If you’re like most of us, you wonder what the internet is doing to your attention span. You check your e-mail several times a day, toggle over to check what people are saying on Facebook, and check the bank even in the smallest pause in real life. Somehow you feel those phantom vibes begging you to take just one more look.
The truth is that online intelligence nurtures fluid intelligence and offline life is better at nurturing memory. Being online is like being at the greatest cocktail party ever and it is going on all the time.
You can meet people you would almost never meet in real life and when you get tired of the conversation you can just hang up. Are you more like your real self online or offline? Online circulation takes the pressure off some people and they are their best selves online. They feel more in control of the situation.
Offline learning at its best is more like being a member of a book club than a cocktail party. You are not in constant contact with the universe. Research at the University of Oslo and elsewhere suggest that people read a printed page differently than they read off a screen. They are more intentional, less likely to multitask or browse for key words.
Slowness of solitary reading or thinking means you are not as concerned with each individual piece of data. You have time to lose yourself in someone else’s complex environment.
Crystallized intelligence accumulates over the years and leads ultimately to understanding the whole picture and wisdom.
The online world is brand new, but it feels more fun, effortless and natural than the offline world of reading and discussion.
My own opinion is that there is room for both types of learning. It is easier to flip back and forth to refresh ones memory with a paper book, but the internet does encourage a faster mental agility to try to digest so many types of media in a given span of time.
With half as many neurons in their cerebral cortex as cats—and half the attitude, dogs are often taken to be the less intelligent domestic partner. while dogs drink out of the toilet, slavishly follow their masters and need a chaperone to relieve themselves, cats hunt self-sufficiently and survey their empire with a regal gaze.
But cats beware. Research in recent years has finally revealed the genius of dogs.
Dogs are language-trained animals and can learn to respond to hundreds of spoken signals, and the names of hundreds of different objects. Of the many dogs who have chosen to live with me, several stand out as more easily trained, but I haven’t a doubt that given more time and patience with the laggards, most of them would have risen to the occasion. Charlie, our Jack Russell Terrier, is a quick study, and though the movie industry has not been knocking on our door to hire him, I am satisfied with the various chores he performs around the house when asked.
Based on the ability of cats to hold a grudge, you might think that they have better memories than dogs. Not so. According to the study by Slyvain Fiset of Canada’s University of Moncton. Still dog owners should not be too smug. In 2010, Krista Macpherson and William Roberts of the University of Western Ontario published a study that tested navigational memory, in which dogs had to search for food in a maze with eight arms radiating out from a central position. Even the rats beat the dogs out in the test. But when food was placed on the opposite side of a fence, and a human was seen rounding the end of the fence, dogs could easily solve the problem.
This is the secret to the genius of dogs: it’s when dogs join forces with us that they become special. Nowhere is this clearer than when dogs are reading our gestures. Every dog owner has helped her dog find a lost ball or treat by pointing in the right direction.No other animal—not even our closets relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees—can interpret our gestures as flexibly as dogs. If habits, such as feeding or walking, are formed at certain times of day, the dog will be eagerly available to partake of them.
So are dogs smarter than cats: Not necessarily. Species are designed by nature to be good at different things.
And what might the genius of cats be? Possibly, that they just can’t be bothered playing our silly games or giving us the satisfaction of discovering the extent of their intelligence.