Intelligence does not break down all from the age of 30

It is common to think that all human abilities disintegrate at the age of thirty, And this intelligence is no exception to this rule. However, it seems that this is not entirely true and does not always happen with all cognitive skills in the same way.

This is believed, among other things, because a team of researchers have found evidence that certain aspects of intelligence reach their peak once they pass youth, while others do so much earlier, towards age 20.

The thousand faces of intelligence

Although we all tend to associate the concept “intelligence“at set of skills put into practice when passing the famous CI testMore and more nuanced layers are found in what may seem like a rigid, monolithic definition. We have talked, for example, about emotional intelligence and multiple intelligences, conceptions of intelligence that go far beyond what is measured through the classic sheets in which the correct answer must be indicated. One of these interesting dodges in the intellectual idea has occurred with the proposition of two classes of cognitive abilities: those that shape fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

These different ways of classifying types of intelligence are not free: they are theoretical models that try to explain the deep processes that take place in our brain and therefore our way of thinking. This is why it is interesting to find evidence that different types of intelligence evolve differently. In this regard, an article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology points out that while fluid intelligence (that is, that which is associated with the successful resolution of new problems) begins to decline in the third decade of life, the crystallized intelligence, linked to the management of what has already been learned continues to improve with age until it reaches, in some cases, 70 years or more.


A group of 3,375 volunteers aged 20 to 74 with a professional profile at executive level was used for this research. As the research focused on the assessment of skills related to the work environment, these people filled in a battery of questions related to certain job skills, creativity, and leadership and administrative style. On top of all this, they were given a test on fluid and crystallized intelligence and the skills associated with each of them.

To measure each of these modalities, the tests posed exercises related to the logical and analytical ability to measure fluid intelligence (such as following a series of letters), while crystallized intelligence was assessed based on tasks related to verbal ability.

After analyzing the data collected, the researchers found that older people showed significantly lower fluid intelligence scores than those under 30, Especially after the fifties. However, in the verbal skills tasks associated with crystallized intelligence, the trend reversed: the mean score corresponding to the older group was higher.

While this is not the only study that describes these trends in the evolution of these types of intelligence, it is one of the few that focuses on the professional context. Researching this line could be helpful in finding out what types of tasks are easier to solve in one age group or another, with results that are beneficial for the person and the workgroup they are in.

Of course, both types of intelligence degrade with ageWhat happens is that they do it differently and from a different point of maturity. It makes sense to be like that. Fluid intelligence is particularly useful for adapting to relatively new environments to which one is not very well suited and which may still cause unforeseen circumstances given the limited experience of the individual. Crystallized intelligence has a more conservative application, however, related to solving problems from what is already known.

These two types of skills unfold at different stages, and our brain seems to be able to adapt to these stages by adapting to what is expected of it. Somehow, it seems evolution aspires to make us as wise as it is.

Bibliographical references:

  • Klein, RM, Dilchert, S., Ones, DS and Dages, KD (2015). Cognitive predictors and age-based negative impact on business leaders. Journal of Applied Psychology, online publication. doi: 10.1037 / a0038991

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