Study: Ignorance is Bliss and a Sign of Intelligence



Have you ever felt badly about ignoring somebody even if it wasn’t intentional? If so, don’t worry about it. Chances are, you did this because you are a really intelligent person.

According to a new study from researchers at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, those with a really high IQ are better at ignoring things they don’t consider to be important. This, consequently, allows them to retain more knowledge. Meanwhile, those on the other end of the scale have more trouble disregarding what could be deemed as distractions.

To draw these conclusions, researchers had individuals participate in a visual test designed to shed some light on their “working memory,” the part of the memory that allows us to remember things like what channel your favourite, daily television program is on.

For the test, participants were presented a series of coloured boxes (which appeared on the screen for less than a second) and tasked with remembering as many of the boxes as they could. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, objects designed to distract those being quizzed would pop up.

In order to better gauge how minds functioned during the testing – including what they were, or were not reacting to – participants wore EEG brains caps.

After testing, it was discovered that those who were able to ignore the distractions did much better on memory-based tasks than those who couldn’t.

Considering the continually evolving technological world we live in, it has become tougher to remain focused on one thing at a time. Between, texts, social media updates, push notifications for the mobile games we play and the ability to load our phones and tablets with a multitude of apps, we often have a lot coming at us at once – and this doesn’t even include one-on-one human interaction!

As such, it makes you wonder: if this is how the world continues to go, maybe we’ll one day be able to train our minds to better handle distractions and not let them dumb us down. How awesome would that be?

-Adam Grant