Fluid & Crystallized Intelligence: Our Cognitive World

“Our mind has the capacity to cross the line we have drawn for it. Beyond the contrasts in the world, new insights begin.”

Hermann Hesse

Intelligence; It can be defined as the capacity to perceive information coming from the environment and to apply this information in necessary contexts. It includes human cognitive processes such as thinking, problem solving, reasoning, understanding, awareness, learning, creative, abstract and critical thinking. From past to present, many different theories on intelligence have been proposed. Charles Spearman (1904) g factor Thurstone (1938) and Sternberg (1985) drew attention to the different functions of intelligence, and Gardner (2011) defined 8 different types based on the value given to different types of intelligence in different cultures. The theory we will focus on today is the Fluid and Crystallized Theory of Intelligence, developed in 1963 by Psychologist Raymond Cattell and his student John Horn.

Fluid Intelligence

Intelligence is not only the sum of the knowledge we have accumulated over the years, but also the ability to learn new knowledge. When we consider the concept of intelligence in this context, there are two types of intelligence: fluid and crystallized. Every individual is born with a certain level of fluid intelligence. Biologically determined fluid intelligence; flexibility of thought, abstract thinking skills, ability to adapt to new situations and reasoning. People process the new and unfamiliar problems they encounter, produce solutions and apply this solution by showing a fast performance. At this point, methods such as deduction, induction, analogical logic and quantitative reasoning are used. When we look at it neurologically; Fluid intelligence has been shown to depend on a flexible and adaptive nervous system. Dynamic nervous systems enable the person to perform the tasks assigned to him. According to brain imaging studies, in areas where fluid intelligence is actively used, it has been observed that the cortical regions of the brain work intensively to solve a certain problem in a synchronized way. Neural synchronization increased as the task difficulty increased. On the other hand, the observed increases in short-term memory and working memory showed that this type of intelligence may also be related to performance in situations such as cognitive speed, visual and auditory processing, retention of information in memory for a short period of time, and reasoning in new problems.

Crystallized Intelligence

Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, is influenced by cultural and environmental factors, and consists of information that a person learns from both educational institutions and life experiences. As a result of the information kept in long-term memory, an accumulation of knowledge is experienced. Over time, as knowledge increases and is practiced, crystallized intelligence becomes stronger. Therefore, crystallized intelligence, in a sense, reflects the abundance, richness and depth of knowledge. At the same time, the words that individuals use frequently, their verbal skills and the capacity to understand what they read are closely related to this type of intelligence. That’s why tests that measure verbal skills are used to assess crystallized intelligence.

Harmony of Two Intelligences

Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence work in harmony: Fluid intelligence makes sense of the new problems we face and produces a solution. After enough practice, these problems cease to be new and foreign and turn into familiar and familiar situations. This knowledge gained in fluid intelligence is also accumulated by crystallized intelligence and put into practice in different contexts. For example, when a person wants to be an architect, he will constantly encounter new problems: being able to produce creative designs by finding new ideas, making mathematical measurements and learning the necessary computer programs. Fluid intelligence works hard to understand these new problems, find solutions and produce original ideas. Those who practice these skills enough, on the other hand, save new information in their minds and use it to apply it when necessary throughout life. Therefore, the speed of learning in any field depends on both types of intelligence.

Intelligence Over Time

So, do these types of intelligence stand the test of time, or do they wear out over time? According to the researches, the performance difference between the two in the process until adolescence depends on the educational opportunities offered to the person, motivation, personality, interests and skills. Fluid intelligence reaches its maximum in early adulthood and declines towards old age. On the other hand, with the increase in knowledge, it has been observed that the crystallized intelligence of healthy individuals increases up to a certain age. For example, consider how your grandfather had difficulty learning about a new technology product. Over time, cognitive and perceptual abilities will decline due to the decrease in working memory capacity; The problem-solving and reasoning abilities that define fluid intelligence will also be negatively affected. As a result, there will be a slowdown in the information processing process. Thus, individuals in old age will have difficulty in focusing, making decisions and making sense of new information. When we look at the bright side of the coin, it is seen that this decline is not experienced at the same rate in every individual. According to research on Alzheimer’s and dementia; The effectiveness of crystallized intelligence decreases relatively slowly in individuals with a high education level and who frequently engage in cognitive activities that develop minds. Masunaga and Horn conducted a research on the performance of fluid intelligence with the GO game, which is widely played in Japan and where mental skills are at the forefront just like chess. According to this research, it has been observed that those who actively use their mental skills over the years and thus maintain their fluid intelligence as well as possible as they age exhibit the best gaming performance.

Individual Differences

When we come to individual differences, it is seen that students who are interested in their lessons throughout their school life, are motivated for an exploratory learning process and have a good memory of what they have learned, improve themselves in both intelligence areas. On the other hand, research on personality is based on the Five Factor Personality Theory. openness to new experiences shows that the trait may have a relationship with intelligence. Individuals who are open to new experiences strengthen their fluid intelligence by participating in mental activities that can improve themselves; they also contribute to their crystallized intelligence with the different knowledge and experience they have gained through these experiences. Along with intelligence, creativity is another trait highly valued by today’s societies. Being able to think differently and develop original views compared to others are parts of creativity. Creative people create new ideas by building a bridge between the knowledge they have and the situations they have just encountered. While crystallized intelligence enables to combine experiential learning with general cultural knowledge, fluid intelligence blends this material and creates a new product with abstract thinking ability.

Among the many activities recommended to keep your mind active are solving puzzles, playing chess, learning card games, learning languages, jotting down newly learned words, speeding up brain processing with physical activities such as dance and sports, learning and teaching new skills, and breaking the routine to get different experiences. is located.

As a result, Cattell introduced the concepts of fluid and crystallized intelligence to understand the cognitive world of humans. However, he showed that crystallized intelligence can be consolidated by the cognitive investment of fluid intelligence in a newly learned subject. It is not just to learn a piece of information; It will develop our intelligence to reason, question and produce creative ideas on that information.

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