When you developing higher fluid intelligence, be careful. If you push too hard, it kicks back.
My close friend Katya (not the real name) received Master degree in Engineering simultaneously with being diagnosed with schizophrenia. In high school she was healthy girl, but during years of studies she started talking to herself and hearing voices. She graduated, but she never became an Engineer.
Katya received traditional medical treatment against schizophrenia. She got fat and sleepy, but she did not recover. Later she was treated “non-traditionally”. The treatment was based on creative art and hands-on labor. It helped. Now Katya has a job; she sews dresses. Does it mean that if she were staying within hands-on activities, she would not develop schizophrenia? I think it might be the case. But other question is more complicated, was it possible to educate her to be a successful engineer while leaving her mentally healthy?
Now about myself. In 10th grade I started studying checkers. I read textbooks, analyzed and memorized checkers games. Soon I started seeing people as checkers pieces. When on my birthday party I found my guests to be figures on a checkers board, I made a decision. I stopped studying checkers. I believe that I would be mentally sick if I were not stopping playing checkers at that time.
Throughout all my life I never again had the problem of losing track of reality.
My friend Sam (not the real name) was doing his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry. Two years he was doing experiments and then he switched to theoretical science. Soon he started changing the way Katya did. I talked to him advising to keep away from theoretical (highly abstract!) science. To my surprise, I learned that he already talked to his boss and from now on he is doing only experiments. Sam explained that his mind started “walking around”, and he made decision to leave theoretical studies despite on his success in that field.
For the best of my knowledge, Sam never had any problems with his mental health anymore. Now, I have lost track of him. It is interesting whether he is working on theoretical Science now...
I believe that pushing brains too hard toward abstract studies can cause mental problems. Unfortunately, I did not find statistics dealing with correlations between studies of abstract sciences and mental instability. And even if there were a strong correlation, we might speculate that people with high fluid intelligence perform a lot of abstract activities and form a group of “high risk” toward mental illness not because their activities, but because their intelligence.
To be honest, I could not think of the experiment that can examine my thesis besides case by case anecdotic records. And I have to admit that “high level of abstract activity” factor is not included in the list of the known factors that stimulate developing of schizophrenia. Thus a leader in European schizophrenia research and care, Prof. Murray wnen Interviwed by Gabrielle Strobel, 10.18.2005, lists the main factors as "obstetric events, urban living, ... drug abuse", and migration.
However, there are some data that at least indirectly support my hypothesis.
Thus, in several countries, the “most males become sick between 16 and 25 years old” and the peak itself falls on ages 20-25. At this age a lot of male students concentrate on studies of abstract concepts in high school, colleges and universities. So, there is a correlation, although it can be explained by other means as well.
As we discussed above, migration is one of the main factors that contribute toward schizophrenia. The migration includes a migration toward getting better education, more sophisticated job, getting to the better developed places, i.e. places with higher developed technology. This means migration toward the places where the activities are more abstract. It means that at least part of mental illnesses due to migration can include overloading brains with abstract thinking.
Another factor that contributes into mental illness is urban environment. But, as we all know, city population has less connection to the natural “real” life than farmers with their hands-on labor.
As you see, a lot of factors indirectly support my thesis, but there is no direct prove or disprove of my point.
As a teacher, I worry about the abstraction that is not well connected to the prior knowledge of my students, or that is too abstract for the particular developmental stage. I am highly interested in improving fluid intelligence of my students, while finding the ways of avoiding any negative impact toward their mental health.