Just One Extra Year Of Education Makes You Smarter

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School is not just about learning new knowledge and acquiring a different understanding of the world, it can literally bump up your IQ. This idea is backed by a new Psychological Science study, in which researchers conducted a large meta-analysis and discovered that just one year of schooling leads to a small bump in IQ test scores.

For years, researchers have noted a correlation between numbers of years in education and IQ-measured intelligence. What was not clear was if education was the cause of higher intelligence or a consequence. People with higher IQ might be doing better in the educational system and that’s the reason they stay longer.

"Our analyses provide the strongest evidence yet that education raises intelligence test scores," lead author Stuart J. Ritchie, from the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement. "We looked at 42 datasets using several different research designs and found that, overall, adding an extra year of schooling in this way improved people's IQ scores by between 1 and 5 points."

The researchers looked at three particular kinds of studies. The first type followed individuals over time with measurements taken before and after they completed their education. The second one looked at tests conducted after changes in policy that resulted in longer compulsory schooling for children and what effects these had on IQ. The third type looked at how age cut-offs for education influenced intelligence tests.

To be included in the analyses, the data had to be obtained from objective measurements of cognitively healthy individuals aged six or older. The researchers ended up with 42 data sets, based on 28 studies and a total of 615,812 individuals.

"We felt the time was right to do a meta-analysis, combining all the previous studies to come up with an overall result for how much education boosts intelligence," Ritchie explains.

An interesting consequence of this study was the discovery of a long-lasting effect of this educational bump. The increase not only appeared after completing school but also in adults, some in their 70s and 80s. As it is often said, education has lifelong advantages.

The researchers feel this is just the beginning of a more detailed area of research and that many questions remain: What part of the education system has the largest impact? Does this effect have limits?

It is certainly a fascinating field to study. This research also reminds us that many around the world in both extremely wealthy and extremely poor countries cannot access education due to their circumstances. It is important to continue to strive for everyone’s access to education.

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