Linking Glasses And Brainpower

Scientists have taken a careful look at one of the most important issues of our time and have found that there is, in fact, a link between innate brainpower and wearing glasses.  The findings warm the hearts the bespectacled among us — including, no doubt, many of the very scientists who conducted the study in the first place.

copilot-style-201506-1434641377474_lebron-james-01In research conducted by the University of Edinburgh, more than 40,000 people took a variety of tests that provided a general cognitive ability score, and also allowed their genetic data to be examined.  Researchers then probed the genetic data — including looking at more than 100 genomic regions that are associated with enhanced cognition — and found a correlation between intelligence and poor eyesight, with the smarter participants being, on average, 30 percent more likely to need reading glasses than those who scored poorly on the cognition tests.

And because the study involved actual cognition test data, the results shouldn’t be influenced by the “glasses effect” — namely, the general societal perception that those who wear glasses must be smarter because glasses are thought to make you look smarter.  Indeed, the lead researcher said the study “has identified many genetic differences that contribute to the heritability of thinking skills.”  So in addition to passing along the dreaded nearsighted genes, we glasses-wearers may also be passing along better thinking capabilities, too.

It all makes me want to square my shoulders, adjust my glasses, and — for today at least — proudly bear the name “four eyes.”

Changing Over Time

Here’s some welcome, but not especially surprising, news:  scientists have concluded that our personalities change over time.

seniors_teensThe University of Edinburgh did an interesting study that confirms what should be obvious — people in their teenage years are a lot different from those same people as geriatrics.  The study looked at data compiled about the personality and character traits of people who were evaluated in 1947, at age 14, as part of the Scottish Mental Survey, and then tried to track down those same people down years later, when they hit age 77, to evaluate them again.  The study looked a personal qualities like self-confidence, perseverance, stability of moods, conscientiousness, originality, and desire to excel, and found very little correlation between the 14-year-olds and the 77-year-olds on the conscientiousness and stability of moods qualities, and no correlation on the others.

Any study of personality and character traits is not going to be as precise as, say, measuring the flow or neutrinos, because of observer bias.  The University of Edinburgh results, for example, rely on teacher assessments of the 14-year-olds — it’s not hard to imagine that your gym teacher might have a different take on self-confidence than your English teacher, for example —  and the 77-year-olds rated themselves and identified a close friend or family member to complete the survey.  I imagine, however, that by age 77 most people are going to drop the posturing and evaluate themselves pretty honestly.

So life, and time, change you.  No surprise there!  It would be weird indeed if a lifetime of experiences, good and bad, didn’t actually alter the way you reacted to other people and the world at large.  I carry around memories from my 14-year-old self, but other than that I don’t really feel a great connection to that awkward, tubby, dreamy, self-absorbed person on the verge of high school — which is kind of a relief, really.  I imagine that if most of us met our 14-year-old selves, we’d find it fascinating, but then conclude that we really weren’t all that likable back then, and give our parents, siblings, and friends a lot more credit for putting up with us.

The key, of course, is to change for the better.  It’s a worthy goal.