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Chapter: Psychology: Intelligence

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Intelligence: Fluid and Crystallized G

Psychometric analyses of intelligence also draw our attention to another distinction.

Fluid and Crystallized G

 

Psychometric analyses of intelligence also draw our attention to another distinction. Alongside of verbal, quantitative, and spatial skills, we can also distinguish two more forms of intelligence: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence, often abbreviated Gf and Gc. These forms of intelligence therefore take their place at the middle level of the hierarchy shown in Figure 11.6 (J. Carroll, 2005; Horn, 1985; Horn & Blankson, 2005).


 

Fluid intelligence refers to the ability to deal with new and unusual problems. Itinvolves the deliberate and controlled use of mental operations and is the form of intel-ligence you need when you have no well-practiced routines you can bring to bear on a problem. Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, refers to your acquired knowl-edge. This includes your verbal knowledge and your broad repertoire of skills—skills useful for dealing with problems similar to those already encountered.

 

Fluid and crystallized intelligence are linked in an obvious way: Someone with a high level of fluid intelligence is likely to be a fast learner and so will easily acquire the skills and knowledge that crystallized intelligence comprises. As a result, someone with a lot of fluid intelligence will end up with a lot of crystallized intelligence. Even so, there are several reasons to distinguish these types of intelligence. For example, crystallized intelligence seems to increase with age—as long as the individual remains in an intellectually stimulating environment. Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, generally reaches its height in early adulthood and then, for most people, declines steadily with age (Horn, 1985; Horn & Noll, 1994; Salthouse, 2004). Similarly, many factors—including alcohol consumption, fatigue, depression, and some forms of brain damage—cause more impairment in tasks requiring fluid intelligence than in those dependent on crystallized intelligence (J. Duncan, 1994; E. Hunt, 1995). Thus, to put this concretely, someone who is tired (or drunk, or depressed) will probably perform adequately on tests involving familiar routines and familiar facts because these tests draw heavily on crystallized intelligence. That same individual, however, may be markedly impaired if the test requires quick thinking or a novel approach—both earmarks of fluid intelligence.

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