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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 08-Sep-13

 


Sunday 08-September-13

Remember your grandparents!

Some cultures have a lot of focus on the past and ancestors may even be worshipped. To those in different cultures (like mine) this may seem a tad strange, though perhaps essentially harmless. But I do think of my parents and even my grandparents now and again, and perhaps very occasionally muse about more distant relations, such as a Victorian ancestor who started a long-running family business.

So what's the point? Is thinking about your ancestors really any use? Peter Fischer's team in the Universities of Graz, Berlin did some interesting experiments that gave the remarkable result of showing that thinking about our ancestors makes us more confident and even makes us smarter, boosting our performance in intelligence tests. Wow!

Subjects were asked to spend five minutes thinking about either their fifteenth century ancestors, their great-grandparents or a recent shopping trip. After thinking about both sets of ancestors, recent and distant, the subjects felt more confident about their potential performance in exams. Further tests showed an actual improvement in intelligence tests, for example where subjects who thought about their distant ancestors scored on average of 14 out of 16, compared with an average of 10 out of 16 among control subjects. That's a significant improvement!

The effect that Fischer and his colleagues think that is happening is that when we think about how our ancestors struggled and won through in times that were a lot less easy than they are now, then we realize that we have the same genes and so become more confident, which leads to more effort during the intelligence tests.

So next time you need a confidence boost or are about to take a test, think about your granny!

Reference: Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C., and Weisweiler, S. (2011). The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 1, 11?16


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