Most people understand the meaning of intelligence as a measure of how smart they are. They use to take IQ tests and compare their results with some standard thresholds, which determine if someone is bright, dull or normal. Well, this is the standard concept of intellect that appears to be different from the expert’s opinion.
Is intelligence a single general ability or a set of many mental abilities? This is the fundamental question that researchers try to answer in order to form a precise definition.
There are many theories of intelligence, and also many followers of these theories argue in what intelligence is. Scholars were interested since the 18th century to understand and define intelligence.
Today the most recent and prevailing definition that psychologists propose is the ability of the environmental adaptation.
To give an example of this definition, imagine someone who finds a new job. This person needs to learn his new duties, to get specialized knowledge of his working place, to get new training and, in general, to absorb the required skills in order to do his job correctly. In other words, he must adapt to the new work environment.
This process requires involving more of a mental ability. He needs to learn, memorize, experience and then apply all of this new knowledge to his job. Therefore, he will learn from his experience and day by day his performance will increase.
All these different mental activities point to the concept that intelligence is a whole collection of mental processes and not just a single general ability.
However, this conclusion was not obvious in the beginning. To summarize and generalize the above example, the ability to successful adaptation draws upon the following cognitive processes:
o Problem Solving
If you want to read more theoretical knowledge on this topic, check the Theory of Intelligence and see how scholars tried and are still attempting to approach the complex meaning of Intelligence.
But How do we Experience Intelligence?
Now let’s observe ourselves and examine how we experience intelligence in everyday life.
We may have some theoretical knowledge about it but in order to have a complete viewpoint, we need to understand it from a practical perspective.
I will speak from my experience as it is the only one that I know and I can write for sure.
As I was growing, I understood that my mind should be playing a decisive role in my progress. From this realization and beyond, I wanted to be a bright person and to be distinguished for this. Anything that could test my mind’s capacity was a challenge to me, to prove to myself and to the other people that I was indeed smart (not so high self-esteem at this point).
Many times I got disappointed with the results, giving me a feeling that I was stupid for sure while on other occasions I scored high on IQ tests and I was thinking about me as a genius. Well, both situations had an impact in my self-confidence that was affecting my overall performance and not only in tests.
I will give you an example of this. You may know these competitive mini games in Facebook: “who has the biggest brain?”, “Word Challenge” and the “Geo Challenge”. Well, I’ll tell you for the first one. This game has four parts that test your analytical, calculation, memory and visual skill. In the end, all four individual scores are added up to form your final score.
When I played for the first time, I scored about 1600 points. This was a very low score, and the figure that was corresponding to this score was a monkey. I saw the scores of some friends of mine at 3000+ and got disappointed for another time.
I was keeping up playing this game until reaching a score that would be satisfying for me. Finally, I reached 3000+. This took me about a month of everyday playing.
So, I thought I was indeed a smart person with such a high score. How stupid was I again? Despite the high score on this game, I didn’t realize any change in my life and in the way that I was thinking. OK, I was able to do simple mathematical calculations fast, but that was it.
I stopped playing that game and started to play the other two games. Same story again. I got low scores in the beginning and high scores later through playing.
The interesting question is what happens to your scores after a break of two or three months? I couldn’t reach the high scores I was hitting when I was regularly playing. I tested once myself in the brain game after a long break and scored about 2600. This is roughly in the middle.
I was testing myself in other tests as well, always the same thing happened, poor performance in the beginning and good performance after a period of testing.
And then I realized why this happened.
My Point of View
I concluded to the following theory. Intelligence has infinite dimensions, thus is not overall measurable.
You may have noticed, that you act based on your intelligence every time, in your everyday life. Many people consider that it is linked to successfulness, and it determines the fate of people’s lives.
Up to a point in my life, I approached intellect as a closed set of mental skills, and if I could train each of them, then I would be equipped to succeed in life. My approach was totally mistaken, and that was the main reason that I was scoring high in some tests but not in others.
I think about intelligence as a broad general meaning, an aspect of the human mind that has infinite dimensions. I am not smarter than you; there is no general comparison between people. No one is smarter than anyone. But I may be smarter in mathematics, and you may be smarter in language.
We may be smarter than someone else in a particular skill but not overall; because this person is unquestionably smarter than us in something else. So, who is smarter? No one, we cannot compare.
Another proof of this view is when people that show exceptional skill in intelligence tests are failing in their real lives. If Intelligence were a countable set of mental abilities, then this shouldn’t be happening. Also, I believe that this is the reason that there is not yet a single complete Theory.
In any case, I think our brains develop as we train them. If every day we take analytical tests then our brain develops its neurons and creates pathways between the areas of the brain that are involved in mathematical problem solving. Thus, we are getting smarter day by day in resolving such problems.
This extended neuron network advances to a point where we have no more difficulties in mathematics. Our brain is like a muscle. As we train, it becomes stronger, but if suddenly we stop the training then it will lose all its gains.
To summarize the above, my view on the broad meaning of Intelligence is that we cannot compare the overall intelligence of different people and say who is smarter after all. We can only examine a particular specialization, but not the total skill capacity of mind.
All these discussion posted on this page are my thoughts and beliefs and cannot be used as a scientific approach. They constitute MY PERSONAL views on the matter, remember we are just drinking coffee, and we are discussing. I repeat, I am not a psychologist or an expert, I just like to read and research such topics and I post what I believe over the matters that I study.
inteligence, human. (2009). Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica 2009 Student and Home Edition. Chicago: Encyclopdia Britannica.Detterman, Douglas K. “Inteligence.” Microsoft Student 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.