The 4 differences between fluid and crystallized intelligence

One of the most important models that has influenced the understanding of what intelligence is is the Cattell-Horn theory, a theory in which intelligence is presented as the combination and the joint work of two components: l fluid and crystallized intelligence.

While these two intelligences are very important to our ability to solve problems, both new and those we have experienced before, they do have some differences.

Below we will see the differences between fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

    Differences between fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence, and their characteristics

    Throughout history, different definitions have been given of what intelligence is. Although each model has proposed its own concept, most agree on the essential capacities that make up this idea, including as intelligence the set of capacities which allow the comprehension and the comprehension of the problems, solve them and which in a way or another relate to the acquisition of knowledge and new learning.

    There are those who saw intelligence as a purely genetic and hereditary component, something that is possessed and cannot be improved in any way throughout life.

    Others, on the other hand, have treated intelligence as something that can change over the course of a lifetime, and which is greatly influenced by the learning that takes place throughout the lifespan. Ultimately, we have models that integrate both ideas, like Raymond Cattell’s theory.

    British psychologist Raymond Cattell is widely known in psychology for his particular model of intelligence. With the collaboration of John Horn, Cattell proposed a model in which two components are designed for intelligence, which interact and work together to produce general individual intelligence: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

    The Cattell-Horn theory combines the ideas mentioned above in which intelligence is conceived as something which depends on the genetics of the individual but is also nourished by lifelong learning. Thus, there would be the intellectual component very dependent on hereditary factors, which would be fluid intelligence, and the component which would depend more on the environment in which we grow up, which would be crystallized intelligence.

    Fluid intelligence

    According to the Cattell-Horn model, fluid intelligence is related to the ability to think and reason in an abstract way. This ability, which has an important genetic component, is the ability of people to adapt and cope with new situations in an agile manner without having been taught or having prior experience.

    Examples where this type of intelligence would be applied, we would have them in solve puzzles, make a rubik bucket, develop a new strategy to solve a math exercise or filter out irrelevant information from a text.

    The components of fluid intelligence are:

    • Ability to reason with abstract content
    • Logical reasoning
    • Ability to build relationships or extract differences

    One can understand why this intelligence is so related to the genetic component in the fact that it is closely related to neurophysiological variables such as the development of neural connections. This also does not mean that it depends exclusively on our genetics, as these same connections can be fostered by living in culturally enriching environments i.e. the environmental factor influences fluid intelligence as well.

    Fluid intelligence gains its most intense developmental moment at an earlier age, moments when a great development of the cerebral structures takes place. We could say that it is in adolescence the moment when the individual is as close as possible to having fully developed his fluid intelligence, even if we have also seen that we continue to develop it, although at a slower pace, until the 1940s.

    It is just after 40 years that this intelligence begins to decline. This decrease in fluid intelligence, especially noticeable from the age of 60 and 70, is due to various factors that imply a decrease in the functionality of brain structures, such as normal aging, accidents, the development of cerebral pathologies and / or substance use.

      crystallized intelligence

      Crystallized intelligence is the component of general intelligence related to the knowledge and learning of the individualor, that is, it is an intellectual component closely linked to the experience and environment in which the person has developed. The situations in which this intelligence is involved are all those in which it is necessary to retrieve learned information and put it to good use, such as in a language exam, applying mathematical formulas or giving a lecture.

      The components of crystallized intelligence are as follows.

      • Understanding of language
      • Review of the experience
      • Ability to make judgments and conclusions
      • Mechanical knowledge
      • Orientation to space

      Crystallized intelligence, being based on experience, can be technically enhanced throughout life., in the sense that we can always learn something new, unless we are suffering from some kind of pathology that prevents us from storing new knowledge. That is, this intelligence increases with age, because the longer we live, the more experiences we get.

      It should be noted that this intelligence depends not only on the environment in which the individual may have developed, but also on factors related to personality and motivation. An individual who is curious to learn something new every day, feels motivated to seek and discover new things, will be a person whose crystallized intelligence tends to be superior to that of a person who does not share these same characteristics.

      How to distinguish the two types of intelligence?

      The main difference between these two types of intelligence lies in their function. Fluid intelligence is that ability that allows us to solve new problems, situations that we have no previous experience or learning already done and that we need to use our creativity to see how we can emerge victorious. Instead, crystallized intelligence is where we make good use of the knowledge we have already gained to resolve a situation that we have experienced before.

      Another difference is as it evolves throughout life. Fluid intelligence usually reaches its peak in adolescence, although it is true, as we have seen previously, that it can continue to develop until the age of 40, albeit at a slower rate. slow. On the other hand, crystallized intelligence always increases, as long as one does not suffer from a disease which involves the acquisition of new knowledge.

      There are also differences as to when these intelligences are in decline. Fluid intelligence begins to decline gradually from age 40, accelerating this decline from age 60. In contrast, crystallized intelligence decreases in a wide variety of ways, depending on whether or not the person suffers from a brain disorder. If there is no brain damage, the most normal thing is that even at the age of 70, they continue to learn new things, which could at most be affected by memory errors typical of this age.

      It should be noted that, oddly enough, these two intelligences share a fact which also depends on age. Both fluid and crystallized intelligence develops with great intensity in the early ages, especially in childhood and adolescence. This is seen in elementary school children as they learn a lot of new content and words per day (crystallized intelligence) while over the months they are able to solve more and more complex problems (intelligent fluid efficiency).

      But in addition to the age factor, another differentiating aspect between fluid and crystallized intelligence is the weight of genetics and the environment. In reality, the two factors influence both intelligences, but as we have mentioned, fluid intelligence is very dependent on genetics and is very hereditary, and it is difficult to change it once the maximum peak is reached at the adolescence.

      In contrast, crystallization is highly dependent on the environment and learning. While it is true that each person is born with a more or less innate ability to memorize content, the experience is an aspect that depends a lot on the environment in which we grew up, whether it is culturally more enriching or if at on the contrary, it has flaws, they prevent us from expanding our knowledge.

      Bibliographical references

      • Shaffer, D. (2005). “Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence. »Edition, 5th ed. Publication, Mexico, DF

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