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Understanding Your Inner Genius

We are all a guru in our own way. Discover your own inner guru as we reveal what scientists have discovered through a fascinating study on intelligence.

Understanding Your Inner Genius is rated 3.3 out of 5 by 9.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good general introduction I found this course to be a good general introduction of overview on a very interesting subject. Each lesson gave a good broad brush of it's subject, along with results of various studies done. Since this course was only 9 lessons long and some lessons were less than 20 minutes this was exactly what I expected from the course. Since the course depth was what I expected I was not disappointed in any way. The lecturer projected an interest in the subject while not being as excited by it as some other course lecturers. I enjoyed the course and would recommend it to anyone wanting a brief overview not an in depth course. Overall I am glad I gave it my time.
Date published: 2022-07-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from disappointment Of all the courses I have purchased, it is interesting that you asked me to review the one I dislike the most from those I have viewed. They are all fantastic! But this one.... the speaker very requently looked off-camera as if speaking to someone else in the room, rather than looking at the camera, which engages the listerner far more. If I were listening but not watching, this tactic might work. As it was, though, it felt very much like she was not including the actual listener in her presentation. I have not yet encountered this with any other course.
Date published: 2022-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Information, Poor Delivery While the information conveyed is useful, the lecturer’s delivery is wooden, monotonous, and excessively academic.
Date published: 2022-06-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing This was read (obviously) from a script summarizing various research regarding human intellect and intelligence. I'm sorry to say it was dry and uninspiring.
Date published: 2022-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and Practical I like when so-called critiques are actual validations of the quality of the content. I would hope that a “course” by The Great Courses and Scientific American is “academic.” I’ve completed this course, and it’s not slow at all. In fact, it’s pretty fast-paced and has a combination of “how”s and “why”s. The presenter’s delivery has really improved over her first course. And the lectures clock in at around 25 minutes each, which makes for a pretty quick pace. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2022-03-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Your Inner Genius Too slow moving, too academic. I lost interest. Now the computer says my statement is too short. That's annoying.
Date published: 2022-03-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Genius Topics, Academic Version I found the offering to have interesting material about how "gifted and talented" should be, and have been, best engaged. Useful material about how to best manage personal "gifts and talents" also is offered. As other reviewers have noted, however, genius lists presented rarely include anyone in finance, enterprise, commerce, engineering, mainly art, literature, and science. The picks seem to come from a politically correct academic framework. Some topics lacked depth and clarity. Some seemed like academic "hasty pudding". Please consider that many topics here, like nutrition, exercise, meditation, child learning, are much better represented by other The Great Courses/ Wondrium offerings. PRO's * The Guidebook is a great abbreviated transcript. Great links and visuals within the Guidebook are in place, from the Table of Contents to chapters and such. * The first chapter discusses the nurture vs nature debate. Various anecdotal examples are given concerning the lack of true definition of great intelligence, and that the talents of literature and science and may be very different. A part of my graduate work concerned "Design Engineering", consisting of brainstorming with others about outlandish solutions and analytically picking the best; and this beneficial activity is a takeaway here. Great work! * The exercise chapter recommends that employers and communities have exercise facilities. Great! However, not present are public policy exercise recommendations to improve the "remote work" scenario infrastructure and workout incentives so that instead of commuting time, folks have exercise time. See CONs below. This chapter is a well-motivated but "hasty pudding". * The Ah-Ha chapter reinforces my practice of taking a walk, nap, exercise break, whenever I have to make a hazy decision about creative computer development activity, presentations, asset management, social activities, daily fixups, everything. As Helmuth recommends, I've also discovered, when possible, I should verify my Ah-Ha via the gestalt of asking another's opinion. * The "Collective" chapter reminds that it takes the society and organizations that define a genius to make one... OK. * The "Children Education" chapters 5 and 6 have great takeaways for parents and grandparents (like me), about how to help kids be resilient and curious. Furthermore, an exemplary history of "gifted and talented" researchers, organizations, psychometric tests, and surrounding controversy is provided. * "Getting Smarter" chapter describes the "Flynn Effect", that tests show steady increase in intelligence worldwide. Potential reasons are conjectured. Very interesting material I've not seen. * "Boosting the Brain" was a fantastic presentation concerning the "acquired savant" possibilities of stimulants, transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) found in gaming headsets and medical devices, and meditation. Again, very interesting material I've not seen. * "Brilliance Trap" intends to convey that "Brilliance" does not equate to happiness, and perhaps a focus on critical thinking skills is better. That focus falls victim to academic half-truth. CON's * An appendix, references, and bibliography do not exist. Really? Whoa! This offering is far from the "first stage" point it could be, especially because there are limited jump links to the actual research or subject specific recommendations. Follow up is needed for much of this material to ensure depth and clarity. * The exercise chapter comes up short on the aerobic/ anaerobic mix, and I would encourage TGC/ Wondrium offerings (especially the one by Ormsbee) or a good Garmin or Apple GPS watch to help sort this out. * The exercise chapter discusses studies of the very positive correlation between exercise and improved brain function. Indeed! There are graphics of people on a treadmill, and perhaps a road race group. However, somehow video games, card table games, and other sit downs are smudged into the exercise mix. Bad details and examples blow focus concerning the delightful feeling of a beneficial exercise mix workout, so beware and refer elsewhere. * Exercise nit-picks also include that Helmuth reports aerobic exercise as best, but then gives running and high intensity anaerobic study examples, and this is confusing. Again, refer elsewhere to understand the exercise mix needed to actually have fun and feel great. * Helmuth does not fall into the trap of reporting the proven fake childhood learning "research" (like "Spongebob Squarepants", "Baby Einstein", and Media Lab "Scratch" and "Logo" "causing cognitive damage" nonsense). Unfortunately, she does not identify or warn against such copious well-known bad work. * Helmuth does not discuss studies of computer gaming and creation, for improving cognition "inner genius". Such play can be exactly the focused, motivated to excel, often community or team activity that somehow really interests kids; not to mention the tech familiarity aspects. No mention of social media as a possible depressing deterrent to improving "inner genius". * The "Brilliance Trap" chapter has a chart that shows representation of academic fields, without consideration of Asian, Hispanic, or India Indian men and women. Data available at USA Facts recently showed that by salary, Asian women outperform/ outearn everyone, and Hispanic women do worst, and consideration of complete data may demand a better hypothesis. Furthermore, Psychology used to be a great major for pre- med, pre-law, and the MBA. These days, pre- everyone I've met avoids listing it on graduation, if possible, especially as a second major. Why? Does the typical psych major want a "genius professor"? Helmuth could study this first. * My opinion is that the "Brilliance Trap" chapter has no useful material, especially outside academia. SUMMARY * I did find interesting material in Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8; and this avoided a worse score by me. * The academic slant is limiting when it directs what I'd like my grandchildren to try and demeans participation in the greatest innovative entrepreneurial free market economy in history. My summary experience is that "Scientific American" decades ago, with Martin Gardner as a counterpoint, was a thoughtful fun tech destination venue for all persuasions; and this spirit is too often missing here.
Date published: 2022-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting subject matter Good job of presentation and obviously well researched. One point that I a found disappointing is my interpretation of the courses definition of success strongly bias towards academia. In my profession as an engineer, success is measured by successfully designing and fielding a reliable, useful product that is (relatively) easy to use. Relatively easy to use depends strongly on the education of the user; someone who has never seen a car would find driving one difficult to drive regardless of the user interface and placement of controls. I do strongly agree with the summation that critical thinking and attitude are a better indicator of success than brilliance. In my work, I will take attitude over aptitude.
Date published: 2022-01-29
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In Understanding Your Inner Genius, presenter Laura Helmuth reveals the latest scientific thinking on genius and intelligence—from the making of a genius, to the increase of worldwide IQ scores, and the mysteries of acquired savantism. With myth-busting exhilaration and more than a bit of controversy, scientific studies point the way to increasing the intellect. This course will introduce you to the new, scientifically valid concepts that take the place of old myths regarding intelligence—concepts you can use to your advantage when educating your children, your students, or yourself.


Laura Helmuth

I hope you’ll join me on this fascinating tour of what science has discovered.


Scientific American

Laura Helmuth is the editor in chief of Scientific American. She earned a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley, and a graduate certificate in Science Communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has served in various editorial positions, including for The Washington Post, Smithsonian magazine, and Science. She is a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication and was previously president of the National Association of Science Writers.

By This Expert

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Understanding Your Inner Genius
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Understanding Your Inner Genius


The Science of Genius

01: The Science of Genius

What exactly makes a genius? Were extraordinary scientists like Einstein and Hawking just born with superior intellect or did they acquire it? And if they did acquire it, how? Explore the many theories of genius put forward by psychologists, psychiatrists, and philosophers over the last 150 years. Learn how “blind variation and selective retention” might be the most unifying theory of intelligence yet.

23 min
Fit Body, Fit Mind?

02: Fit Body, Fit Mind?

If you’re trying to retain your cognitive powers into your older years, or maybe even improve them, chances are you’re learning new skills, taking classes, or challenging yourself with crossword puzzles or sudoku—all of which are great. But is there another type of workout that could be of even greater benefit? Learn about the fascinating and surprising results of the latest research into cognition and aging.

16 min
The Aha! Moment

03: The Aha! Moment

What a great feeling it is when you finally solve the problem you’ve been working on—or better yet, when you suddenly see that an entirely new direction of inquiry will lead to an even more powerful answer. That is your “aha!” moment. Explore the results of recent research that can help all of us get closer to that magical spark of insight. How do the most innovative people approach problem-solving, and is that method something the rest of us could learn to mimic?

16 min
Creativity Is Collective

04: Creativity Is Collective

We often think of a genius as a rugged individual living in their own little world. But none of us lives or works completely alone—genius or not. Explore the recent studies showing that the nature of people’s creativity depends on group norms, even when that is not immediately obvious. Whether the creativity in question is mathematical or artistic, the research shows that engagement with other can help stimulate creative ideas for change.

19 min
Nurturing the Young Genius

05: Nurturing the Young Genius

How can teachers and parents recognize talent in even the youngest of children? Certainly, an entire industry exists to support parents in their quest to create little geniuses. But does any of it really work? What outdated myths do we continue to hold onto? Learn what the latest research shows about the benefits and limitations of IQ tests for students, as well as the skills that really can predict success in school and in life—skills that show up as early as kindergarten.

24 min
Lessons from Studying Supersmart Children

06: Lessons from Studying Supersmart Children

Learn about the longest-running current longitudinal survey of intellectually talented children. What have researchers learned from 48 years of tracking the careers and accomplishments of 5,000 individuals, many of whom have gone on to become high achievers in science, the arts, business, and more? But the research is as controversial as it is fascinating. What might we be missing in our desire to identify and provide resources for those whose talents are possibly just easier to identify than others’ talents?

19 min
Can We Keep Getting Smarter?

07: Can We Keep Getting Smarter?

You might be shocked to discover that IQ scores have been steadily increasing since the beginning of the 20th century. Scientists were surprised, too. The tests revealed that something in the environment was having a significant influence on components of intelligence in populations all over the world. Explore what could be causing this “Flynn effect” and what its ramifications could be for our children’s future.

13 min
Boosting the Brain?

08: Boosting the Brain?

If you’ve ever wished you could just take a pill to become smarter, you’re not the first. Discover some of the chemicals scientists have studied for this exact purpose, including the controversial drug modafinil. But beyond drugs, explore the attempted brain hacking known as transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS). Could tDCS help people with neurological concerns? And what might we learn about tDCS and acquired savantism that could be related to the intelligence we all possess?

28 min
The Brilliance Trap

09: The Brilliance Trap

Why are women and minorities significantly underrepresented in academic fields that openly value and look for “brilliance”? Explore the fascinating answers to this question as you discover the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset—and the many ways in which gender stereotypes broadly affect the ways children exhibit these mindsets as early as age six.

29 min