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What We Talk About When We Talk About Intelligence

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Do you know someone who has high intelligence but seems to always make bad decisions? Maybe you felt some insecurity towards a colleague that seems smarter and it makes you wonder if you are smart enough to do the same task as they are doing. You probably have heard of the terms “book smart” and “street smart”, but you are not sure how to label yourself between those two types. People usually associate intelligence with having a high IQ score, but what does it mean?

Defining what intelligence is

To understand the meaning of intelligence, we must first grasp what it is. From the time of Greek philosophers to the time of psychologists and neuroscientists, the notion of intelligence has been regularly challenged. For example, Plato defined it as the desire to study and the eagerness in finding truth. Thomas Hobbes had a different idea, defining it as having a quick mind with the capacity to understand similarities and contrasts between comparable objects.

Alfred Binet created the standardized intelligence evaluation or the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test, a tool that is still extensively utilized today. Concentration, memory, reasoning, abstraction, and the ability to cope well with the world are all included in Binet’s aspects of it. David Wechsler also believed that it is a person’s ability to act purposefully, think reasonably, and react efficiently with their surroundings.

Research about intelligence and how it is developed is still a point of discussion today. Currently, intelligence has no absolute definition; instead, it is an abstract construct with multiple aspects. Two people can be described as having a high intelligence yet share relatively few characteristics, they might resemble the parameters of intelligence among various definitions.

Categories of intelligence

According to Howard Gardner, the founder of the theory on multiple intelligence, there are eight types of intelligence:

  1. Verbal-linguistic intelligence refers to a person’s skill to communicate through words and languages. 
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence indicates a person’s ability to sense, recognize abstract patterns, and perform numerical computations. 
  3. Spatial intelligence is attributed to how well a person can imagine an object well and retain a visual recollection. 
  4. Body kinesthetic intelligence specifies the athletic capabilities of a person. 
  5. Musical intelligence is a person’s sensitivity towards sounds and having the ability to perceive and produce patterns of rhythm
  6. Natural intelligence is attributed to a person’s sensitivity towards nature. 
  7. Interpersonal intelligence is defined as an individual’s awareness of the emotions of others and their capacity to function as part of a team. 
  8. intrapersonal intelligence points to a person’s self-awareness and competence in comprehending their feelings, goals, and intentions.

Meanwhile, Cattell has a different way of categorizing intelligence, dividing it into two categories:

  1. Fluid intelligence refers to the ability to solve abstract problems in novel situations.
  2. Crystallized intelligence represents knowledge and skills acquired through education and experience. 

With these two, he believes that humans can develop crystallized intelligence through practice and experience of fluid intelligence. 

Does the IQ Test work?

After knowing that the definition of intelligence is not absolute and there are many types to it, you might be wondering whether the IQ test being used today really measures intelligence. Maybe you know someone that has an erratic way of thinking or behaving despite having a high IQ score. A general myth that is widespread in society is that IQ scores express a fixed score of inherited brilliance. In reality, an IQ score is simply a measurement of how well a person can do certain tasks at a certain time in comparison with other people of the same age. 

It might measure convergent thinking or academic intelligence which is usually associated with “book smart”, however, it does not go hand-in-hand with other essential aspects of “street smart” such as creativity, adaptability, tacit knowledge, and social skills. It only measures three categories in the theory of multiple intelligences. Therefore, IQ testing might measure intelligence, but the IQ score does not necessarily guarantee success in everyday life.

Enhancing your intelligence

Even though intelligence is a widely abstract concept, you can enhance your intelligence. Typically, environmental factors that may enhance your intelligence include having a good circle of people around you such as family and mentors. There is also a range of noncognitive or affective factors that can play a part in this such as motivation, persistence, attitude, self-concept, confidence, and personal values. 

Based on those factors, there are a few ways you can enhance your intelligence. First, you can enhance your intelligence through instruction which can be done within an academic or corporate setting, as well as through forums, workshops, and other instructional training available. You can do certain activities that can give you a mental workout like reading, playing games like sudoku or chess, and enrolling in a program based on your interest. Another way you could enhance your intelligence is by doing proper physical self-care like having a balanced diet, doing daily physical exercise, and practicing meditation. 

While intelligence is an abstract concept, it is something that everyone can improve on. One secret of increasing intelligence is to embrace your limitations. Do not beat yourself up and try to accept your strengths and flaws while actively training your brain; this way, you may develop a growth mindset, have confidence, and enhance better personal values which are extremely valuable in life.

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