Fluid and crystallized intelligence

From Academic Kids

In psychometrics, fluid and crystallized intelligence (abbreviated gf and gc respectively) are factors of intelligence test scores originally described by Raymond Cattell. Crystallized intelligence is usually described as being dependent on learning, while fluid intelligence is independent of past experience.

Cattell's work on gf and gc

In his 1936 book Guide to Mental Testing, Cattell defined intelligence as follows:

"…abilities may be conceived as (1) a general ability entering into almost all performances, but far more into complex relation education than other performances; (2) certain group factors each covering an area such as verbal, number, spatial, musical, etc., performance; and (3) certain abilities which are absolutely specific to one performance."

Cattell discusses fluid and crystalized intelligence in Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth, and Action:

"It is apparent that one of these powers… has the “fluid” quality of being directable to almost any problem. By contrast, the other is invested in particular areas of crystallized skills which can be upset individually without effecting the others." (Cattell, 1987)

In other words, fluid intelligence is a simple, innate, general ability, which stays fairly constant throughout life. It includes such abilities as problem-solving, memory, learning, and pattern recognition. As evidence for its continuity, Cattell documents that what he notes as gf abilities are rarely affected by brain injuries. gf is highly similar to Spearman’s original concept of g.

Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, is more dynamic. It consists primarily of specific, acquired knowledge. For example, a child who has just learned how to recite the fifty states now owns a new piece of crystallized intelligence; but his or her general ability to learn and understand (gf) has not been altered. Not surprisingly, people with a high capacity of gf tend to acquire more gc knowledge at faster rates.

References

  • Cattell, R. (1936). Guide to Mental Testing. London: University of London Press
  • Cattell, R. (1987). Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth, and Action. New York: Elsevier Science Pub. Co.
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