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Intelligence has been defined in many ways, including: the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, and problem solving. More generally, it can be described as the ability to perceive or infer information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context.

Logic study of inference and demonstration

Logic, is the systematic study of the form of valid inference, and the most general laws of truth. A valid inference is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the inference and its conclusion. In ordinary discourse, inferences may be signified by words such as therefore, hence, ergo, and so on.

Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object. Understanding is a relation between the knower and an object of understanding. Understanding implies abilities and dispositions with respect to an object of knowledge that are sufficient to support intelligent behaviour.

Self-awareness capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. It is not to be confused with consciousness in the sense of qualia. While consciousness is being aware of one's environment and body and lifestyle, self-awareness is the recognition of that awareness. Self-awareness is how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires. There are two broad categories of self-awareness: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.


Intelligence is most often studied in humans but has also been observed in both non-human animals and in plants. Intelligence in machines is called artificial intelligence, which is commonly implemented in computer systems using programs and, sometimes, appropriate hardware.

In the field of computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Computer science defines AI research as the study of "intelligent agents": any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. More specifically, Kaplan and Haenlein define AI as “a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation”. Colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is applied when a machine mimics "cognitive" functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as "learning" and "problem solving".

Computer program sequence of instructions written to perform a specified task with a computer

A computer program is a collection of instructions that performs a specific task when executed by a computer. A computer requires programs to function.

Computer hardware physical components of a computer system

Computer hardware includes the physical, tangible parts or components of a computer, such as the cabinet, central processing unit, monitor, keyboard, computer data storage, graphic card, sound card, speakers and motherboard. By contrast, software is instructions that can be stored and run by hardware. Hardware is so-termed because it is "hard" or rigid with respect to changes or modifications; whereas software is "soft" because it is easy to update or change. Intermediate between software and hardware is "firmware", which is software that is strongly coupled to the particular hardware of a computer system and thus the most difficult to change but also among the most stable with respect to consistency of interface. The progression from levels of "hardness" to "softness" in computer systems parallels a progression of layers of abstraction in computing.

History of the term

" Intelligence " derives from the Latin nouns intelligentia or intellēctus , which in turn stem from the verb intelligere , to comprehend or perceive. In the Middle Ages, intellectus became the scholarly technical term for understanding, and a translation for the Greek philosophical term nous . This term, however, was strongly linked to the metaphysical and cosmological theories of teleological scholasticism, including theories of the immortality of the soul, and the concept of the Active Intellect (also known as the Active Intelligence). This entire approach to the study of nature was strongly rejected by the early modern philosophers such as Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and David Hume, all of whom preferred the word "understanding" (in place of "intellectus" or "intelligence") in their English philosophical works. [1] [2] Hobbes for example, in his Latin De Corpore , used "intellectus intelligit", translated in the English version as "the understanding understandeth", as a typical example of a logical absurdity. [3] The term "intelligence" has therefore become less common in English language philosophy, but it has later been taken up (with the scholastic theories which it now implies) in more contemporary psychology. [4]

Noun part of speech in grammar denoting a figurative or real thing or person

A noun is a word that functions as the name of some specific thing or set of things, such as living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas. Linguistically, a noun is a member of a large, open part of speech whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

<i>Nous</i> philosophical concept

Nous, sometimes equated to intellect or intelligence, is a term from classical philosophy for the faculty of the human mind necessary for understanding what is true or real. English words such as "understanding" are sometimes used, but three commonly used philosophical terms come directly from classical languages: νοῦς or νόος, intellēctus and intellegentia. To describe the activity of this faculty, the word "intellection" is sometimes used in philosophical contexts, as well as the Greek words noēsis and noeîn. This activity is understood in a similar way to the modern concept of intuition.


The definition of intelligence is controversial. [5] Some groups of psychologists have suggested the following definitions:

Definition statement that explains the meaning of a term

A definition is a statement of the meaning of a term. Definitions can be classified into two large categories, intensional definitions and extensional definitions. Another important category of definitions is the class of ostensive definitions, which convey the meaning of a term by pointing out examples. A term may have many different senses and multiple meanings, and thus require multiple definitions.

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope and diverse interests that, when taken together, seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of epiphenomena they manifest. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

From "Mainstream Science on Intelligence" (1994), an op-ed statement in the Wall Street Journal signed by fifty-two researchers (out of 131 total invited to sign): [6]

Mainstream Science on Intelligence

"Mainstream Science on Intelligence" was a public statement issued by a group of academic researchers in fields associated with intelligence testing that claimed to present those findings widely accepted in the expert community. It was originally published in the Wall Street Journal on December 13, 1994 as a response to what the authors viewed as the inaccurate and misleading reports made by the media regarding academic consensus on the results of intelligence research in the wake of the appearance of The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray earlier the same year. It was drafted by professor of educational psychology Linda Gottfredson, sent to 131 researchers, and signed by 52 university professors described as "experts in intelligence and allied fields", including around one third of the editorial board of the journal Intelligence, in which it was subsequently reprinted in 1997. The 1997 editorial prefaced a special volume of Intelligence with contributions from a wide array of psychologists.

An op-ed, short for "opposite the editorial page" or "opinion editorial", is a written prose piece typically published by a newspaper or magazine which expresses the opinion of an author usually not affiliated with the publication's editorial board. Op-eds are different from both editorials and letters to the editor.

A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—"catching on," "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do. [7]

From Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns (1995), a report published by the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association:

Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person's intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions, and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen, somewhat different, definitions. [8]

Besides those definitions, psychology and learning researchers also have suggested definitions of intelligence such as:

Alfred Binet Judgment, otherwise called "good sense", "practical sense", "initiative", the faculty of adapting one's self to circumstances ... auto-critique. [9]
David Wechsler The aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment. [10]
Lloyd Humphreys "...the resultant of the process of acquiring, storing in memory, retrieving, combining, comparing, and using in new contexts information and conceptual skills". [11]
Howard Gardner To my mind, a human intellectual competence must entail a set of skills of problem solving — enabling the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters and, when appropriate, to create an effective product — and must also entail the potential for finding or creating problems — and thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge. [12]
Linda Gottfredson The ability to deal with cognitive complexity. [13]
Robert Sternberg & William Salter Goal-directed adaptive behavior. [14]
Reuven Feuerstein The theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability describes intelligence as "the unique propensity of human beings to change or modify the structure of their cognitive functioning to adapt to the changing demands of a life situation". [15]
Shane Legg & Marcus Hutter A synthesis of 70+ definitions from psychology, philosophy, and AI researchers: "Intelligence measures an agent's ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments", [5] which has been mathematically formalized. [16]
Alexander Wissner-Gross F = T ∇ S [17]

"Intelligence is a force, F, that acts so as to maximize future freedom of action. It acts to maximize future freedom of action, or keep options open, with some strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures, S, up to some future time horizon, τ. In short, intelligence doesn't like to get trapped".

Human intelligence

Human intelligence is the intellectual power of humans, which is marked by complex cognitive feats and high levels of motivation and self-awareness. [18] Intelligence enables humans to remember descriptions of things and use those descriptions in future behaviors. It is a cognitive process. It gives humans the cognitive abilities to learn, form concepts, understand, and reason, including the capacities to recognize patterns, comprehend ideas, plan, solve problems, and use language to communicate. Intelligence enables humans to experience and think.

Note that much of the above definition applies also to the intelligence of non-human animals.

Cultural influences on the interpretation of human intelligence

In animals

The common chimpanzee can use tools. This chimpanzee is using a stick to get food. Chimpanzee and stick.jpg
The common chimpanzee can use tools. This chimpanzee is using a stick to get food.

Although humans have been the primary focus of intelligence researchers, scientists have also attempted to investigate animal intelligence, or more broadly, animal cognition. These researchers are interested in studying both mental ability in a particular species, and comparing abilities between species. They study various measures of problem solving, as well as numerical and verbal reasoning abilities. Some challenges in this area are defining intelligence so that it has the same meaning across species (e.g. comparing intelligence between literate humans and illiterate animals), and also operationalizing a measure that accurately compares mental ability across different species and contexts.

Wolfgang Köhler's research on the intelligence of apes is an example of research in this area. Stanley Coren's book, The Intelligence of Dogs is a notable book on the topic of dog intelligence. [19] (See also: Dog intelligence.) Non-human animals particularly noted and studied for their intelligence include chimpanzees, bonobos (notably the language-using Kanzi) and other great apes, dolphins, elephants and to some extent parrots, rats and ravens.

Cephalopod intelligence also provides important comparative study. Cephalopods appear to exhibit characteristics of significant intelligence, yet their nervous systems differ radically from those of backboned animals. Vertebrates such as mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have shown a fairly high degree of intellect that varies according to each species. The same is true with arthropods.

g factor in non-humans

Evidence of a general factor of intelligence has been observed in non-human animals. The general factor of intelligence, or g factor, is a psychometric construct that summarizes the correlations observed between an individual's scores on a wide range of cognitive abilities. First described in humans, the g factor has since been identified in a number of non-human species. [20]

Cognitive ability and intelligence cannot be measured using the same, largely verbally dependent, scales developed for humans. Instead, intelligence is measured using a variety of interactive and observational tools focusing on innovation, habit reversal, social learning, and responses to novelty. Studies have shown that g is responsible for 47% of the individual variance in cognitive ability measures in primates [20] and between 55% and 60% of the variance in mice (Locurto, Locurto). These values are similar to the accepted variance in IQ explained by g in humans (40-50%). [21]

In plants

It has been argued that plants should also be classified as intelligent based on their ability to sense and model external and internal environments and adjust their morphology, physiology and phenotype accordingly to ensure self-preservation and reproduction. [22] [23]

A counter argument is that intelligence is commonly understood to involve the creation and use of persistent memories as opposed to computation that does not involve learning. If this is accepted as definitive of intelligence, then it includes the artificial intelligence of robots capable of "machine learning", but excludes those purely autonomic sense-reaction responses that can be observed in many plants. Plants are not limited to automated sensory-motor responses, however, they are capable of discriminating positive and negative experiences and of 'learning' (registering memories) from their past experiences. They are also capable of communication, accurately computing their circumstances, using sophisticated cost–benefit analysis and taking tightly controlled actions to mitigate and control the diverse environmental stressors. [24] [25] [26]

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (or AI) is both the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science which aims to create it, through "the study and design of intelligent agents" [27] or "rational agents", where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximize its chances of success. [28] Kaplan and Haenlein define artificial intelligence as “a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation”. [29] Achievements in artificial intelligence include constrained and well-defined problems such as games, crossword-solving and optical character recognition and a few more general problems such as autonomous cars. [30] General intelligence or strong AI has not yet been achieved and is a long-term goal of AI research.

Among the traits that researchers hope machines will exhibit are reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, communication, perception, and the ability to move and to manipulate objects. [27] [28] In the field of artificial intelligence there is no consensus on how closely the brain should be simulated.

See also

Related Research Articles

Intelligence quotient score derived from tests purported to measure individual differences in human intelligence

An intelligence quotient (IQ) is a total score derived from several standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence. The abbreviation "IQ" was coined by the psychologist William Stern for the German term Intelligenzquotient, his term for a scoring method for intelligence tests at University of Breslau he advocated in a 1912 book. Historically, IQ is a score obtained by dividing a person's mental age score, obtained by administering an intelligence test, by the person's chronological age, both expressed in terms of years and months. The resulting fraction is multiplied by 100 to obtain the IQ score. When current IQ tests were developed, the median raw score of the norming sample is defined as IQ 100 and scores each standard deviation (SD) up or down are defined as 15 IQ points greater or less, although this was not always so historically. By this definition, approximately two-thirds of the population scores are between IQ 85 and IQ 115. About 2.5 percent of the population scores above 130, and 2.5 percent below 70.

The theory of multiple intelligences differentiates human intelligence into specific 'modalities', rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability. Howard Gardner proposed this model in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. According to the theory, an intelligence 'modality' must fulfill eight criteria:

  1. potential for brain isolation by brain damage,
  2. place in evolutionary history,
  3. presence of core operations,
  4. susceptibility to encoding,
  5. a distinct developmental progression,
  6. the existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people,
  7. support from experimental psychology, and
  8. support from psychometric findings.

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible or a physical object.

Human intelligence is the intellectual prowess of humans, which is marked by complex cognitive feats and high levels of motivation and self-awareness. Through their intelligence, humans possess the cognitive abilities to learn, form concepts, understand, apply logic, and reason, including the capacities to recognize patterns, comprehend ideas, plan, solve problems, make decisions, retain information, and use language to communicate. Intelligence enables humans to experience and think.

The Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales is an individually administered intelligence test that was revised from the original Binet–Simon Scale by Lewis M. Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University. The Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scale is now in its fifth edition (SB5) and was released in 2003. It is a cognitive ability and intelligence test that is used to diagnose developmental or intellectual deficiencies in young children. The test measures five weighted factors and consists of both verbal and nonverbal subtests. The five factors being tested are knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, working memory, and fluid reasoning.

Intellectual giftedness is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. It is a characteristic of children, variously defined, that motivates differences in school programming. It is thought to persist as a trait into adult life, with various consequences studied in longitudinal studies of giftedness over the last century. There is no generally agreed definition of giftedness for either children or adults, but most school placement decisions and most longitudinal studies over the course of individual lives have followed people with IQs in the top two percent of the population—that is, IQs above 130. Definitions of giftedness also vary across cultures.

Robert J. Sternberg is an American psychologist and psychometrician. He is Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. Prior to joining Cornell, Sternberg was president of the University of Wyoming. He has been Provost and Professor at Oklahoma State University, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education at Yale University. He is a member of the editorial boards of numerous journals, including American Psychologist. He was the past President for the American Psychological Association.

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is an IQ test designed to measure intelligence and cognitive ability in adults and older adolescents. The original WAIS was published in February 1955 by David Wechsler, as a revision of the Wechsler–Bellevue Intelligence Scale, released in 1939. It is currently in its fourth edition (WAIS-IV) released in 2008 by Pearson, and is the most widely used IQ test, for both adults and older adolescents, in the world. Data collection for the next version began in 2016 and is projected to be complete in 2019.

Cognitive tests are assessments of the cognitive capabilities of humans and other animals. Tests administered to humans include various forms of IQ tests; those administered to animals include the mirror test and the T maze test. Such study is important to research concerning the philosophy of mind and psychology, as well as determination of human and animal intelligence.

The Differential Ability Scales (DAS) is a nationally normed, and individually administered battery of cognitive and achievement tests. Currently into its second edition (DAS-II), the test can be administered to children ages 2 years 6 months to 17 years 11 months across a range of developmental levels.

A high IQ society is an organization that limits its membership to people who have attained a specified score on an IQ test. The largest and oldest such society is Mensa International, which was founded by Roland Berrill and Lancelot Ware in 1946.

The Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) was constructed by Raymond B. Cattell, PhD, DSc in an attempt to produce a measure of cognitive abilities that accurately estimated intelligence devoid of sociocultural and environmental influences. Scholars have subsequently concluded that the attempt to construct measures of cognitive abilities devoid of the influences of experiential and cultural conditioning is a challenging one. Cattell proposed that general intelligence (g) comprises both Fluid Intelligence (Gf) and Crystallized Intelligence (Gc). Whereas Gf is biologically and constitutionally based, Gc is the actual level of a person's cognitive functioning, based on the augmentation of Gf through sociocultural and experiential learning.

Cognitive deficit or cognitive impairment is an inclusive term to describe any characteristic that acts as a barrier to the cognition process.

Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory

The Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory, is a prominent psychological theory on the structure of human cognitive abilities. Based on the work of three psychologists, Raymond B. Cattell, John L. Horn and John B. Carroll, the Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory is widely regarded as the most influential theory in the study of human intelligence. Based on a large body of research, spanning over 70 years, the theory was developed using the psychometric approach, the objective measurement of individual differences in abilities, and the application of factor analysis, a statistical technique which uncovers relationships between variables and the underlying structure of concepts such as 'intelligence'. The psychometric approach has consistently facilitated the development of reliable and valid measurement tools and continues to dominate the field of intelligence research.

IQ classification

IQ classification is the practice by IQ test publishers of labeling IQ score ranges with category names such as "superior" or "average". There are several publishers of tests of cognitive abilities. No two publishers use exactly the same classification labels, which have changed from time to time since the beginning of intelligence testing in the early twentieth century.

Animal consciousness

Animal consciousness, or animal awareness, is the quality or state of self-awareness within an animal, or of being aware of an external object or something within itself. In humans, consciousness has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, qualia, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.

The Cognitive Abilities Test(CogAT) is a group-administered K–12 assessment intended to estimate students' learned reasoning and problem solving abilities through a battery of verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal test items. The test purports to assess students' acquired reasoning abilities while also predicting achievement scores when administered with the co-normed Iowa Tests. The test was originally published in 1954 as the Lorge-Thorndike Intelligence Test, after the psychologists who authored the first version of it, Irving Lorge and R.L. Thorndike.

The Woodcock–Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities is a set of intelligence tests first developed in 1977 by Richard Woodcock and Mary E. Bonner Johnson. It was revised in 1989, again in 2001, and most recently in 2014; this last version is commonly referred to as the WJ IV. They may be administered to children from age two right up to the oldest adults. The previous edition WJ III was praised for covering "a wide variety of cognitive skills".

Scott Barry Kaufman American psychologist

Scott Barry Kaufman is an American psychologist, author, and popular science writer known for his research and writing on intelligence and creativity. Most media attention has focused on Kaufman's attempt to redefine intelligence. Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also co-founder of The Creativity Post and author of "Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined". Kaufman won the 2011 Daniel E. Berlyne Award from Division 10 of the American Psychological Association for outstanding research on aesthetics, creativity, and the arts by a junior scholar, and is a 2011-2012 recipient of the Mensa International Award for Excellence in Research. He is listed on Business Insider as one of the "50 groundbreaking scientists who are changing the way we see the world".

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to human intelligence:


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