What is intelligence?

What Does Intelligence Mean

We explain what intelligence is, its types, how it develops and other characteristics. Also, its relationship with creativity.

The term intelligence generally summarizes various mental capacities.

What is intelligence?

Intelligence can be understood as the ability both to understand or comprehend and to solve problems . The word "intelligence" comes from the Latin intellgentia , from the verb intellegere (composed of the voices inter , "between", and legere , "read"), and from its beginnings it was associated with "knowing how to choose", in the sense of understanding , that is, to be able to determine the contexts and rescue the meanings.


Intellectus was a term used during the Middle Ages to refer to understanding, at a time when few people read, and it was used as a translation of the Greek word nous (spirit, the highest part of the soul). Thus was born also intelligentsia , a term to name the social class composed of intellectuals and personalities of the culture of a country.

In modern times, however, it has more or less been accepted that there is no single concept of intelligence . Many specialists in psychology have tried to formulate it, however, and the idea that there is no single intelligence, but that there are numerous forms of it , has finally been accepted .

Thus, Howard Gardner's " Theory of Multiple Intelligences " emerged in 1983 , according to which there would be at least eight different models of intelligence, each one adapted to a specific area of life.

Even so, the popular use of the term intelligence generally summarizes mental capacities such as: processing speed, verbal comprehension, logical-mathematical agility, deductive thinking grasp or working memory capacity.

It can help you: Intrapersonal intelligence

Intelligence characteristics

Just as it is difficult to define intelligence universally, it is difficult to find its universal characteristics. In principle, it is expected to fulfill the following functions:

  • Anticipate . Based on what we have learned and the variables of the environment, intelligence seeks to anticipate what could happen and take the pertinent measures to protect, ensure or give us the advantage in any situation.
  • Build . Intelligence builds the thought structures that memory will store, in such a way that it allows us to return to them (experiences) to react to future situations.
  • Communicate . Intelligence is also in charge of the communicative area, forming its own symbols and languages , which allow us to represent the real world in its absence.
  • Decipher . An intelligent person should have easier deductive understanding of systems devised by third parties, which in principle would allow solving puzzles, deciphering codes, finding answers and solving problems.
  • Establish relationships . Causation, consequence, the various types of relationships that we can establish between one reality and another, are the field of action of intelligence.

Intelligence development

Intelligence development is affected by numerous environmental factors.

The development of human intelligence is studied by pedagogy , based on various determining factors of its progressive growth, such as:

  • Genetic factors . Hereditary propensities and innate facilities towards some kind of intelligence.
  • Environmental factors . Vital elements in the growth of the individual, especially in its early stages, such as nutrition , an adequate family environment, access to formal education , and motivation towards learning .

It is generally accepted that, as an outstanding characteristic, intelligence begins to manifest at an early age , although there is no safe margin to “diagnose” it, nor universal factors to measure it.

Many absolute geniuses in their respective professional areas, throughout history, were despised in their youth by the school system, since they did not fit the ideal of intelligence of the time, and many were considered underfunded as children.

Intelligence types

Just as there is no single definition of intelligence, there are numerous forms of intelligence that allow it to be studied separately, according to the specific field of perceptions, reasoning or perceptions that they involve:

  • Linguistic-verbal . They are the intelligence models that are based on the formulation of thought through verbal language, whether written or oral, as well as its transmission and recovery through reading .
  • Numerical . The one that has to do with formal logical processes and that finds its maximum expression in mathematics and numbers.
  • Space . It points to thedeep perception of the environment, of the forms that underlie what is seen and the relationships between them.
  • Physical or motor . It is a model of intelligence occupied with the actions of the body, that is, its movements, its skills, its capacities. It is not usually considered a form of intelligence, because it is often mistakenly associated with mental or intellectual processes only.
  • Emotional . Emotional intelligence has to do with the effective and efficient management of one's own emotionality, originally proposed by Daniel Coleman in his book Emotional intelligence .
  • Social . That intelligence that applies to the field of interpersonal relationships and that uses charisma, leadership , even manipulation and other talents of a social nature.

Intelligence and creativity

In our imaginary, intelligence is usually linked to the ability to create , although in principle it is about two different things. People with high intelligence margins are usually creative people, in the sense of being restless, alert and often with peculiar, particular interests, outside the norm.

However, not all creators are necessarily intelligent , since creative activity is, at its core, a mysterious talent of the human mind. In any case, it is common for a writing genius to possess a high level of linguistic ability and verbal intelligence, for example; While a science genius surely possesses an outstanding mathematical and logical ability; etc.

More in: Creativity

Inteligence test

Intelligence tests in general give an average impression of the different mental capacities of an individual . They usually average them in a number or percentage that expresses, in some way, whether the individual's talents are above or below average (such as IQ or IQ).

In any case, they should not be taken as reliable or too relevant information (much less information that can be done informally).

Some examples of intelligence tests are:

  • International IQ test .
  • CI Test Online .
  • Psychoactive Intelligence Test .

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