Finding the Real Meaning of Intelligence

When the word intelligence comes up many people often think of Intelligence quotient or IQ. The IQ is only a measurement of a particular part of the brains function, specifically cognitive functioning. By cognitive functioning one is referring to the process of reasoning, thought and conscious analytical skills. While some might state IQ is the “measurement of intelligence” others might claim it is the intelligence itself. Still others might say it is how well someone is able to communicate their intelligence as if one can’t speak, or write or move it becomes more difficult to assess that person’s intelligence especially through standardized testing. What’s more standard traditional IQ testing only includes a limited array of cognitive functioning and/or cognitive functioning relationships.

Measuring Intelligence the Traditional Way:

One of the most common and respected methods of measurement is the Standford-Binet model which is an adaptation of tests designed by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon between 1905-1908. ( These tests originally measured attention, memory and verbal skills but have since been enhanced to include more metrics. The 2003 ‘L-M’ model of the Stanford-Binet test measures ‘general intelligence’, fluid reasoning, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, working memory, non-verbal IQ and verbal IQ. (

The intelligence quotient measurement is arrived at by compiling test scores to arrive at a ‘chronological age’. This score is divided into the average mental age of test takers and then multiplied by 100 to arrive at an IQ score. i.e. IQ=(Mental Age/Chronological Age * 100 (

Competing Theories of Intelligence:

One competing theory of intelligence is advocated by Howard Gardner. ( In his theory there are 8-9 specific types of intelligence that differ from the intelligences measured by some standardized tests. These intelligences include linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal and possibly existential. These intelligences only deviate marginally from the traditional types of ‘intelligence’ which are all cognitive. By introducing kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal however, Gardner is expanding the definition to include other tools used in life.

Intelligence as a tool for acquiring a Good Life:

Intelligence could also be all those means that lead to the ends of living a good life. This idea puts a correlation with good life and how one achieves a good life hand in hand with intelligence. The above methods define intelligence as an end in itself, or just a means but not really a means to an end unless academic success is such an end. To understand intelligence as a tool the following means can be considered:

-Learning Capacity
-Broad based Reasoning and Problem Solving Skills
-Emotional comprehension and integration
-Mind-Body competence

The vast array of intelligence definitions, theories and testing implies a probability there will always be some measure of disagreement about the topic. In this case the lowest common denomination of all these understandings could be considered the most fundamental and widely accepted form of intelligence. General cognitive ability is one of these common denominators according to traditional thought, however defining cognitive ability is debated. A more existential based theory of intelligence might perceive intelligence as a tool for life and thus consider all intelligences around this central locus rather than the ability to think. Thus the actual perspective from which one view intelligence has a considerable influence on how one defines it. For example, a Musician may define intelligence as the ability to apply one’s mind in as many possible ways to creating and playing music whereas a psychologist may describe intelligence as the capacity to problem solve and reason through any number of conceptual problems using the mind. To further illustrate, an alien from outer space, assuming they exist, might have a completely different conceptualization of intelligence that incorporates abilities and skills humans don’t even have. Consequently, ‘Real intelligence’ is somewhat in the mind of the beholder, but perhaps it is all these things, from all perspectives as well.