A Neurological Question


Dec 28, 2019
I took a professional IQ test at a hospital a couple years back. I did a lot better than the first time, with an increase in spatial skills and thinking speed; the neurologist told me that this was likely due to my "improved clinical status," i.e. taking anti-seizure pills. One thing about the results I don't understand is that, although I scored 100% on the problem-solving questions, but still had trouble on the mental flexibility test. Isn't mental flexibility required for problem solving? What does it mean, exactly?

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Nov 10, 2008
nearly the New Forest
I'm pretty sure mental flexibility refers to how one reacts to new situations/circumstances. Some people are mentally very rigid, and while that can be good as they are usually highly focussed, it means they don't adapt easily and perhaps can't cope with having a multitude of different tasks all needing attention. Those who are more flexible tend to be better able to adjust, not just in how they react but in how they interact with different kinds of people, and also in how they think, eg lateral thinking.

So yes, if you've good at problem-solving it suggests that you can think outside the box, which is a component of mental flexibility, but that's not the only aspect of it.

I think there are ways to improve mental flexibility, but I've never gone into it in any detail. If it's worrying you, or you want reassurance, perhaps have a word with your doctor as to what it means and what s/he suggests you might do.


Cat whisperer
Nov 23, 2011
Sitting in the sun (between the rain storms)
It probably depends on what they mean by mental flexibility.

I don't know much about IQ test, other than I was very good at doing them, forty-five years ago, but I am very aware that the sort of mental tasks I can carry out now depend on how tired I am, whether I've had a good day and when I last ate.

From experience I can write when I am tired, spell-check when I am very tired, write software provided I am actually conscious, but need to be seriously alert to even think about editing. On a migraine day, all bets are off.

I noticed last year that tasks such as taking measurements, doing calculations, and generally "getting jobs right" when building things around the farm, go totally awry when I am getting tired towards the end of the day, or if I am in a bad mood. (This is completely separate from my general inability to do arithmetic. Probably.)

One of my go-to tests of how well my head is working is to play a game of freecell solitaire. If all is well, and provided it isn't a fiendishly tricky one, I can generally do them in 3-6 minutes. If all is not well, come back in half an hour and ask again. A few years back, when the GP wanted me to start taking statins, I found that I got awful side-effects and things were so seriously unwell that I gave up on solving freecell games until the statins cleared my system.

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