The concept of Intelligence, what it is and how it has evolved

The concept of Intelligence, what it is and how it has evolved

Today we will address a complicated issue. Complicated in the sense that it starts from a controversial concept, such as intelligence.


  • 1 What we understand by intelligence
  • 2 Fun facts about intelligence
  • 3 Multiple Intelligences
  • 4 Description of the types of Multiple Intelligences
  • 5 And ... What about emotional intelligence

What we understand by intelligence

We will start by making an approximation and this will be that: Intelligence is the ability to understand, assimilate, elaborate information and use it to solve problems and seems to be linked to mental functions such as perception and memory.

Psychologists have been trying to define intelligence for more than a hundred years, and it seems that there are not yet two who say the same thing about this concept

Anyway something has been advanced. It is no longer thought, as previously thought, that men are smarter than women, whites superior to blacks, nor the wealthiest smarter than the poor. We also know that traditional tests should not be considered infallible and that, in addition, we have several types of intelligence.

Fun facts about intelligence

The study of intelligence in the nineteenth century was dominated by the craniometry (phrenology), science that aspired to relate the psychological characteristics of people with the different measures of their brain. Among the studies carried out were, for example, that the brain of the Germans was larger than that of the French, that the brain of the criminals was greater, etc. This type of results motivated this branch to fall into disuse.

Fortunately complex intelligence measures appear with Alfred Binet in 1905, when the French government asked him to prepare a test that could detect those children who could not keep up with the usual rhythm of the school. This is where the famous was born Binet-Simon scale, which is a questionnaire composed of different questions related to reasoning and problem solving. From there, the tests that provide not only a measure of the overall intelligence quotient of the subject, but of specific skills such as mechanical, bureaucratic, musical or artistic, were multiplied.

During World War II, assessing the skills of recruits, the psychologist David Wechsler observed that several subjects failed repeatedly in the tests, even having identical ratios and stressed the importance of other factors that influence intellectual performance such as motivation, educational opportunities, personality and other non-intellective factors; and pointed out that not even the best tests could assess all the intellectual abilities of an individual, only a part. In 1939 he published the Wechsler-Bellevue scale and in 1955 he carried out the revision of the WAIS (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Adults), and also develops a test for children. WAIS is today the most commonly applied psychological test (Kaplan & Sacuzzo, 2005). The tests are currently updated approximately every ten years to compensate for the Flynn effect. The latest available version of these are the WISC-IV and the WAIS-IV, versions that in some countries are in the process of validation.

It is important to mention that in our first years of life intelligence measures can be more universal: the age at which we begin to speak, to walk, to eat for oneself. But, as we grow, different environments favor the development of different skills (if I was born in a city, the requirements of the environment will not be the same as if I had been born in the countryside, that is, the skills that develop in me vary according to environmental and sociocultural context).

Changes in the environment can lead to changes in the intelligence quotient, as indicated by the results of educational programs for mentally handicapped children and children in hospices.

Some authors have even pointed out the futility of the concept of intelligence and have proposed to focus on the study of the specific skills we use to maintain ourselves in our respective environments. One of them is Howard Gardner.

Multiple Intelligences

According to this theory the good news is that we actually have at least eight different intelligences. Quantified by parameters whose compliance gives them such definition. For example: to have a location in the brain, to have a symbolic or representative system, to be observable in special groups of the population such as "prodigies" and "wise fools" and to have their own characteristic evolution.

Most individuals have all of this spectrum of intelligences. Each one developed in a way and at a particular level, product of the biological endowment of each one, of its interaction with the environment and of the culture prevailing in its historical moment. We combine them and use them in different grades, in a personal and unique way. That's cool, doesn't it?

Description of the types of Multiple Intelligences

  • MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE, It is the ability to perceive, discriminate, transform and express musical forms. It includes sensitivity to rhythm, tone and timbre. It is present in composers, orchestra directors, music critics, musicians and sensitive listeners, among others.
  • CORPORAL-KINESTHETIC INTELLIGENCE,It is the ability to use the whole body in the expression of ideas and feelings, and the ease in the use of the hands to transform elements. It includes coordination skills, dexterity, balance, flexibility, strength and speed, as well as kinesthetic ability and the perception of measures and volumes. It manifests itself in athletes, dancers, surgeons and artisans, among others.
  • LINGUISTIC INTELLIGENCE,It is the ability to use words effectively, orally or in writing. It includes the ability to use syntax, phonetics, semantics and pragmatic uses of language (rhetoric, mnemonic, explanation and metalanguage). A high level of this intelligence is seen in writers, poets, journalists and speakers, among others.
  • LOGICAL-MATHEMATICAL INTELLIGENCE,It is the ability to use numbers effectively and to reason properly. It includes sensitivity to logical schemas and relationships, statements and propositions, functions and other related abstractions. A high level of this intelligence is seen in scientists, mathematicians, accountants, engineers and systems analysts, among others.
  • SPACE INTELLIGENCE,It is the ability to think in three dimensions. It allows to perceive external and internal images, recreate, transform or modify them, travel through space or make objects travel through it and produce or decode graphic information. It is present in pilots, sailors, sculptors, painters and architects, among others.
  • INTERPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE,It is the ability to understand others and interact effectively with them. It includes sensitivity to facial expressions, voice, gestures and postures and the ability to respond. It is present in actors, politicians, good sellers and successful teachers, among others.
  • INTRAPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE,It is the ability to build a precise perception of yourself and to organize and direct your own life. It includes self-discipline, self-understanding and self-esteem. It is very developed in theologians, philosophers and psychologists, among others.
  • NATURAL INTELLIGENCE,It is the ability to distinguish, classify and use environmental elements, objects, animals or plants, both urban and suburban or rural. It includes the skills of observation, experimentation, reflection and questioning of our environment. The country people, botanists, hunters, ecologists and landscapers, among others, possess it at a high level.

So if our student or child does not understand through the intelligence we choose to inform him, consider that there are at least seven different paths to try. Also enriching the classroom environments, promoting breadth and possibilities to interact in different ways with classmates and objects of our child's choice.

Then I leave a very nice video about Multiple intelligences:

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You might be interested in our Multiple Intelligences Test.

And ... What about emotional intelligence

The publication Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman (1995) means an unprecedented diffusion of a concept that until then had gone unnoticed. This book becomes a best seller in many languages Starting in the mid-1990s, emotional intelligence is a topic of general interest on the part of society, so that articles (first in popularization magazines and later in scientific ones) and books on the subject begin to appear. For Goleman (1995: 43-44) emotional intelligence consists of:

  1. Know your own emotions: Socrates' principle "know yourself" refers to this key piece of emotional intelligence: being aware of one's emotions; recognize a feeling at the moment it occurs. An inability in this regard leaves us at the mercy of uncontrolled emotions.
  2. Manage emotions: The ability to manage one's feelings in order to express themselves properly is based on the awareness of one's emotions. The ability to soften expressions of anger, rage or irritability is essential in interpersonal relationships.
  3. Motivate yourself: An emotion tends to drive towards an action. Therefore, emotion and motivation are intimately interrelated. To direct emotions, and the consequent motivation, towards the achievement of objectives is essential to pay attention, motivate oneself, manage oneself and carry out creative activities. Emotional self-control leads to delaying gratification and mastering impulsivity, which is usually present in the achievement of many goals. People who possess these skills tend to be more productive and effective in the activities they undertake.
  4. Recognize the emotions of others: A fundamental people's gift is empathy, which is based on the knowledge of one's emotions. Empathy is the basis of altruism. Empathic people tune in better with the subtle signals that indicate what others need or want. This makes them appropriate for the professions of help and services in a broad sense (teachers, counselors, pedagogues, psychologists, psychopedagogues, doctors, lawyers, sales experts, etc.).
  5. Establish relations: The art of establishing good relationships with others is, to a large extent, the ability to manage the emotions of others. Social competence and the skills it entails are the basis of leadership, popularity and interpersonal efficiency. People who master these social skills are able to interact smoothly and effectively with others.


  • Bisguerra, R (2014). Goleman's model. Emotional Intelligence. Rafael Bisguerra. Available at: //
  • Gardner, H. (1995). Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • Horacio, F. (2002). What is that we call intelligence? The theory of multiple intelligences and education. PsychoPediaToday, 4 (3). Available at: //
  • Intelligence and tests to measure it (2007). In Encyclopedia of Psychology (Vol. 3, 91-128 pp). Spain: Ocean.
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