Can you change your general cognitive ability? The answer for high school, college and university students is a resounding yes, and maybe even to a sizable degree. IQ* has a mean ranking of 100, the average numerical score. Nearly everybody understands the scale. The issue of change has always centered around parental IQ inheritance and modern adult scoring modifications. Children’s score to a degree rests on parental gene factors and a solid home foundation, i.e., good neighbourhoods who share your values for your children's peer-to-peer socialization. Adults however can score valid change as they evolve. In the past considered by scientists immutable, research shows certain activities, what we want to call, broadly speaking, Puzzle Solving, effect mental processes which alter IQ upwards. [See, The Brain That Changes ItselfChange Your Brain, Change Your Life, The Marshmallow TestPredictably IrrationalSmarter, all of Oliver Sacks books, especially, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; Big BrainMind in the Making; The Future of Mind and Brain Maker.] The reverse is also true. Non-activity in Puzzle Solving events decreases ranking. The brain organ needs to exert itself, and to do so in a strenuous manner. You’ve heard the old cliche of no pain no gain in regards to your physical fitness. It’s true for your mental abilities as well. You aren’t bound by your genetics, high school education or economic circumstances. Solid scientific correlations exist between your IQ ranking and shifts in your intelligence, health, longevity, economic independence and self-image. Get smarter and these improve. The higher your ranking, the stronger the correlations. They are most effected upward by reading, and in particular, self-motivated reading above one’s ranking, i.e., comprehending intellectual matters outside one’s intellectual comfortableness. Another way of saying it: to get smarter you must suffer through a lot of conceptual confusion and complexity until you begin solving the “ultimate” puzzle.

Reading fine literature, science, philosophy, politics, ethics and other controversial subjects elevates the whole experience of the self. The mind expands over time, solving or trying to solve, the gigantic organic puzzles of life. The brain must ply its trade – earn its keep – and do so without immediate gratification.

Will you live longer if you read War and Peace? If you read The Power and the Glory, Crime and Punishment, Of Mice and Men, Pride and Prejudice, In Search of Lost TimeThe Sound and the Fury, Fathers and Sons and hundreds of other works normally referred to as heady or heavy reading, then likely you are conceptually puzzle solving at the highest level. Therefore you are affecting an upward IQ event over time in yourself. Thus you fall into the correlation between IQ and longevity.

Will you achieve economic independence if you read The Wealthy Barber, Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Latte FactorThe Little Book of Common Sense Investing? If you are reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street, What Wall Street Doesn’t Want You to Know, Crash Proof, Capitalism Socialism and Democracy, Economic Sophisms, The Wealth of Nations, Human Action, Man Economy and State, Capitalism and Freedom, Classical Economics Reconsidered, Individualism and Economic Order and other works by economists, then you are puzzle solving.

Will your health increase if you read Dr. George Watson’s Nutrition and Your Mind? Then take a stab at The Primal BlueprintWheat BellyGrain BrainThe Paleo DietSalt Sugar FatWarrior DietWhy We Get FatFat ChanceOmnivore's DilemmaThe Vitamin D SolutionFast Food NationThe Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate LivingDeath By Food PyramidBig Fat Surprise, The Magnesium Miracle and other health and wellness related works, you’ll be puzzle solving.

Have you increased your intelligence if you understand A Brief History of Time, The Concept of Mind, The Theory of Relativity, Physics for Poets, Origins of Life, The Origin of the Species, A History of Knowledge, The Blind Watchmaker, A Short History of Progress, Sweet Dreams, Reason and Analysis and other such complex works? If you increase your fundamental knowledge based on arduous reading – reading difficult and complex subject matters – your intelligence is increasing; you’re becoming smarter, your self-image is growing.

Is it work? Maybe even hard work. Nonetheless, the habit of reading in this manner is an award beyond any material calculation. It will put you to sleep and it will wake you up. Can you start the habit? Get a random list of must-read books (like the 45 or so mentioned above), and start reading; want to pick up the reading habit, read a page a day without fail for 100 days. 

* I don’t put any stock in IQ measurement per se, (especially formal tests). I mean it mostly by way of analogy. My theory is that (with practice), intelligence, puzzle-solving, reason, etcetera, go (in general) hand and hand, and moreover, get easier with hard focused work as the decades go by. Thus, in some meaningful sense, (over time) you get “smarter” as you exert more mental effort. The practical result of this on the world stage is the ‘Flynn Effect’: a rise over time in measurement in tests of mental intelligence seen nearly throughout the whole world and first noticed in Japan in the twenties. The world, indeed the human race as a whole, is increasing its cognitive ability as education increases around the globe. Moreover the original view that genetics accounted (principally) in intelligence has by this general rise and re-norming upwards (of the IQ test to get it to its arbitrary "100"), falsified the view that genetic theory was the primary element of human intelligence.