a regular basis.
Doing something new doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. You don’t have to climb Everest or spend years studying martial arts in the East. Even simple things like meeting someone new can be an effective way to keep yourself exposed to new ideas and new points of view.
Here is a list of some ideas:
- Take a different route home from work.
- Take a different mode of transportation than normal.
- Read a magazine that you would normally never pick up.
- Watch a highly rated movie that isn’t something you’d normally see.
- Spend some time talking about politics with someone who disagrees with you.
- Go into a store you’ve never visited at the mall.
- Try a restaurant that serves food you’ve never tried.
- Visit a foreign country.
- Take on a second job where you will learn something.
- Volunteer somewhere.
- Write some physical letters instead of email.
- Listen and try to understand music that you don’t usually enjoy.
- Buy and wear clothes that are different than your normal style.
- Take a pottery or basket weaving class.
- Go to a drive in movie.
- Go on a tour of a large business.
- Go to a sporting event you’ve never attended.
One thing I’ve found is that when I decide to do something new, my brain tries to talk me out of it. So if I’m getting ready to go to a new museum I’ll have an internal tug-o-war between following my plan or going to a familiar bookstore. If you are going to do new things, you’ll have to get over this. It is usually easier to start small and build up, but the biggest benefits usually come from doing the things that make you the most uncomfortable.
What new things have you tried that moved you out of your comfort zone?
I tried a few things, like writing a blog in new language. My english isn’t very good, so started blogging in english and it helped me a lot. I also took some new books which looked to me not worth time, but I read them and found something new!
And of course, not the biggest new thing, but the big challenge was to try a new computer operating system. This was a real challenge, to learn a lot of new things in computer using, but il helped me a lot. When I see something new in computer apps and have to use it I don’t get confused, just trying to find what I need.
Positively Present says
I love the list of ideas! There are a lot of ways to do something new here that don’t seem totally out there. I love it. Thanks!!
Enrique S says
I find the best way to get out of a rut is to jump into something new, whether it’s a book or movie or new restaurant. Once, just switching the brand of beer that I drank put me in a different mood (maybe it had a higher alcohol content?). Keep adding more wrinkles to your brain.
Francisco Carneiro says
although I agree with what you are saying, the idea of measuring a mouse’s IQ is strange to me. I can see an area of the brain being more active or the mouse being more efficient in solving puzzles, but if quantifying a person’s intelligence is already hard enough when we can speak in the same terms, imagine with animals!
Mark Shead says
@Francisco – I believe scientists have some type of standardized framework that shows how quickly a mouse can figure out a maze and recall it from previous experience. It might actually be simpler with mice than with humans, but obviously I’m not an expert on how mice are tested for IQ. Even if mice IQ is hard to measure on a absolute scale, the setting of the experiment mentioned made it a bit easier to test because they could compare the mice to each other on the same tests in the exact same setting.
When it comes to human intelligence, I’m not sure how hard it actually is to measure raw IQ. I think the thing that has made it more difficult is that IQ doesn’t correlate with success so people have started looking for things like “emotional intelligence” and other factors that can make you successful. So even if it is easy to figure out how smart someone is, it is much more difficult to determine how well they will do in life.
Sherman Hu says
Hey Mark, thanks for the fabulously brilliant blog posts! I find myself consistently tweeting your entries to my tweeps ;-)
“Predictably Unpredictable” is what I’ve been known to be, so one of my common practice at restaurants is to ask the waiter to “Surprise me!” Usually ”fries the brains” of friends who are typically predictable.
For the uninitiated, ask the waiter for their favorite dishes to determine if you’re going to get a good recommendation, or ask the waiter to surprise you with a “popular & delicious dish” ;-)
Toby Doncaster says
@Sherman Hu: love the waiter idea, ’cause I always do the same thing. However, I also go for “comfort zoning” by eating the same dish at the same restaurant; Chao Ho Fun Beef & Veg at the Wong Kei in Soho, London, for the last 25 years!
Last year, it was becoming a motorcycle instructor, passing the government’s assessment scheme and training to become a trainer in motorcycle instruction. This year, I’m applying to do an MA in education.
I find that choosing to do something different by spring-boarding from what I know very reassuring, so I was a biker for years, and decided that I could apply my skills in a different context which I feel is far more achievable for me than trying something completely new and unrelated.