Thursday, April 06, 2006

Slow Starters have Higher IQ?

There’s an article at Science Daily which discusses the above news item. What is interesting to me is something else. I have a hypothesis based on some of my understandings on evolution of human being. I am quite fascinated by the evolution of animals (Human being in particular) and I have been pursuing this interesting for some time now. My learning is:

1. Universe has been in existence for over 12 billion years (could be 15 according to some estimates). Earth has been in existence for over 4 billion years. Life formed around 3 billions years ago. Life was primarily simple (and single cellular) for over a billion years and then it started to become complex. Dinosaurs started around 250 million years ago (and lived for 150 million years). Our ancestor species diverged from apes around 7 million years ago, and human began to act more like human around 250,000 years ago, and modern man came about 80,000 years ago. He has started to settle down (agriculture) around 10,000 years ago, and the major civilizations started around 5000 years ago. [Most of these numbers are from top of my head. Some of the definitions, like when did we actually become human, are ambiguous].

2. Humans became more intelligent because of the following reasons

a. Depleting forests and increasing grasslands forced some of our ancestors to come down to ground from the trees

b. Sudden change in our locomotion behavior (standing on two legs instead of four) allowed us to use hands for various purposes (tool making) and increased our brain size. (a big portion of our brain is devoted to using our hands)

c. Our maternal behavior, of keeping the kid close to mother, nurturing, protecting over a prolonged duration has allowed our brains to grow the fastest and the biggest from the time of birth to the age of five.

d. Size of the brain (in ratio with size of body) is extremely important measure for intelligence of a species (don’t take this on an individual level)

3. My readings on this are simple- the humans are intelligent because they have their mom to protect them against nature. They don’t have to develop the necessary (locomotion or tactile) skills to ward of enemy or find food. During this time alone, the kid’s brain grows the fastest because there is no other pressure. Compare this to another mammal (Say, a calf). It can stand the next minute it is born and can run within an hour. It starts finding its own food very soon. In these animals, the brain does not grow when it has to- that is, in the first few months and years. While it develops locomotory and survival skills the fastest, its brain does not grow enough to allow it to become intelligent.

4. Therefore, to create a smarter kid, the human child has to be protected and nurtured longer in the first few years. And that means, the kid should be growing slowly in other aspects- like talking, walking, holding, etc, so as to allow his/her brain to grow to its maximum potential (cortex thickens, etc).

5. My conclusion- Don’t push your kids to grab and hold things, walk, use his body to crawl, eat, talk, etc. Instead, just pamper it to the most and nurture it. Anyway, the kid will start doing all the above things once his brain size has grown enough.

I see many parents (here in India) who want to see their kid walking, talking, crawling, etc, before the kids of same age to prove their kid is smarter. Most of the parents get quite concerned when their kids don’t talk by a certain age, or walk by certain age, or crawl by certain age. They almost get into panic mode and push the kids to perform or they take the kid to a doctor to consult.

My hypothesis: If you want smarter kids, don’t let them do anything other than observe, feed and sleep, and meanwhil, keep telling yourself that you are allowing your kid to grow smarter.


  1. Though hard to believe, this is interesting nevertheless.

  2. hey, thats a interesting point. My son is almost a year old. Maybe I will take off all his toys and let him just observe me going about my tasks, eh?

  3. Supporting your third point:
    In the pure biological terms if you look at the body profile of a human and any other mammal you can say that the body of a man/woman is so well developed and well shaped.Since the size of vagina is so small in proportion to other mammal counterparts the human baby's head and brain will not be fully developed.This will faciliate child birth easier through the smaller vaginal size.

    If you happen to see the head of a new born child the cranial bones are not fully developed and it wont fully cover the head.Part of the head will be covered with tissue and skin.Much of the development of the brain happens after the child is born i.e more external influences and inputs are in one way or other helps the brain in adapting to the new environment soon and it would take atleast one full year for complete development.

    The child will start to look in the first few days, start to roll in the first few months, start to lift itself up in 7 to 8 months time and walk fully in one year time.During this time human baby will be receptive to so many new stimuli which help train the brain when it is being developed.So more the stimuli more will be the capability which will convert to smartness.

    On the other hand the brains of other mammals are fully developed at birth such that a new born calf will be able to start walking right out of the box :-))

  4. A useful resource on this matter:

  5. Dear Anonymous:
    Thanks a lot of the information. I am not a biologist. I just an enthusiast who likes to dig deeper into evolution of man. I am happy to see your comments supporting some of my arguments.

  6. must I give you the news, of which is oposite to the subject of your discussion, in such a crude method. there is a spelling mistake in your first paragraph.

  7. I would rather prefer to just let the kids do what they want (as long as its not destructive), rather than forcing development in a particular direction.

    You say "don’t let them do anything other than observe". isn't it analogous to "You have to become an engineer because I think its good for you".

    There are some kids who are interested more in toys, some who prefer watching others, some who make a racket, some who keep quiet. There is already a diversity. We should lets the kid guide the development path rather than forcing our views . The effort should be towards making the kid more humane. Not let him/her bully others etc. Regarding I.Q. let the kid explore the path.

  8. Hey,
    I know this is an old post and I find a lot of your post make sense but this one is really dumb and not well researched.
    Infants at the time of birth have the highest number of brain cells and they start dying off from the moment of birth.
    Also infants will benefit from some prodding and help to start learning how to talk, toilet training etc.
    What is not needed is a fanatical devotion to ensure that you don't transfer your aspirations on to your children.
    Plus this argument of using difference races cranial capacities was one used by English colonialist to assuage their massive egos that colonialism is good for people since white people have larger cranial capacities.
    They used this theory to come up with a hierarchy of races within India and they put it to good use by playing favorites with some and generally deepening our already considerable divisions.

  9. raj:

    You said the following about this article:
    but this one is really dumb and not well researched.

    And why did you say this? Because you believe that

    Infants at the time of birth have the highest number of brain cells and they start dying off from the moment of birth.

    I don't claim to be an expert on genetics or evolution. But the geneticists and biologists that I have read seem to have a different opinion.

    It is captured here in an article in NATURE.

    ...the modern human brain represents only 25% of its adult size at birth and continues to grow at its fast fetal rate during the first year of life. At 1 yr of age the human brain is 50% of its adult size and at 10 yr 95% of the adult brain size is achieved.

    Hmm.. my research doesn't look dumb at all, after all.

    I don't mind taking criticism, but I do get annoyed by dumb and not-well-researched criticism, which seems to unnecessarily waste my time.

    Next time, please be careful and if possible, spend some time to make a search on Google or Wiki.

  10. Sujai,
    I found all over Internet and in some books that the human brain has maximum number of neurons during child birth and ever since then it starts dying off. So Raj's comment is not wrong per se.

    I know nothing much about all these, so I searched a bit and found in this website:

    "You may wonder, "How does the brain continue to grow, if the brain has most of the neurons it will get when you are born?". The answer is in glial cells. Glia continues to divide and multiply. Glia carries out many important functions for normal brain function including insulating nerve cells with myelin. The neurons in the brain also make many new connections after birth."

  11. Sahodaran:
    I was talking about the size of the brain, not the number of neurons!

  12. Intelligence has nothing to do with how fast you can think.

    Intelligence has more to do with how much Deep abstract, analytical and innovative thinking you are capable of.

    Which is why most mathematicians are highly intelligent people.

    What is use of thinking fast if you cannot think DEEP.


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