Intelligence isn’t just about book learning and IQ tests. In the 20th Century, psychologists pinpointed two distinct types of intelligence. Researchers continue to study the differences between fluid vs. crystallized intelligence.

Their results tell you a lot about how you handle certain situations. Also, it includes why you excel at some jobs or hobbies and not others. This comes along with other reasons for your thinking patterns.

The Features: Fluid Vs. Crystallized Intelligence

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Both intelligence types, fluid vs. crystallized intelligence, features general intelligence got developed by psychologist Raymond Cattell. Then, it expanded upon by John L. Horn, one of Cattell’s students.

Problem-Solving Intelligence

Fluid intelligence (abbreviated as Gf) enables you to solve problems, identify patterns, think abstractly, and reason.  It comes as an “in the moment” type of intelligence reliant on natural ability. Rather than memorized or stored knowledge. It appears as a type of intelligence you use when you don’t already know what to do.

Solving a puzzle and teaching yourself to sew without lessons or videos comes as primary examples. Further, solving any problem without assistance from others (or a “how-to” guide) go as an on-the-spot intelligence.  Similarly, these get associated with physiological competence, and unrelated to education or outside factors.

The Function

Primarily, you appear someone new in the city and doesn’t know anyone.  Then, you get to use Gf to figure out which train to take with the name of the next stop closest to your destination.

There, you need to walk or transfer to a bus to get to the final location. You need to adapt to a situation on the spur of the moment, and Gf helps you do that. Gf governs the ability to think outside the box and create something new.

It arrives unmeasurable by an IQ test. People with a high level of this type of intelligence become inventors, doctors, executives, or artists. Accordingly, Steve Jobs come as an example of someone with a high amount of Gf.

The Issues

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People with a low amount of this intelligence experience difficulty solving unfamiliar problems. Usually, you need help from others to do so. We always get confronted with a potentially dangerous situation. Then, we figure out how to handle it requires fluid thinking.  

Nevertheless, this requires stored knowledge. One type of intelligence arrives not “better” than the other. Here, you need a sufficient amount of both for a satisfying and healthy life. Illness, injuries, and aging reduce the capacity for Gf.

Commonly, believed the capacity for fluid thought peaks in the late 20s and then declines. This happens due to the deterioration of the right cerebellum.

The Solution

You probably notice a little harder to solve puzzles or arrive at an abstract conclusion as you get older. There appear some ways to slow down this process, but you do not prevent it.

Overwork saps your problem-solving ability, too. The Whitehall II Stress and Health Study study, conducted in 1985, showed that people who work 55 hours or more a week experienced a decline in Gf.

When comparing fluid vs. crystallized intelligence, the former seems helpful. This happens when you encounter an unusual situation. You get no prior knowledge of how to handle it. One must “think on your feet” and solve the problem without assistance.

Creativity comes as best described as a fluid concept. You seem not following a playbook when you create. And in that sense, Gf and creativity appear intertwined. A paper published in the journal Intelligence makes a case for the importance of freeform, [G7] fluid thinking and creativity.

“Old” or Stored Intelligence

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Crystallized intelligence (abbreviated as Gc) got identified by psychologist Raymond Cattell in the 1980s.  It encompasses the skills you learn through education and experience. These facts and memories exist cataloged in your brain and you refer to them when necessary.

The process of gaining factual knowledge remains referred to as a [G8] cognitive investment. Instead of putting money into stocks or bonds, you accrue knowledge. This grows and withdrawn as used when needed.

A standardized test measures this type of intelligence. It happens like a college entrance exam. It embodies all your knowledge through your declarative memory. Also, with vocabulary and general memory of people, places, and things. Everything you learn or experience gets added to your Gc intelligence.

The Situation

For example, accounting comes as a job dependant on Gc. Employing a fluid approach to balancing a company’s ledger gets an accountant fired, or worse.

You also use stored knowledge to accomplish certain tasks. Particularly, this comes visible by maneuvering the streets in the city where you grew up after being away for ten years. You still remember what it feels like to live and work in that city. Hence, you draw upon your past experiences to guide you.

Gc gets dependant upon cultural, social and educational opportunities, personality and motivation. It occurs only indirectly influenced by physiological factors like Gf.

Your Future

This reservoir of knowledge gets larger as we age and introduce more facts and skills to our lives. Most psychologists believe that Gc increases for people in their 60s and 70s.  However, this doesn’t decline until the early 80s. It happens as one of the few aspects of life that gets better with age.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology comes relevant. It showed older executives scored better than younger executives on Gc. This did not peak until the 60s or 70s, but their Gf skills decline around age 59.

Fluid vs. Crystallized Intelligence: Two Equally Important Types of Intelligence

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You use both of these intelligence types daily, fluid vs. crystallized intelligence. When you need to assemble a kitchen cart, you need to use Gf to fit the pieces together.  This happens as no instructions get required and you never put a similar furniture kit together.

Notably, you also use Gf to figure out how to solve a statistics problem on a psychology exam. Or, solve a customer serviced problem at work.

We need to use Gc to recall the right formula to use for the statistics problem on the psychology exam. So, applying both types of intelligence in a single situation comes as a common occurrence.

Physical Activity and Its Effect on Intelligence

Scientists have discovered a link between physical fitness and improved fluid reasoning in young adults. A study in Behavioral Brain Research showed that hormones called growth factors released during exercise might help improve memory.

Exercise impacts the hippocampus, a part of the brain essential for learning and cognitive function. Too much-crystallized intelligence reduce the ability for fluid thinking. According to this article, loading up on facts and figures emphasizes today’s digital and tech-heavy society. It leaves you more creative, fluid thinking to languish in many individuals.

The Link

Gf gets linked to creativity and non-academic fields like sports and music. Everyone has a different mix of “book smarts” and free-form intelligence.

They try to fit a creative person (predominantly Gf) into a Gc (mostly concrete knowledge) world is a waste of that person’s talents. Concentrate on non-academic, non-technological activities, such as sports, art, and music, to revive long-dormant fluid thinking.

Boosting Intelligence

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Gc and Gf prove that everyone has equal learning capacities. The processes for learning are the same for everyone. But, the short-term memory, learning bias, and memory span vary according to the individual.

Your Gc intelligence isn’t influenced by your Gf intelligence. However, a higher Gf can help you acquire information more rapidly. Having excellent problem solving/creative intelligence can boost your storehouse of knowledge.

Your Brain

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2008 showed that brain training could raise Gf intelligence to a certain extent.  There’s even a software program that claims it can increase Gf by as much as 40% in less than a month.

The idea that you’re not “stuck” with a particular IQ or a deficient in one type of intelligence is heartening. Brain training, working memory training and intelligence-training software helps anyone. This happens to people who want to improve their Gf, Gc and overall cognitive abilities.

Analyzing Intelligence

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The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale measures several types of intelligence. This includes the problem-solving ability and to a certain extent, acquired knowledge. Accordingly, the test consists of verbal and performance IQ tests and adjusted several times since it first appeared in 1955.

The Test

The four index scores for intelligence are verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed. A full-scale IQ score combines scores on all four index tests. The General Ability Index is based on the verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning scores.

There are separate examinations to measure Gf, though they aren’t used as often as the general tests. The Cattell Culture Fair IQ Test and the Raven Progressive Matrices. Likewise, the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, #5 and 15 can calculate your Gf.

The Perspective of Fluid vs. Crystallized Intelligence

Fluid vs. crystallized intelligence isn’t a tug-of-war between two different aspects of intelligence. The Cattell-Horn theory was first written in 1941 by Cattell and refined in 1966 by Horn and Cattell. They claimed that general intelligence consists of about 100 abilities that work together.

The different types of intelligence play out in various ways, depending on the individual. Gc and Gf divide the abilities into two broad categories, which develop in diverse ways from childhood to old age.

Both intelligence types can be interdependent on one another or used on their own. Ultimately, though, they interact to form your overall intelligence.


Featured Image: CC by 2.0, Yugank Singhal, via Flickr

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