Thomas A. Edison states that, “I know this world is ruled by infinite intelligence. Everything that surrounds us-everything that exists-proves that there are infinite laws behind it. There can be no denying this fact. It is mathematical in its precision” (Cherry Lane, 2005). Intelligence is not visible; it has no mass and occupies no space (Coon, 2004), so how can one be certain it exists? First, one can look at what intelligence is.
The Brain as a “Computer”
Intelligence is an abstract idea that we know exists. It is part of the brain and the central nervous system; the brain is like a computer and intelligence is the product of a “computer program that is running on our brain.” An entity must have a great capacity to have intelligence attributed to it (Anderson, 2005).
This “computer program” has the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge (Example Essays, 2002-2005). It can bring an individual to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal with the environment in an effective manner. Also, it can think and reason abstractly, solve problems, and remember (Anderson, 2005). The capacity of the brain is enormous, but it is influenced by several factors in how it is filled and used.
Influences of Intellectual Development
Dennis Coon, in Introduction to Psychology, looks at how heredity and the environment influence the development of intelligence. There has been a controversy about which is the dominant influence. Some psychologists believe that heredity is the stronger influence, while others think that the environment is dominant.
It is likely that both play a part in how intelligence is affected; however, it is widely agreed that the environment is a definite factor. Children who are raised in higher-status homes generally develop higher IQ’s. Higher socioeconomic homes may provide a more enriched environment; for example, children are provided with better nutrition and more educational opportunities. School is also an enrichment in this way.
Heredity bestows an intellectual potential that may or may not be fulfilled. Children with “smart” genes may have the opportunity to develop them in an educational environment. However, a clear sign that students who do not take advantage of this opportunity are lowering their intelligence because “dropping out of school in the eighth grade can reduce a person’s adult IQ by up to 24 points” (p. 417).
The Intellectual Hierarchy
There are certain ‘levels’ of intelligence. The lowest level is ‘Retardation’, which means that a person with mental abilities far below average would be considered mentally retarded. The levels of retardation are: profoundly, severely, and moderately, mildly, and borderline retarded.
As well as different levels, there are also several types of retardation. Familial retardation occurs mainly in poverty-stricken households, where nutrition, intellectual stimulation, medical care, and emotional support may be scarce. Organic retardation mainly consists of birth injuries, fetal damage, metabolic disorders, and genetic abnormalities.
People with these disabilities, however, may be extremely gifted in another area. “Giftedness can be either the possession of a high IQ or special talents or aptitudes” (Coon, 2004, p. 412). For example, a child may show signs of autism, but suddenly develop a talent for drawing. A person with an especially high IQ may even be considered a genius (Coon, 2004). There are different types and aspects to intelligence, and one may be more gifted in one area than another.
Several aspects and types of intelligences have been identified. The five aspects are as follows: fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, and working memory (Coon, 2004). Also, as Sarah Stillman states in her book Soul Searching, “Our brilliance can manifest itself in our artistic intellect, our ability to communicate, our reasoning skills, and our physical coordination” (p. 78).
There are seven main types of intelligence, identified by Howard Gardner in Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Linguistic Intelligence is the ability to write, speak, and listen. Musical Intelligence is the skill for understanding musical concepts. People with a Logical-Mathematical Intelligence have a comprehension of numbers, and those with Spatial Intelligence have strong perceptive skills. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence is a skill for controlling physical movements. Interpersonal is the talent of communication with others and Intrapersonal pertains to an understanding of oneself. According to Gardner, everyone has a different level of ability in each category; these areas of intelligence can be evaluated with various tests (Stillman, 2001).
There are numbers of people who believe that, by taking an aptitude test, they can prove that they are intelligent (Example Essays, 2002-2005). This, however, is not the case. An aptitude test simply evaluates the capacity of a person to gain intelligence in a particular area.
Intelligence tests are widely used. An IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, can be determined by taking an IQ test, then by dividing the person’s mental age by their chronological age. A person’s IQ at a young age tends to correlate with their IQ many years later, so this test seems to be fairly reliable (Coon, 2004).
Considering that it is able to be measured, one can determine that intelligence does exist. Other factors previously discussed also prove its existence: the vast differences in the level of intelligence, the different environmental and hereditary influences, and the varying types of intelligence. Although intelligence isn’t concrete, one can be certain that it exists.
Anderson, D. (2005) What is Intelligence? [Electronic version]. Retrieved December 1, 2005, from http://www.ptproject.ilstu.edu/intel1.htm.
Cherry Lane Keepsakes. (2005). Famous Quotes. [Electronic version]. Retrieved December 1, 2005, from http://www.1-famous-quotes.com/quotes28222.html.
Coon, D. (2004). Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. (10th ed.). Belmont: Thomson Learning, Incorporated.
Example Essays. (2002-2005). What is Intelligence. [Electronic version]. Retrieved December 1, 2005, from http://www.exampleessays.com/viewpaper/2942.html.
Stillman, S. (2001, February). Soul searching: A girl’s guide to finding herself. M. Roehm, M. Monson-Burton). New York: Scholastic, Incorporated.