intelligence, in psychology, the general mental ability involved in calculating, reasoning, perceiving relationships and analogies, learning quickly, storing and retrieving information, using language fluently, classifying, generalizing, and adjusting to new situations. Alfred Binet, the French psychologist, defined intelligence as the totality of mental processes involved in adapting to the environment. Although there remains a strong tendency to view intelligence as a purely intellectual or cognitive function, considerable evidence suggests that intelligence has many facets.

Early investigations into intelligence assumed that there was one underlying general factor at its base (the g-factor), but later psychologists maintained that intelligence could not be determined by such a simplistic method. Raymond Cattell argued that intelligence can be separated into two fundamental parts: fluid ability and crystallized ability. Fluid ability is considered innate, basic reasoning skill, while crystallized intelligence is the information and skills that are acquired through experience in a cultural environment. Other psychologists have further divided intelligence into subcategories. Howard Gardner maintained (1985) that intelligence is comprised of seven components: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. J. P. Guilford tried (1982) to show that there are 150 different mental abilities that constitute intelligence.

It is generally accepted that intelligence is related to both heredity and environment. Studies done on families, particularly among identical twins and adopted children, have shown that heredity is an important factor in determining intelligence; but they have also suggested that environment is a critical factor in determining the extent of its expression. For instance, children reared in orphanages or other environments that are comparatively unstimulating tend to show retarded intellectual development. In recent years, controversy regarding intelligence has centered primarily around how much of each factor, heredity and environment, is responsible for an individual's level of intelligence.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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