Rina Bliss – Rethinking Intelligence

Rina Bliss – Rethinking Intelligence


A genetics expert and professor challenges our understanding of intelligence, explaining what it truly means to be “smart,” why conventional assessments are misleading, and what everyone can do to optimize their potential.

Growing up in middle-class suburban Los Angeles in the 1980s, Rina Bliss saw intelligence as her ticket out. Like height and stature, intelligence was said to run in families. The prevailing idea was that mental capacity was determined by our DNA and could be measured; a simple IQ test could predict a child’s future.

Yet, once Dr. Bliss looked closer, first as a student, then as a scientist, and later as a mom of identical twins who share a genome, she began to challenge conventional wisdom about innate intelligence. In Rethinking Intelligence, she shares her findings, drawing on cutting-edge scientific research to offer a new model for how we understand, define, and assess intelligence, using a measurement that is far more flexible and expansive.

Intelligence has little to do with standardized test results or other conventional measures of intellect, Dr. Bliss argues. Intelligence is a process, a journey defined by change that cannot be scored or taken away. Intelligence is influenced by our surroundings in ways that are often overlooked—more than Baby Mozart or flash cards or superfoods, factors like stress, connection, and play actually sculpt young minds.

In Rethinking Intelligence, Dr. Bliss shares insights from the burgeoning science of epigenetics to help us harness our environments to empower our minds. If we truly want to nurture potential, we must eliminate toxic stress so that our genes can work optimally, in harmony with our environment. Dr. Bliss offers successful strategies we can use as individuals and a society, including embracing a growth mindset, prioritizing connection, becoming more mindful, and reforming systemic issues—poverty, racism, the lack of quality early childhood education—that have a negative and lasting neurobiological impact.

Joining acclaimed works by Carol Dweck, Amy Cuddy, and James Clear, Rethinking Intelligence reframes human behavior and intellect, offering a new perspective for understanding ourselves and our children, and the practical tools necessary to thrive.