The Family Brain Games

Eight brilliant families compete in a specially designed ‘games lab’ in the ultimate test of intelligence

Interview with Dr. Hannah Critchlow

The children outshone the parents in a number of tasks. It was joyful to watch the parents relinquish the power and let their kids take over so that they could go on to win the games.Dr. Hannah Critchlow
Date: 11.06.2019     Last updated: 17.06.2019 at 10.20
Dr. Hannah Critchlow is the science presenter on The Family Brain Games on BBC Two.

Dr. Hannah Critchlow is a British neuroscientist. In 2013 she was named as one of Cambridge University's ‘inspirational and successful women in science’. Hannah demystifies the human brain, producing and presenting neuroscience oriented interactive experiences for the general public. She has also presented Tomorrow’s World Live for the BBC and has previously appeared on The Russell Howard Hour.

Tell us about your role in The Family Brain Games.
I am a science presenter on the show and will be sharing my knowledge about the latest scientific research into intelligence, observing the behaviours of each family throughout the series.

What attracted you most to this project?
It's an exhilarating game show celebrating family dynamics and collective cognitive power!

Tell us about the process of each game, what did you enjoy most?
I'm a scientist and love to see how data and reality align! We performed a battery of pre-screening cognitive tests on the families, so we had some idea of how phenomenally intelligent they were. Watching them then perform the tricky games live to see how they would perform as a group and on the day was wonderful and fascinating.

Which of the tasks stood out for you as demonstrating what you were trying to achieve?
The interrogation challenges in the final heats tested how the individuals worked together to perform lateral thinking and problem-solving challenges. It was exhilarating to see how the younger members of each family shone.

How do our brains tend to function under pressure and stress, and what can we expect to see in the series regarding this?
Each family adopted different ways of managing the pressure, from meditation and musical recitals to group hugs. Each family had their own way of making the most of the experience and enjoying it, which was wonderful to watch.

How did you see the children and teenagers perform in these difficult tasks?
Quite often the children outshone the parents in a number of tasks. It was joyful to watch the parents relinquish the power and let their kids take over so that they could go on to win the games.

Did you see a difference in the emotional intelligence of the adults vs the children? Is this to be expected?
The children seemed to be much less inhibited at demonstrating their emotions. None of the tests explicitly tested emotional intelligence, but in order for the families to succeed they had to work together as a team, which requires a large degree of emotional intelligence and cooperation, which the children excelled at.

Is it true that some people are naturally good at maths and solving problems? Is it genetic?
A large number of genes have been implicated in general intelligence, and these genes are, perhaps not surprisingly, not linked to laying down how our toe nails grow, for example, but rather how the brain is built and operates. Experiences and environments can also help boost brain power - education for example, and challenging yourself.

Can you improve your memory through techniques seen in the series?
One of the children showed incredible memory, she chunked and paired information and managed to remember eight objects at incredible speed and under competitive pressure. She made a story in her head to link pairs of objects together. It's something we all probably do, without necessarily thinking about it, when trying to remember someone’s name or to piece together events.

Tell us about the documentary element of the show - what did you uncover in terms of family dynamics and collective intelligence when the contestants were out of the studio?
The importance of taking turns, listening to each other and providing a supportive atmosphere where everybody feels comfortable, and having a go without fear of failure.

But most importantly, how enjoyment in a task can help combat feelings of pressure and keep everyone motivated and focused.