Human Intelligence

Human intelligence is a mental attribute that includes the capacities to pick up new skills via experience, to adapt to novel circumstances, to comprehend and manage abstract ideas, and to apply knowledge to influence one’s surroundings.

The pursuit of defining intelligence precisely is a large source of the enthusiasm among intelligence researchers. Many scholars have defined intelligence in different ways, emphasising different things differently.. For instance, at a 1921 conference, American psychologists Lewis Terming and Edward L. Thorndike disagreed on how to define intelligence, with Terming placing more emphasis on learning and the capacity to provide insightful answers to inquiries. But more recently, psychologists have widely concurred that the key to comprehending both what intelligence is and what it is not is adaptation to the environment.

. Such adaptation can take place in a variety of contexts. For example, a student in school may learn the material necessary to succeed in a course, a doctor treating a patient with unusual symptoms may learn about the underlying disease, or a painter may modify a work to express a more clear concept. The majority of the time, adaptation is altering oneself to better deal with the environment, but it can also entail altering the environment or finding a whole new one.


A variety of cognitive functions, including perception, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem-solving, are necessary for effective adaptation. Therefore, the primary focus of a definition of intelligence is that it is not, per se, a cognitive or mental process.

Theories of intelligence

Like the majority of scientific theories, conceptions of intelligence have developed through a series of models. Psychometrics, also known as psychological measurement, cognitive psychology, which focuses on the mechanisms by which the mind operates, cognitivism and contextualism, a combined paradigm that studies the interaction between the environment and mental processes, and biological science, which examines the neural underpinnings of intelligence, have been four of the most influential paradigms. The discussion of advances in these four categories that follows.

psychological models

In general, psychometric theories have attempted to comprehend the structure of intelligence, including what forms it takes and what, if any, components it may have. These hypotheses have typically been founded upon and proven by evidence acquired through tests of mental faculties, such as classifications (e.g., Which word does not belong with the others? Birds (e.g., a robin, sparrow, chicken, or blue jay), and series completions (e.g., What number comes next in the series after this? 3, 6, 10, 15, 21,_).

On a concept that depicts intelligence as a combination of skills assessed by mental tests, psychometric theories are founded. This model has a numerical value. Performance on a test in number series, for instance, can be a weighted average of memory, reasoning, and arithmetic skills.

Charles E. Spearman, a British psychologist who lived from 1863 to 1945, wrote one of the early psychometric theories. He published his first significant work on intelligence in 1904. He found what may now seem obvious—that individuals who scored well on one mental-aptitude test tended to do similarly on others, and individuals who did poorly on one of them tended to do similarly on others. Spearman developed factor analysis, a statistical method that looks at patterns of individual variations in test results, to determine the underlying causes of these performance discrepancies. He came to the conclusion that all individual variations in test results are caused by just two categories of causes. The first and most significant element, which he called the “general factor,” or g, permeates all intelligence-required job performance.

L.L. Thurston, an American psychologist, rejected Spearman’s theory and proposed seven more components that he called the “primary mental abilities.” According to Thurston, these seven skills were verbal comprehension (as involved in vocabulary knowledge and reading), verbal fluency (as involved in writing and producing words), number (as involved in solving fairly simple numerical computation and arithmetical reasoning problems), spatial visualization (as involved in visualizing and manipulating objects, such as fitting a set of suitcases into an automobile trunk), inductive reasoning (as involved in determining the cause of an event), and inference .


Although Spearman and Thurston’s disagreement has not been settled, other psychologists, like Canadian Philip E. Vernon and American Raymond B. Cattell, have indicated that both of them may have been somewhat correct. According to Vernon and Cattell, there is a hierarchy of intellectual capacities, with g, or general ability, at the top. However, below g are levels of progressively constricting skills that finish with the unique skills found by Spearman. In Abilities: Their Structure, Growth, and Action (1971), Cattell, for instance, proposed that general ability may be further separated into two types: “fluid” and “crystallized.” Tests like analogies, classifications, and series completions are used to assess the reasoning and problem-solving skills known as fluid abilities. Vocabulary, general knowledge, and other talents that are assumed to have crystallized from fluid abilities include.

Although the majority of psychologists believed that Spearman’s split of skills was too limited, not all of them agreed that the divide should be hierarchical. An intellectual structure theory put forward by American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford originally included 120 talents. Guilford suggested that skills may be broken down into five different types of operation, four different types of content, and six different types of product in The Nature of Human Intelligence (1967). 120 different skills may be created by combining these characteristics in different ways. In the analogous situation above, where the lawyer is to the client what the doctor is to __, an example of such an ability would be the cognition (operation) of semantic (content) relations (product), which would be involved in recognizing the relation between the lawyer and client. Later, Guilford expanded the range of skills.

Most cognitive theories of intelligence start with the underlying assumption that intelligence is made up of processes that may work with mental representations of information (like propositions or images).

The study of British psychologist Ian Diary and colleagues used a different strategy. Inspection time, according to him, is a particularly excellent indicator of intellect. It is believed that variations in the rate at which basic stimulus information is ingested and processed contribute to individual variances in intellect. In the inspection-time task, participants are required to choose the longer of two vertical lines that are of uneven length. The amount of stimulus presentation time required by each person to determine which of the two lines is longer is known as the inspection time. According to certain studies, smarter people can distinguish between different line widths in fewer inspection cycles.

In that it was feasible to pinpoint a specific sequence of steps that would take one from the beginning of an issue to its conclusion, the majority of the problems that Newell and Simon analyzed were pretty well organized. Other researchers have focused on different issues, such how individuals understand texts or how reading texts might trigger memories of things they already know. The psychologists Marcel Just and Patricia Carpenter, for instance, demonstrated how a sophisticated computer programmed could solve challenging intelligence-test items, like figural matrix problems involving reasoning with geometric shapes, with an accuracy level comparable to that of human test-takers. This is how a computer displays a certain level of “intelligence”

All of the cognitive theories presented thus far rely on what psychologists refer to as the “serial processing of information,” which refers to the sequential execution of cognitive operations in these cases. However, it might not be accurate to assume that humans take in information in discrete pieces. Instead, a lot of scientists have proposed that cognitive processing is mainly parallel. But just as it had previously been challenging to discern between various factor models of human intelligence, it has been challenging to distinguish between serial and parallel models of information processing. Later, this issue was tackled using sophisticated mathematical and computer modelling approaches. The psychologists David E. Rumelhart and Jay L. have suggested “parallel distributed processing” theories of the mind as potential remedies.


However, there are still some significant issues with the nature of intelligence that computer modelling has not yet been able to address. Michael E. Cole, a psychologist from the United States, and other psychologists, for instance, have claimed that cognitive processing does not account for the potential that definitions of intelligence may vary among cultures and cultural groupings. Additionally, practical experience has demonstrated that traditional tests, while they may be able to predict academic achievement, are not always accurate in predicting how intelligence will be applied (i.e., through performance in professions or other aspects of life outside of school). Psychologists now examine cognition not in isolation but rather in the context of the environment in which it functions because they are aware of the distinction between performance in real-life and academic settings.

Ideas of cognitive context

Theories of cognition in context focus on how the brain functions in distinct contexts. The ideas of Sternberg and American psychologist Howard Gardner are two of the most influential examples of this kind. Gardner put up a theory of “multiple intelligences” in 1983, challenging the notion of a single intelligence. Previous thinkers have even argued that intelligence consists of a variety of skills. Gardner, however, went a step further and claimed that there are several types of intelligence, at the very least including linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligence.

The skills put out by psychometric theorists mirrored some of Gardner’s hypothesized intelligences, but not all of them. For instance, the notion of a musical intelligence and a bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

The operation of cognitive processes in multiple contexts is the subject of cognitive-contextual theories. Two of the most influential ideas of this kind are those of Sternberg and American psychologist Howard Gardner. By putting up a notion of “multiple intelligences” in 1983, Gardner contested the idea of a single intelligence. Previous thinkers have even gone so far as to claim that intelligence consists of several skills. However, Gardner went a step further, contending that intelligences are multidimensional and at the very least encompass linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligence.

Some of the intelligences Gardner suggested were similar to the skills put out by psychometric theorists, while others were not. For instance, concepts like a musical intelligence and a bodily-kinesthetic intelligence were yet novel.


Sternberg’s “triarchic” hypothesis, which he put forward in Beyond IQ: A Triarchic hypothesis of Human Intelligence (1985), was an alternate strategy that similarly accounted for cognitive and cultural environment. Both Sternberg and Gardner thought that traditional ideas of intelligence were too limited. Sternberg, however, questioned how far psychologists should stray from these ideas, arguing that musical and bodily-kinesthetic skills should be considered talents rather than intelligences because they are relatively specialized and are not necessary for adaptation in the majority of cultures.

Sternberg proposed three (“triarchic”) interconnected, integrated components of intelligence that are each focused on a person’s internal, external, and experiential worlds. The foundation of all thought is made up of the cognitive functions and representations in the first aspect. The application is the second feature.

Some psychologists think that the capacity to deal with somewhat unfamiliar events is a sign of intelligence. The significance of experience is thus explained. The capacity of individuals to adapt to a new environment and culture, for instance, might be used to gauge intellect. According to Sternberg, the automatization of cognitive processes, which happens when a somewhat novel activity becomes familiar, is another aspect of experience that is significant in assessing intelligence. A person will have more mental resources for handling novelty the more routine jobs they automate.

The idea of additional intelligences emerged in the late 20th century. The psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey gave the following definition of emotional intelligence in 1990:

The four elements outlined by Mayer and Salovey are (a) being aware of one’s own emotions as well as those of others, (b) using emotion appropriately to support reasoning, (c) comprehending complex emotions and their impact on subsequent emotional states, and (d) being able to control one’s own emotions as well as those of others. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and journalist, popularized the idea of emotional intelligence in books written in the 1990s. There are only weak relationships between emotional intelligence and general intelligence, according to several tests designed to evaluate it.

Biological Concepts

The theories mentioned above attempt to explain intelligence in terms of fictitious mental entities, such as factors, cognitive processes, or cognitive processes that interact with context. A completely different approach that does away with mental notions is represented by biological theories. The proponents of such views, who are typically referred to as reductionists, think that discovering intelligence’s biological foundation is the only way to truly grasp it. Reductionism, according to some, is the only option if the objective is to explain conduct rather than just describe it. But if intelligence is seen to be more than the simple processing of information, the issue is not straightforward. In the essay “What We Do & Don’t Know About Learning” (2004), Howard Gardner posed the pertinent question.

Biological approaches to intelligence should be seen as complementing other techniques, not as a replacement, according to analogies that equate the human brain to a computer. For instance, when a person learns a new vocabulary word in German, a trace is also stored in the brain that may be retrieved when the knowledge is required. For instance, the connection between the German phrase Die Fabre and the English word color is made clear to the learner. Despite the fact that the basic foundations of intelligence are still largely unknown, research into how the brain works has advanced three major areas.

Brainwave Research

Brain-wave recordings have become a second area of biological study. For instance, the British psychologist Hans Eysenck, who was born in Germany, examined the brain activity and reaction times of test-takers. The relationship between these waves and performance on aptitude tests or in different cognitive activities has previously been investigated in brain-wave research. Researchers in several of these investigations discovered a connection between certain EEG wave characteristics, event-related potential (ERP) wave characteristics, and results on a common psychometric test of intelligence.

Blood-flow Analysis

Measuring cerebral blood flow, which is a reasonably direct sign of functional activity in brain tissue, is a third and more recent area of investigation. In these research, participants are asked to complete cognitive activities while the amount and distribution of blood flow in the brain are being tracked. John Horn, a well-known expert in this field and a psychologist, discovered that older people experience decreased blood flow to the brain, that these decreases are more pronounced in specific regions of the brain than in others, and that the decreases are particularly noticeable in the regions of the brain that control close attention, spontaneous alertness, and the encoding of new information. Richard Haier, a psychologist, discovered that those who score higher on traditional intelligence tests have superior positron emission tomography (PET) results.

Growth in Intellect

Numerous methodologies have been used to explore how intelligence develops. For instance, psychometric theorists have attempted to comprehend how intelligence varies as a result of changes in intelligence variables and in a child’s range of skills. For instance, throughout the early part of the 20th century, the idea of mental age was prevalent. For a particular chronological age, a specific mental age was used to represent the typical child’s degree of mental development. Therefore, a 12-year-old on average would have a mental age of 12, but a 10-year-old on average or a 14-year-old on average would also have a mental age of 12. But for two apparent reasons, the idea of mental age lost appeal. First, it doesn’t appear like the idea will work.

A look at Jean Piaget’s work

The groundbreaking study on intellectual development from the 20th century was based on Jean Piaget’s tradition rather than psychometrics. His thesis focused on how children develop intellectually as well as the stages of development that children go through. Piaget thought that children examine the environment, notice patterns, and draw generalizations—much like scientists do. He asserted that two cognitive processes that function relatively reciprocally are what lead to intellectual progress. He referred to the first process as assimilation, which involves integrating new knowledge into an already established cognitive framework. The second, which he referred to as accommodation, creates a fresh cognitive framework that can accommodate brand-new data.

Simple problem-solving exercises serve as illustrations of the absorption process. Imagine a little child.

The groundbreaking study on intellectual development from the 20th century was based on Jean Piaget’s tradition rather than psychometrics. His thesis focused on how children develop intellectually as well as the stages of development that children go through. Piaget thought that children examine the environment, notice patterns, and draw generalizations—much like scientists do. He asserted that two cognitive processes that function relatively reciprocally are what lead to intellectual progress. He referred to the first process as assimilation, which involves integrating new knowledge into an already established cognitive framework. The second, which he referred to as accommodation, creates a fresh cognitive framework that can accommodate brand-new data.

Simple problem-solving exercises serve as illustrations of the absorption process. Imagine a little child.

When asked which beaker has more water, a preoperational youngster would respond that the second beaker—the tall, thin one—does; but, a concrete-operational child will understand that the water levels in the beakers must be equal. Finally, kids go into the fourth stage of development, the formal-operational stage, which starts about age 12 and lasts the rest of their lives. The formal-operational youngster grows in their ability to reason logically and learns to think in terms of abstract ideas. A youngster in the concrete-operational stage, for instance, will have a hard time figuring out all the potential arrangements of four numerals, such 3-7-5-8. However, the youngster who has reached the formal-operational stage will adopt a method of methodically altering alternations of digits, maybe beginning with the last digit and moving towards the next.

Post-Piaget Theories

Even though it no longer has as much sway, Piaget’s hypothesis continues to provide the foundation for other theories. Piaget’s approach has been elaborated upon by one hypothesis, which proposes a potential fifth, adult, stage of development, including “problem finding.” Prior to issue solving, problem discovery is the process of determining whether problems are even worth tackling in the first place. Periods of development that are very different from those described by Piaget have been found by a second course. A third option has been to embrace Piaget’s suggested developmental phases while maintaining that they each have unique cognitive underpinnings. The third set of hypotheses places an emphasis on the value of memory power. For instance, it has been demonstrated that youngsters’ challenges with transitive inference issues such.

The Environment’s Perspective

The importance of the individual in intellectual growth is emphasized in each of the above-discussed perspectives on intellectual development. A different point of view, however, emphasizes the significance of the surroundings of the individual, particularly his social milieu. The cognitive-contextual theories mentioned above are relevant to this point of view. This theory, which was first promoted by the Russian psychologist L.S. Vygotsky, contends that a kid’s contacts with other people have a significant impact on how they grow intellectually. A youngster observes how others think and act and then internalizes and imitates what they observe. Reuven Feuerstein, an Israeli psychologist, elaborated on this idea by proposing that the key to intellectual growth is what he called “mediated learning experience.” For the kid, the parent mediates or interprets the world, and this role is essentially.

Children who grow up in situations where Western educational concepts are not stressed may be unable to prove their intellect on traditional Western intelligence tests. Children from rural Tanzania did much better on ability tests when they received additional teaching beyond the requirements of the standard exam, according to research by Sternberg and colleagues. However, without this additional guidance, the kids sometimes didn’t know what they were intended to accomplish, and as a result, they fared poorly on the examinations. Similar research was conducted in Kenya to assess children’s familiarity with home cures for parasites and other common ailments. Along with standard Western IQ and academic success exams, tests for this kind of information were administered.

Intelligence Evaluation

Nearly all of the theories mentioned above use challenging activities to measure adults’ and children’s intellect. The analysis of human intelligence has historically focused on a variety of tasks, some of which have been specifically covered in this article. These tasks include the performance of transitive inferences, the recognition of analogies, the categorization of comparable words, the extrapolation of numerical series, and others. The types of complicated tasks that have been mentioned up until this point are part of one tradition for the assessment of intelligence, but there are actually two main traditions in the subject. Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, lived from 1857 to 1911, and his tradition has received the most attention and influence.

Charles Galton
Charles Galton
The English scientist tradition is an older one that nevertheless has some bearing on the subject.

The intelligence’s malleability and heritability

Historically, intelligence has been seen as a more or less fixed attribute. Most researchers hold an intermediate view, but a small number hold either the view that it is highly heritable or the view that it is little heritable.

Studying identical twins who were split up at a young age and raised separately is one of the most effective ways to determine the heredity of IQ. The twins would share all of their genes but none of their environments if they were raised in separate environments and it is assumed that when twins are separated, they are dispersed at random throughout habitats (often a faulty premise). This is assuming that there is no chance environmental overlap.

The results of identical twins raised apart show a remarkable correlation between their test scores, which is strong support from studies of twins for the heredity of intelligence. Additionally, scores of adopted children have a strong correlation with their biological parents rather than their adoptive parents. Findings indicating heritability varies between ethnic and racial groups as well as through time within a single group are also relevant; in other words, the degree to which genes vs environment influence in IQ depends on a variety of circumstances, including socioeconomic level. Additionally, research by psychologist Robert Plomin and others shows that evidence of intelligence’s heritability rises with age. This finding implies that as a person ages, genetic variables become a more significant driver of intelligence, while environmental influences become less significant.

Human Intelligence

Regardless of how much an individual’s IQ is inherited, whether or not intelligence can be raised is a different matter. James Flynn, a political scientist from New Zealand who was born in America, demonstrated that it may by demonstrating how intelligence test results globally increased gradually in the late 20th century. Environmental factors including the inclusion of vitamin C to prenatal and postnatal diets and, more broadly, the enhanced nutrition of mothers and newborns as compared to previously in the century were among the numerous potential explanations of the increase. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray suggested that IQ is crucial for life success in their book The Bell Curve (1994), and that disparities in IQ between racial groups might be partly responsible for inequalities in life success.

Despite the overall rise in scores, average IQs continue to range between nations and between various socioeconomic categories. For instance, despite their divergent theories on the causes of the link, several studies have discovered a positive correlation between socioeconomic level and IQ. Though some researchers think that inherited factors are primarily to blame for the discrepancy, the majority of researchers concur that disparities in educational opportunity play a significant influence. On the reasons for these disparities, there is little general agreement. The most significant point to make is that these disparities are based only on IQ rather than intelligence as it is more widely characterised. Group differences in intelligence, as it is widely defined, are even less well understood than individual differences in IQ.

Last but not least, despite intelligence being mostly heritable, some parts of it are still modifiable. Even a strongly heritable characteristic can be changed with intervention. A programmed of intellectual skill development can improve certain parts of a person’s intelligence; nevertheless, no programmed of training, and certainly no type of contextual circumstance, will turn a person with low measured IQ into a genius. However, some improvements are conceivable, and programmed have been created to improve intellectual capacity. Many scholars believe that intelligence is not a given the moment a person is born. Combining testing and training tasks to help people maximize their intellect has been a major trend for psychologists working in the subject of intelligence.


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