Psychologist Art Markman of the University of Texas at Austin said humans are not born with a particular capacity to do smart things.
"Each of the components of being smart is already part of your mental toolbox," Markman said in a statement. "The main piece of advice is that you can become smarter. By understanding the way you use knowledge to solve problems, you can develop smarter habits to learn more about the way the world works and to describe problems effectively."
In his forthcoming book "Smart Thinking," Markman distilled for readers the information he accumulated over six years of teaching Procter & Gamble Co. employees how to become more effective problem solvers and his decades of cognitive psychological research.
Many solutions to difficult problems arise as the result of analogies drawn from other areas of expertise, Markman explained.
For example, Markman told a story about how his son worked out an answer to a tough homework question about electrical currents by using his existing knowledge about the flow of water.
The takeaway of "Smart Thinking" is that people society considers "smart" are no more innately gifted than anyone else; they have developed a range of things they know about and refined their ability to use the knowledge they have when they need it, Markman said.