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Intelligence & IQ

What is Intelligence?

Intelligence means a person is able to survive by:

  • Adapting appropriately to the environment
  • Learning new concepts and ideas
  • Solving problems

Intelligence involves combining various skills to survive effectively:

  • Physical skills such as movement skills
  • Mental skills such as those involving memory, knowledge, speed of processing problems and solving them
  • Behavioral skills such as in communication styles
  • Academic skills
  • Daily living skills


How many types of intelligence are there?

Many theories have been put forth to explain differences in intelligence. Early studies by Francis Galton have shown that people who do well in certain areas of intelligence tend to do well in other areas too. This suggests a general form of intelligence. Charles Spearman followed closely on Galton’s work and his study concluded that we have both a general as well as special intelligence. Based on studies done, Howard Gardner on the other hand suggested that we have multiple intelligences that can be categorized into 7 main groups. They are:

  • Musical intelligence (e.g. gifted musicians)
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (e.g. athletes, dancers)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (e.g. scientists, inventors, mathematicians)
  • Linguistic intelligence (e.g. writers, multi-linguist)
  • Spatial intelligence (e.g. navigators, travel guides, architects, artists)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (e.g. psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (e.g. philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists, spiritual practitioner)
  • Spiritual intelligence (e.g. monks, imams, spiritual teachers)


Where does intelligence come from?

Many studies have concluded that intelligence is partly hereditary and partly due to environmental factors.  

Why do people differ in intelligence?

Different people have different levels of intelligence which is determined by the following reasons:

  • Thinking and reasoning skills
  • Upbringing and socialization
  • Genetic make-up

Since everyone differ from each other with regards to the above factors, level of intelligence differs from one person to another.  

Does intelligence get better or worse as we grow up?

Our intelligence is usually stable between the ages of 25 and 60. Knowledge usually remains constant after 60 years of age but the ability to learn new skills may take longer than before as we grow older.  

Signs & symptoms

How to measure intelligence? Intelligence can be measured. There are specific tools and techniques that can be used to determine our levels of intelligence. These tools are used by trained professionals. These tools can be in the form of achievement tests or aptitude tests. Achievement tests:

  • Measure a person’s current level of knowledge or competence in a particular subject
  • Assumes that intelligence is a mental capacity that can be measured by analyzing performance on mental tests (e.g. IQ tests)

Aptitude test:

  • Measures a person’s potential to learn a particular task
  • Assumes that a person’s present skills can predict their future performances in specific tasks


What is IQ?

IQ is the acronym for Intelligence Quotient. Quotient means a standard measure. Therefore IQ is a standardized measure of intelligence that is usually based on theories of intelligence.

  • IQ tests are common measures of intelligence
  • IQ is usually calculated as Mental age/Chronological age x 100
  • IQ is determined on where a person’s score lies in a distribution of scores. Most people have an IQ between 70-130. An average IQ is 100


What do IQ Tests test?

Various tests have been developed to measure school-related skills and mental age of children These tests usually measure:

  • Nonverbal reasoning skills
  • Verbal skills
  • Knowledge


How can IQ scores help?

Most commonly IQ scores help to predict academic performance. The scores however fail to account for broad index of intelligence  

What do IQ scores mean?

General guides to the meaning of IQ scores are as follows:

  • 130 and above – Superior intelligence
  • 110-120 – Above average intelligence
  • 90-110 – Average intelligence
  • 70-90 – Low average intelligence
  • Below 70 – Intellectual Disability / Mental Retardation

It is important to note that IQ tests may not measure adaptive skills in a holistic way. For example: A person with above 130 IQ may not have adequate social skills, while a person with low average IQ may actually have good social skills.

What are other factors that are related to intelligence?


  • The ability to generate ideas that are original and novel and can be measured in a number of ways

Emotional Intelligence, EQ

  • The ability to perceive, understand, and express emotion; high EQ = high empathy.

Spiritual Intelligence, SQ

  • The ability to understand oneself in relation to spiritual growth and using it to adapt to the environment



What types of issues are related to intelligence?

Intelligence is often associated with academic performance and knowledge only. This becomes an issue when other adaptive skills such as communication, daily living skills and socialization skills are ignored. Intelligence is a social concept that is generally used for people with vast knowledge and good academic status. Others who don’t belong in the general category may be unfairly labeled as having less intelligence. Groups of people who are usually mistakenly labeled as having low intelligence include persons who are:

  • Unattractive
  • Physically disabled or impaired (e.g. wheelchair bound, cerebral palsy, deaf, blind, deformed)
  • Displaying socially inappropriate behaviors
  • overweight and obese
  • Labeled with negative attributes such as naughty and lazy
  • Being diagnosed with dyslexia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Poor
  • Not executives in office jobs
  • Not well-dressed
  • Quiet


What can affect IQ scores?

  • Emotions
  • Motivation
  • Language understanding
  • Brain injury
  • Physical disability or impairment
  • Sensory impairment



How can I improve IQ?

Learn skills that tap into all areas of intelligence and adaptive behaviors

  • Academic skills (e.g. knowledge, logical)
  • Communication skills (e.g. listening, expressing, writing)
  • Daily living skills (e.g. self-care, domestic skills, community skills, problem solving, safety)
  • Socialization skills (e.g. making friends, play skills)
  • Movement skills



How can I prevent reduction in reasoning skills as I age?

Keep on stimulating your thinking mind by doing problem-solving tasks and seek new experiences as often as possible.  


What can I do to remedy deficits in intelligence?

Seek help from professionals who are able to carry out formal assessments to determine the extent of deficit in intelligence. Get professional recommendations for remedial exercises or activities.  

Limitations of IQ test

  • IQ test are very limited
  • It cannot explain fully on how people see things, understand things
  • It is often inaccurate
  • IQ test cannot give explanation for people who think abstractly.
  • IQ testsshould be donein the context of enough information about the client eg. Language, schooling opportunity, emotional status and etc.
  • Many things can influence results of IQ test such as:
  • Language
  • Performance anxiety
  • Environmental aspect  (eg. Opportunity to go to school, poor family)


Support groups

Professionals who can help include:

  • Clinical psychologists
  • Educational psychologists
  • Developmental psychologists
  • Clinical neurophysiologists
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
  • Special education teachers
  • Teachers
  • Counselors
Last Reviewed : 27 April 2012
Content Writer   Prof. Madya Dr. Alvin Ng Lai Oon
Reviewer : Dr. Norharlina bt. Bahar