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How humans acquire Intelligence – Top Facts and Theories

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Since I can remember, there have always been questions hanging around the term Intelligence. Many ascribe it to being school-smart, others simply consider clever behaviours, whether in or outside the classroom, as acts of Intelligent people.

Growing up, I had my share of confusion as to whether I am intelligent or not. During class exercises, I excelled excellently without any form of “giraffing” but when it was time for examinations, those who didn’t score as much as I did in class would score higher.

At different points, I questioned my “type” of Intelligence. Sometimes, during examinations, I’d doubt the answers I had in my head, only to realize that I was right in the end. Sadly, it would have been too late.

Now that I know better, and seeing that the argument on Intelligence still lingers, here are insights, theories, and explanations I have gathered over the past few weeks. I hope it helps you answer some of the questions you have too.

Influence of Race on Intelligence

What is Intelligence?

Intelligence generally means an ability to learn, use knowledge to find solutions to problems, and adjust to new outcomes accordingly.

An operational definition of the term describes it as the outcome of Intelligence Tests. This appears to be more of the school-smart explanation of Intelligence and is arguably dependent on culture.

Meanwhile, all definitions of Intelligence, despite having some truths in them, have constantly generated controversies among psychologists. This gave birth to questions such as the following:

  • Does an intelligent person possess a single general ability or special abilities in different activities?
  • Is it possible to measure intelligence by opening up the brain through neurological science?
  • Do IQ scores prove levels of intelligence?

So, in the bid to find possible answers to these questions, researchers dug deeper into studies on Intelligence and developed different theories on the human trait. Let’s take a look at some.

Popular Theories on Intelligence

Charles Spearman’s General Intelligence Theory: Spearman, in his proposition, explained that General Intelligence determines how an individual performs in a mental ability test. And if for instance, a student excels in a particular test, he/she is likely to also excel in other tests. This submission implies that intelligent individuals will do well in every learning situation.

Thurstone’s Intelligence Theory: Unsatisfied with Spearman’s description, Louis Leon Thurstone, another psychologist, came up with a list of seven clusters that determine mental abilities. He named them Verbal Comprehension, Word Fluency, Spatial Ability (Visual Thinking), Perceptual Speed (making comparisons), Inductive Reasoning (concluding through premises), and Memory.

Gardener’s Contemporary Theory of Intelligence: Years after Spearman and Thurstone proposed their thoughts on Intelligence, another Psychologist, Howard Gardener, revisited Thurstone’s description, criticized them, and came up with what he described as the eight types of Intelligence. He named them Visual-Spatial Intelligence, Linguistic-Verbal Intelligence, Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, Musical Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, Intrapersonal Intelligence, Naturalistic Intelligence.

Later on, Robert Sternberg, another psychologist, suggested that Intelligence can only be three 3 types. He named these as Analytical Intelligence, Creative Intelligence, and Practical Intelligence.

Other Types of Intelligence

Apart from those already listed above,  one other important type of Intelligence is Emotional Intelligence, usually abbreviated as  EQ.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and use emotions appropriately. Psychologists recently developed an interest in this particular type of Intelligence as it is said to have greatly declined, especially among students. Studies show that lack of Emotional Intelligence is one of the primary causes of inappropriate behaviours among students.

I have a piece on social-emotional Intelligence. You should have a glance too.

Now, having learned about the types of Intelligence we can exhibit as humans, the next questions to ask are:

  • What determines a child’s level of intelligence?
  • Are there factors that influence Intelligence?
  • Can Intelligence be acquired or is it purely in-born?

Below are some research findings that can help us answer all.

Intelligent lady

Factors affecting/Influencing Intelligence

Genetic Factors: To ascertain whether genetics influence intelligence, researchers studied some sets of twins, family members, and adopted children. The results showed that indeed, genetics contributes to intelligence as the verbal ability of adopted children is hardly similar to their adopted parents.

Environmental Factors: Studies on environmental factors revealed that Identical twins who were raised in separate communities do not have similar intelligence scores. Meanwhile, non-identical twins who were raised together had similar Intelligence scores. Therefore, it is safe to say that environmental conditions are responsible for our levels/types of intelligence.

Early Intervention Factors: Studies also show that children who get less attention from their caregivers are likely to lose control over things easily, as they grow. This reduces their intelligence capabilities as well as their overall development.

Schooling Factors: Getting proper education also has a considerable influence on intelligence levels. Studies have shown that those who have higher education qualifications usually have higher intelligence scores.

Race Factor: An individual’s race would ordinarily not have influenced their level of intelligence, however, races are usually a group of people with similar genetics and interests. This is why intelligence scores differ when people of different races take intelligence tests. For instance, studies show that Asian students perform better than North American students in Maths and Aptitude Tests.

Spatial Intelligence Cube

Which Gender is more Intelligent? Male or Female?

Arguments on the gender with the highest level of intelligence are hard to come by but certainly, there have been talks on what types of intelligence are gender-specific and if these make one gender inferior to the other. Here is what researchers discovered:

  • Females spell better.
  • Females locate objects faster.
  • They are more sensitive when it comes to touch, taste, and colour.
  • Females are very fluent.
  • Males perform better at problem-solving in Mathematics but not as good in maths computation.
  • Females find it easy to understand emotions.

Can Intelligence be  Measured Through Neurological Science?

Some researches have suggested that the size of our brains can determine how Intelligent we are. And when our brains begin to reduce in size as we grow older, our verbal intelligence reduces too. Neurological studies have also shown that those who have high levels of Intelligence are those who can swiftly get information from their memories, perceive stimuli faster, and respond to things quickly.

The list of factors influencing Intelligence is a long one. It keeps growing as more individuals try to demystify the phenomenon. But as highlighted above, a good number of psychologists have concluded that there are different types of intelligence and while some are as a result of our immediate environment and can be refined, others are simply inborn.

In the end, except they don’t have an activity they engage in effortlessly, an individual should at the least, possess one type of Intelligence.



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