Do you know Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence? These are the two forms of intelligence that we will discuss in this article. On the one hand, what is fluid intelligence? What are the components of fluid intelligence? On the other hand, what is crystallized intelligence? What are the components of crystallized intelligence? On the other hand, what is the relationship between fluid and crystallized intelligence? What are the discoveries relating to intelligence and cognitive functions?

But above all, what is intelligence? It means the ability to know or understand the ability to solve problems, knowledge, understanding and skills, dexterity, and experience. Each of these meanings refers to a differentiated environment in which intelligence systematically plays a fundamental role.

From a rational point of view, knowledge and understanding are essential factors in solving problems. How human beings analyze the options available to them to find the best way to achieve a result we do not know requires a high level of cognitive development. Skills and dexterity are also products of everyone’s intelligence. Experience has a bidirectional relationship with intelligence: they develop in parallel and give results in return.

There is also a categorization of different types of intelligence to better understand the concept and how it helps us solve tasks of a different nature.

Fluid and Crystallized IntelligenceFluid and Crystallized Intelligence

The British psychologist Raymond Cattel (1905 – 1998) established in 1943 a distinction between two types of intelligence: fluid and crystallized intelligence. According to Cattell, fluid intelligence is defined as the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations, and identify patterns. On the contrary, crystallized intelligence is defined as the ability to use acquired knowledge and experience.

It is worth noting that emotional intelligence. Emotions are considered to be intrinsic to our non-pathological mental behavior and activity and, therefore, must be studied to understand how we are. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s emotions and those of others and to use that information to guide our thinking and behavior. Many of our decisions are more or less influenced by emotions.

These articles on intelligence and emotions could interest you, thank you to consult them:

– Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire for Parent

– The Psychology of Intelligence

– Where Do Emotions Originate?

– How to improve emotional intelligence in children?

I – Fluid Intelligence

Fluid intelligence refers to a person’s ability to adapt and deal with new situations in a nimble way, without prior learning, experience, or acquired knowledge that assumes decisive help for their manifestation.

Fluid intelligence is closely related to neurophysiological variables – for example, with the development of neuronal connections – and its influence is more marked because its development depends largely on the genetic basis. The same thing does not happen with crystallized intelligence.

In the same way, a link can be established between the potential development of fluid intelligence and the growth of the child in a rewarding environment. Living in a positive and rewarding environment correlates with the development of neuronal connections in brain regions associated with memory, learning, and orientation in space.

1 – Components of Fluid Intelligence

– The ability to reason with abstract content

– The logical reasoning

– Ability to build relationships or extract differences

Fluid intelligence acquires its maximum point of early form development, around adolescence. This is a big difference from the peak moment of crystallized intelligence. In this way, during adulthood, this capacity is usually reduced gradually as the body ages and the neuronal structures deteriorate.

The decrease in fluid intelligence can be due to several factors: normal aging, accidents, pathologies, drug use, etc. These last three factors can cause lesions or alterations of the different structures of the brain and the central nervous system.

2 – Healthy Brain Metabolism Communicates with Fluid Intelligence in Young Adults

A study by researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, published in Cerebral Cortex in March 2016, points out that improving the connectivity of the cerebellum to the brain increases the creative capacity of young adults.

What Are the Findings of the Latest Research on Fluid Intelligence?

It turns out that removing control centers from the brain and allowing the cerebellum to be the “controller” increases spontaneous creativity, directly related to fluid intelligence. This is a revolutionary concept that challenges the dubious construction of the “right-brain”, our creative epicenter. In many ways, these findings are part of the most recent research on several aspects of fluid intelligence.

The latest neuroscience is redefining the traditional concepts of how we perceive intelligence by deconstructing the role played by various brain structures, functional connectivity and brain chemistry in our daily thinking processes.

3 – Biomarkers Cerebral Dissociable Fluid Intelligence

A new study by researchers at the Beckman Institute of the University of Illinois, published in the June 2016 issue of NeuroImage, provides more information on how brain structure and chemistry generate specific aspects of brain fluid intelligence.

A General Intelligence Correlates with Two Brain-Based Biomarkers

Cognitive neuroscientists have been conducting research for a long time to better understand the biological underpinnings of various types of human intelligence. Decades of research have revealed that general intelligence correlates with two brain-based biomarkers: brain biochemical N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) concentration, which can be measured by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and total brain volume, which can be measured with structural brain MRI images.

The peculiarity of this study is that researchers have associated the highest concentrations of NAA energy production in the brain with an increased ability to solve verbal and spatial problems. However, researchers have found an association between brain size and solving problems related to numbers.

NAA is a biochemical marker used to measure neuronal energy production in a specific area of the brain.

The analysis of this study focused on 211 research topics, making it the largest study to date that relates brain chemistry to intelligence in living humans. The researchers point out that more studies will be needed to confirm and extend the results.

Many Elements of the Brain Determine a Person’s Intelligence

According to the researchers, many elements of the brain determine a person’s intelligence and the goal is to try to dissociate this puzzle. These two brain biomarkers, brain volume, and NAA provide independent information about fluid intelligence. There are different properties of the brain that we can measure, and these different properties go hand in hand with these different facets of fluid intelligence.

In their data, they observed two facets of fluid intelligence: one involving quantitative or numerical reasoning and the other involving verbal or spatial reasoning. A similar separation of reasoning skills has been demonstrated in previous studies.

They discovered that the quantitative reasoning component of intelligence correlates with brain volume, but not with NAA concentration in the brain. And the verbal and spatial components of intelligence correlated with the NAA, but not with the volume of the brain. The results add to the evidence that fluid intelligence involves distinct but interdependent processes in the brain.

The Intelligence Reflects Multiple Levels of the Organization

These findings contribute to a growing body of evidence suggesting that intelligence reflects multiple levels of organization in the neuroanatomy covering the brain, eg brain size, and neurophysiology, such as brain metabolism, and that Specific properties of the brain provide a powerful goal for studying and understanding the nature of specific intellectual abilities.


The cerebellum is the seat of muscle memory. The cerebellum can also play a role in optimizing fluid intelligence by refining our thoughts and adjusting our muscle movements.

Prefrontal Cortex

Unlocking the executive control centers of the prefrontal cortex can allow the flow of thoughts to flow without friction or viscosity between the cerebral hemispheres. This process could improve both fluid intelligence and creative thinking.

The researchers concluded that although total brain size can be genetically determined and not easily altered, NAA levels and brain metabolism can respond to health interventions such as diet, exercise, or diet cognitive training, all of which can improve fluid intelligence.

II – Crystallized Intelligence

Crystallized intelligence is the set of abilities, strategies, and knowledge that constitute the degree of cognitive development achieved through a person’s learning history.

*** Components of Crystallized Intelligence

– The understanding of language

– The degree of understanding and use of semantic relations

– Evaluation of the experience

– The ability to make judgments and conclusions

– Mechanical knowledge

– The orientation in space

Crystallized intelligence depends to a large extent on learning from the person’s experience in the cultural context in which they live and frequent. The development of the crystallized intelligence of each person depends to a large extent on a good investment of his fluid historical intelligence in the habits allowing him to learn new things.

Educational Experiences Are Important

The potential for intellectual development with which we are born – also called historical fluid intelligence – will reach a higher or lower level depending on educational experiences lived in the course of life.

In fact, the development of intellectual abilities can progress in the course of life, to the extent that the experiential context and the motivation of the person to continue learning to allow it.

The way in which the vital experience intervenes in the intelligence of a person can be known through the observation of the effects of stress on the deterioration of the cerebral structures. According to a recent study from the University of Toronto, hormones secreted by the human body when we are worried or nervous directly affect an area of the brain related to cognitive functions, such as memory, orientation in space.

This is essential both for the constant search for new knowledge and to lead a balanced life if we want to maintain our cognitive abilities in their best version.

III – Between Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence

As already mentioned, fluid intelligence refers to the ability to acquire new concepts and to adapt to new situations, while crystallized intelligence refers to the use of intellectual skills already acquired. This is the main difference between fluid and crystallized intelligence.

Changes After Adulthood

The psychometric studies carried out during aging suggest that, after reaching adulthood, a decrease in fluid intelligence begins to occur, which gradually undergoes a decrease in its measured scores by means of a test. It is from the mid-forties that this decline is manifested significantly. On the contrary, the evaluation tests of crystallized intelligence show that it is maintained or even increased at this stage of the life cycle.

How to Adapt to New Situations?

An essential element of intelligence is knowing how to adapt to the new situations presented by the environment. In this sense, and as a likely mechanism to compensate for the loss of fluid intellectual abilities, with age the recognition of similar patterns of situations that have already worked well, as well as the mastery of strategies, techniques, and skills needed to achieve our goals. In addition, the ability to optimize the physical effort used in each specific task is increased, as is the ability to organize and schedule tasks.

Cognitive Deterioration Is Not Universal

Studies to measure intellectual deterioration – intellectual capacity and adaptation to the environment – were conducted on groups of people analyzed in a cross-sectional manner. The results corroborate the idea that aging is universal but not cognitive deterioration, because many people do not show it.

Crystalline Intelligence Is a Form of Declarative Memory

Crystalline intelligence is a form of declarative memory that represents brain events that could be memorized and that could be answered in a standardized multiple-choice test. As its name suggests, crystallized intelligence is neither fluid nor malleable. In many ways, the emphasis on measuring intelligence based solely on academic tests measuring only crystallized intelligence has underestimated the importance of fluid intelligence and allowed for the digital age.

IV – Evolution of Intelligence and Cognitive Functions During Life

A study by researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts General Hospital, published in Psychological Science in March 2015, shows that neither fluid intelligence is maximal around the age of twenty, nor crystallized intelligence gradually increases.

The researchers wanted to study intelligence and did it through the Internet by evaluating subjects who visited the pages with Games With and Using this tool, they obtained results in memory and intelligence tests in 48,537 subjects (aged 10 to 89 years).

Interesting Results

The results of the different subjects coincided. Here is the evolution of the skills they established based on their study:

– Ability to identify the emotions of others. It evolves throughout life and peaks between 40 and 60 years.

– Vocabulary. Improves and peaks towards the end of 60 or the beginning of 70 years. These data are very different from those obtained by other studies and the researchers justify this by changes in the education level of the population.

– Codification of symbols and figures (a measurement of mental agility). The maximum peak at around 18 years old.

– Working memory (visual). The maximum peak at 25 years and then it begins to decline.

– Work memory (digital). Highest point between 30 and 35 years, then progressive decline.

We Improve on Some Aspects and Get Worse on Others

The researchers point out that at any age, one skill is improved and another deteriorated, there is no age when most skills are in full swing. What happens is that at each age, we improve on some aspects and get worse on others, so that there is no optimal age for intellectual performance.

One of the most useful implications of this study would be to apply it to tests of cognitive deterioration, that is, to incorporate sensitivity into the age at which the person compensates for deficits that can be expected normal aging of this age.

Crystallized Intelligence Develops Throughout Life

While fluid intelligence, which reflects the speed at which the brain processes information, reaches its peak in early adulthood, crystallized intelligence, based on accumulated experience, develops throughout the life of brain life.

The expert brain works like an old computer that contains a lot of information and processes it slowly, which is why older people, voices of experience, can give the best advice.

The Best Time to Interpret the Emotions of Others

One of the tests included in the study was emotional intelligence and, according to the results – they had to recognize different emotions in the eyes of others – the best time to interpret the emotions of others is between mid-life and sixties.

Just as we lose muscle or firmness in the skin, the brain loses mass and volume, 25% between 30 and 80 years. And myelin also degrades a substance that lines the cables of neurons, so that the transmission of nerve impulses becomes less effective or decreases the dopamine that controls from the movements of the body to attention or sleep.

But no organ is more capable than the brain of adapting to changes, learning new tasks, and generating original ideas. The cognitive functions of the brain resemble the beating of the heart, they are maintained until death.

*** Intelligence and Old Age: The Value of Experience

There is evidence that experience, and therefore age, helps to improve crystallized intelligence. The plastic capacity of the brain makes this realization possible. To the extent that context and personal motivation allow, advancing age can make us smarter. In general, a 45-year-old has three times more vocabulary than 20; at the age of 60, the amount of information stored in his brain is four times larger.

Researchers say that thanks to this wealth of knowledge, older people can be wise; that is, making decisions based on complex experiences accumulated throughout life. However, it must be remembered that, in order for intelligence and old age to not move away, it is necessary to exercise the brain regularly.

Note: Brain Active Despite Age

You can learn a language or play an instrument at any age. Cognitive skills change over the years, some are lost, but others are acquired. The transformation of our brain activity should not be experienced as a decline but as an adaptation. And that depends only on our attitude.

I hope that after this reading, you understand the difference between fluid and crystallized intelligence.

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