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Fluid vs. Crystallized Intelligence: Discover How Smart You Are?

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Summary: Want to know all about fluid vs. crystallized intelligence? Learn how these types of intelligence can be increased and improved.

When you think about intelligence and the different types of intelligence what sort of things come to mind?

For many, the first thing that comes to mind is logical intelligence – you know, the one we are used to measuring with an IQ test.

The truth is that intelligence is more than just our knowledge, or our ability to learn and remember. Intelligence is a very wide term with a ton of different meanings, and we’re about to delve into two of those today.

In this article, you’ll learn about fluid vs crystallized intelligence and the main difference between these types.

Psychologist Raymond Cattell was the first person to propose the concepts of these two types of intelligence in the 1960s. He developed the theory of fluid vs crystallized intelligence along with his student John Horn.

In his theory, he states that intelligence is made up of different abilities that interact with each other in order and make up the overall intelligence of the individual.


What Is Crystallized Intelligence in Psychology?

According to Cattell‘s theory of intelligence, crystallized intelligence is what we know from past experiences, learning, culture, and education.

In other words, when we use this type of intelligence we are referencing past knowledge and data we’ve accumulated over the years, as well as facts and information we’ve learned in our past. Consequently, this makes it possible for us to improve our crystallized intelligence over time.

Examples of crystallized intelligence

Since crystallized intelligence comes from our prior knowledge or experiences, we can use it for:

  • Solving problems we’ve encountered before
  • Verbal tests in grammar, reading comprehension, or vocabulary exams
  • Trivia games or game shows

Here are a few examples of crystallized intelligence:

  • Remembering the dates of important battles or historic events in the world
  • Knowing the number π by heart
  • Knowing that the perfect temperature for cooking a medium-rare steak is 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit
Fluid Intelligence

What is Fluid Intelligence in Psychology?

Similar to crystallized intelligence, many of us are not familiar with the exact definition of fluid intelligence.

While crystallized intelligence is something we acquire and build on over time through education and experiences, fluid intelligence is the ability to analyze, visualize and solve problems that arise without using our past experiences or knowledge.

Instead of using our knowledge and depending on similar events in the past, we use logic, abstract thinking, pattern recognition, reasoning, adapting to new conditions, and coming up with new different problem-solving strategies. 

Examples of fluid intelligence

Since fluid intelligence is the ability to adapt quickly to a novel situation and come up with new creative solutions, let’s see how can we use it on a day-to-day level. 

For instance, we use fluid intelligence when we:

  • Solve puzzles
  • Filter out irrelevant information
  • Think abstractly
  • Invent new problem-solving strategies

Can You Increase Fluid Intelligence?

Although it was previously thought that we could only improve our crystallized intelligence, we now know that fluid intelligence isn’t set in stone either.

According to a study done by Susanne M. Jaeggi, Martin Buschkuehl, and their colleagues in 2008, fluid intelligence can improve with training that focuses mainly on our working memory.

They discovered that fluid intelligence can be trained and improved, therefore the more training you do, the better results you’ll get.

If knowledge is power, learning is your superpower.

— Jim Kwik, trainer of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Quest

How does fluid and crystallized intelligence change with age?

Given that we improve our crystallized intelligence by learning and acquiring new information, this type of intelligence can actually increase over our lifetime.

We know that fluid intelligence has a tendency to decrease with age. Still, if we work on training our memory and brain, our cognitive and problem-solving abilities can actually improve with age as well.

There are numerous ways in which we can improve our fluid and crystallized intelligence.

Here are some of those ways:

  • Seek new activities and hobbies
  • Don’t look for the easy way out – problem-solve!
  • Challenge yourself each day
  • Be social and learn from others

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