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Catering to Types of Intelligence

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Given the great differences we see between individual people it is no stretch of the imagination to realize that there are different types of intelligence. Certainly we all find we are good (and unfortunately bad) at different task, despite the effort that we might put in. This is largely due to our brains, and intelligence, working in different ways.

All the functions and possible functions of the human mind can be categorized in many different ways. There is abstract thinking and concrete thinking, and certainly people who are better at one of the other. And there are people who are mathematical vs. people who excel at languages, and people who do well in both. And there are people with great memories and people who can solve puzzles. The combinations here seem limitless.

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One distinction made with human intelligence is the difference between fluid vs Crystallized. The research into and naming of these abilities goes back to the early 1960s, under Raymond Cattell.

Fluid Intelligence is the ability to solve new problems, identify patterns, find solutions to projects. This could be anything from finding the best way to catch transport in an unfamiliar city (combining trains, buses, trams and boats), to solving logic puzzles, playing chess, or figuring out a mystery story. Fluid intelligence is different every time it is used, because no two puzzles are quite the same. It is called fluid because it is flexible.

Crystallized intelligence is the use of knowledge and experience. This includes anything from math formulas to language skills. It is called crystallized intelligence because it has information arranged in a structure. It is not just memorized facts, but facts interconnected in a complex fashion, like a crystal lattice.

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When learning a new task, new subject, you will use fluid intelligence. Over time you will gain a structured understanding of the task/subject and start using crystallized intelligence. This will often be quicker, though it takes some experience (and use of fluid intelligence) to become this quick.

Crystallized intelligence can work against us. Students of foreign languages notice this; they are use to the structure of their first language, and find that they carry over habits of the first language into the language they are starting to learn. But as we can get past this we can significantly increase our knowledge.

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It is not an either or case with fluid and crystallized intelligence. We always need some fluid intelligence when first understanding a subject. And we need crystallized intelligence once we have learned, or else we would have to keep learning the same thing over and over again.

More advanced subjects, even by High School standards, will require at least some crystallized and some fluid intelligence. More ability in both is always an advantage. Advanced subjects will require students to find their own solutions to puzzles, or draw their own conclusions to data. Yet a solid crystallized intelligence is also needed for a good background in every subject.

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