It is well known that we get better at the things we practice, but is it possible to stimulate the brain with activities in such a way that general or specific intelligence is weakened? Also, are there skills that can be practiced that have been proven to weaken other skills?

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question: I don't know of any work in this area. Usually the question would be framed negatively: i.e., being in-curious will lessen the development of intelligence. Not aware of studies on "Doing x lowers IQ" (except where x is damaging to the brain). $\endgroup$
    – tim
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ Well yes, but only over a long term and most likely during development period. Brain is like super-security system which is very hard to break. If you feed it with nonsense, it will actually use it to find new connections from what is already understands. $\endgroup$
    – Andrewski
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if it would be considered a "mental activity", but this is worth reading: Popular electric brain stimulation method used to boost brainpower is detrimental to IQ scores. $\endgroup$
    – R891
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


While not necessarily lowering of one's IQ, two phenomena potentially detrimental to one's capacity for future learning and problem solving are Einstellung Effect and Compartmentalisation.

In the Einstellung Effect, an initial framing or initial experience with a particular type of problem or situation sets into habit a fixed way of behaving. Later, when a situation arises which evokes the same mental classification due to having a similar appearance, the person is left pursuing a suboptimal or perhaps dead-end approach. In other words, the person knows enough to be dangerous but may lack the insight needed to see this deficiency.

If one goes too long without encountering sufficient novelty, one's mind may become fixed. Neurologically this occurs because the same simple path is traversed too many times, very much like in addiction. Perhaps one solution is to move forward with one's learning and skills, never staying too long on the same level, always taking on new challenges, even when initial failure is likely. Staying with what is known may be comfortable, but staying too long closes the mind.

In Compartmentalisation, thoughts which conflict on some level of abstraction are separated into mutually exclusive mental boxes. A common example is separating work life from family life. If one partakes too readily in compartmentalising, however, the mind may become fragmented. The drive for compartmentalising is to escape cognitive dissonance, which, if done in excess, can slowly erode one's mental stability while dividing one's worldview into two or more inherently contradicting subsets. With standing contradictions, one's broken foundations may prevent the successful pursuit of higher truths.

Though not always practical, one solution to excessive compartmentalisation is to re-arrange one's life so as no longer to feel compelled to keep things separate. For example, one might find a career in better alignment with one's values. Another solution is to break down the mental barriers to integration by finding a more truthful, more encompassing worldview. One's existing perspective may have fallen prey to the Einstellung effect, having been set early in life without enough experience to see the holes.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not convinced that either compartmentalisation or Einstellung Effect is necessarily detrimental to future learning and problem solving. How do you see a problem with compartmentalisation when compared with psychology.stackexchange.com/a/19301/7604? Plus, while the Einstellung Effect describes using the same methods to solve a problem, if it works, what is the problem? If it doesn’t, do they not learn a new method to solve problems? You have used Wikipedia for your links and while that is not completely wrong, it is not providing scientific evidence of what you claim. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ Wikipedia is fine for a general description, but for solid proof of claims, articles etc. from reputable sources are required as Wikipedia is volatile due to the fact that many claims on there are not referenced with reputable sources and Wikipedia articles are editable by users. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers, keep in mind the adage that to a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. It's very easy to stick with something that works rather than looking for a better way. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers - Compartmentalisation may be an effective quick-fix to stabilising one's emotions, but that does not guarantee it has no downsides, particularly long-term. Is it better to spend one hour each on two separate mental landscapes, or two hours on one comprehensive perspective? There must be a tradeoff. In the Einstellung Effect, when a habit is formed through repetition, a previously malleable System 2 understanding is transferred into a stubborn System 1 reaction. These System 1 heuristics can then interfere with brainstorming, especially when under high stress. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 20:24

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