Mind 6 min read

What Is Crystallized Intelligence And How To Improve It?

by Marija Krstova December 5, 2018

Crystallized intelligence isn’t a newly discovered term. Psychologists have been discussing it for quite some time now. However, not a lot of people are actually familiar with what crystallized intelligence is, why it matters and how to improve it.

Luckily that’s what we’re here to find out about.

What is Crystallized Intelligence?

There are many people who have heard of the term but are still not sure what the true crystallized intelligence definition is.

According to psychologist Raymond Cattell and his student John Horn, who developed the Cattell-Horn theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence, crystallized intelligence is what we acquire through knowledge, past experiences and culture, and it reflects in tests, quizzes, general knowledge of trivia, usage of languages, vocabulary, grammar and so on.

How is crystallized intelligence acquired?

Crystallized intelligence is acquired through studying, learning new things, reading, and accomplishing different tasks.

Therefore, we can measure crystallized intelligence through vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension and other similar tests, as well as quizzes, game shows and trivia games.

There are two groups of factors that impact development of your chrystallized intelligence – external and internal.

External factors include the culture and educational system you grow up in while internal factors include personal characteristics like curiosity and internal motivation to learn new things.

What is an example of crystallized intelligence?

To make things a bit clearer, let’s have a look at examples of crystallized intelligence.

Since we acquire crystallized intelligence through learning and through our past experiences, we normally use it for:

  • Solving familiar problems we’ve faced in the past
  • Doing tests
  • Playing trivia games
  • Competing on game shows and so on

Here are some examples of crystallized intelligence:

  • Knowing the exact dates of famous historic events
  • Knowing the ingredients of your dish meal by heart
  • Learning new vocabulary
  • Memorizing new algebraic formulas
  • Remembering statistics you’ve read in the past and more
fluid vs crystallized

Fluid vs Crystallized Intelligence: What’s The Difference?

As we already mentioned before, the theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence was first developed by psychologist Raymond Cattell and his student John Horn.

They proposed that as we grow and develop, these two types of intelligence change along with us.

When we take a look at fluid vs crystallized intelligence we’ll notice that there are a lot of differences between these two types of intelligence. They change and respond differently with age. They develop in different ways and we use them in different everyday life situations.


Since you’re already familiar with the concept of crystallized intelligence, let’s have a look at what fluid intelligence actually is, and why it matters so much.

What is fluid intelligence?

Before we head off to talk about what role this type of intelligence plays in our lives, let’s have a look at what fluid intelligence actually is, and what makes it so different from crystallized intelligence.

Here’s the main fluid intelligence definition:

Fluid intelligence is the ability to face and resolve unknown, novel and dynamic problems and situations.

Think, “street smarts”.

Now, you see how different are these two types of intelligence.

If crystallized intelligence is the ability to use previously attained information, facts, knowledge and experiences, fluid intelligence is our ability to face an obstacle without using any of those things, and without having prior knowledge or experience in the situation we’re facing.

Fluid intelligence is a crucial element in our development. It encompasses the ability to think and solve problems quickly, by using reasoning, logic, pattern recognition, abstract thinking, as well as by adapting to new conditions and developing new problem-solving strategies on the spot.

Fluid intelligence, as the name suggests, is fluid, flexible and adaptive, and it’s all about reasoning, finding patterns and new ways to solve problems, which is a skill known as fluid reasoning.

In order to make things a little clearer, let’s have a look at a few examples of situations in which one would use fluid intelligence.

We use fluid intelligence when we:

  • Think abstractly
  • Face a novel situation
  • Come up with a new problem-solving strategy
  • Solve puzzles and so on
Fluid Intelligence

How does fluid and crystallized intelligence change with age?

Now that we’ve gotten more familiar with these two types on intelligence, you’re probably eager to learn how to improve them.

Previous research suggested that we don’t have much control over our intelligence, and that it’s mainly predetermined.

However, as we now know, both our crystallized and fluid intelligence can increase or decrease with time. The best part about it is that we have control (at least to some extent) over development of both those types of intelligence.

Since we now know that we acquire crystallized intelligence from reading, studying and having new experiences, it’s fair to say that we can do a lot towards improving it.

The more knowledge we acquire, either through formal or informal studies, as well as through everyday activities, the more our crystallized intelligence develops.

It’s not the case for fluid intelligence though, as fluid intelligence is known to decrease with age. In recent years, however, psychologists discovered that fluid intelligence isn’t set in stone, as it was previously thought.

There are plenty of things we can do to improve our fluid intelligence. Through training and trying out new and challenging activities we challenge our brain, which helps us improve our fluid reasoning skills.

Here are a few things you can implement in your everyday lives that will help you train and improve your fluid intelligence:

  • Seek out new challenges
  • Approach new and difficult situations using new problem-solving strategies
  • Try to learn from others

We’ve covered what crystallized and fluid intelligences are, how are they different and how you can improve each of them. The main think to keep in mind is that no matter what intelligence you possess and to what extent, you can always train your brain and develop your mental skills.

 It’s not about mental intelligence, it’s about mental fitness.

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What type of intelligence do you possess and which one is your dominant? Let us know in the comments below!

by Marija Krstova
Marija Krstova is a blogger and content writer. She writes about health & wellness, fitness & nutrition, travel, lifestyle and much more. When she’s not writing, you can find her travelling, playing with her dogs or enjoying a sunny day at the park.

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