To What Extent Is Intelligence Inherited? What Can Be Improved? What Types of Intelligence Are There?

Do you believe that intelligence is genetic and that the nurture cannot do anything about it (good or bad)? Or do you think that the IQ is a matter of education and nurture? The answer is more complicated than it would seem.

The basics are genetic

Not even the scientists are able to agree how much genes and inherited traits contribute to an individual's personality, however, nobody doubts that intelligence is to a certain extent inherited. Simply said, if parents have a high IQ, it is highly likely that their offspring will also have an above average intelligence. On the other hand, while we cannot influence the genes, we can develop what we had inherited. This includes one's intelligence.

Starting from a baby

The human intelligence can be observed right from a birth (and possibly also inside the mother's body). The newborn almost immediately starts observing his/her surroundings and starts to build relationships according to what he/she sees. As he/she grows, he/she learns to manipulate various objects and sees connections between a cause and consequences (e.g. a big brick will not fit into a small hole).

We can also very quickly observe increasing social intelligence The newborn starts to smile at those nearest to him/her from 2 weeks. And it is not just about simple and basic things. For example, a child manages such complex processes as learning his/her mother tongue quickly, naturally and without any systematic learning. So we gain basic skills and knowledge automatically. However, to develop others we need sufficient external stimuli.

No progress without nurture

That is where nurture, which is very important for intelligence, comes in. Parents read to children, talk to them and generally improve their verbal intelligence. Good parents remember to praise their offspring's progress, thus increasing necessary self-confidence. We can compare this with so-called "wolf children" (people who during their first years were not in contact with a society). Once they join society at a later point, there is only a very tiny chance that they would learn social habits or even only how to speak.

IQ tests are aimed at inherited abilities

As a person grows, the leading role for his intelligence is taken over by a school and when he becomes adult, he has to accept this responsibility himself.

Each individual has his own intelligence, this is not evenly spread across all skills. Similarly there are big differences in how are various elements of intelligence effected by external environment. For example the impact on vocabulary or language use is a significant one.

To establish the level of intelligence, one can use IQ tests. Their spatial and arithmetic tasks are more directed at inherited abilities. From that it follows that it is not really possible to "learn" for them.

There is more than one type of intelligence

In the current view of IQ as an indicator expressed by a single number (intelligence quotient), we often imagine that a person is either clever (IQ of 90 or above) or not that intelligent (IQ of 80 or below). According to latest theories that better reflect the real world, one can be either clever or not too intelligent in various ways. American psychologist Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard University, published in 1983 Frames of Mind in which he divided intelligence into seven (later eight) types.

Each one of us has all types of intelligence, only in various proportions. Which type prevails depends on the most developed part of the brain, environment and situations in which the individual finds himself during the first ten years of his life. Children who lived in a musical environment will probably have a musical talent and, on the other hand, children of sporty parents will probably excel at sports.

According to Gardner, the IQ only contributes 20% towards a person's success, the ability to communicate and judge others, ability to recognise own feelings and motives are more important.

Let's look at what types of intelligence there are according to Gardner.

1. Language-verbal intelligence

Thanks to it we know how to use words – verbally and in writing. People who develop this intelligence well express themselves well verbally and in writing and they find it easy to learn languages. The language-verbal intelligence is high mainly in writers, journalists, lawyers, politicians, people preparing crosswords, i.e. those who work with words.

2. Logic-mathematical intelligence

For this one, everyone is probably clear on what type of intelligence it is. This type controls the ability to work with numbers, solve mathematical problems, assess situations and find solutions in any areas of human activity. High values are found in people in scientific and technical areas.

3. Audio-musical intelligence

Those who can sing, dance, play an instrument, write music or conduct a band have a high level of this intelligence. Each one of us can probably quickly say how we are doing on this one.

4. Physical-movement (motorial intelligence)

For this one it can be also fairly quickly seen how we are doing. Those for whom this type of intelligence is well developed can excel at sports, dance, it could also be a surgeon or a specialist in fine mechanics (for example working with watches). Simply, it will be someone excelling in an activity requiring good coordination, flexibility, balance and strength.

5. Visual-spacial intelligence

You can see how developed it is from how you perceive and distinguish colours, shapes, sizes and distances between objects. A high level of this intelligence is found in architects, designers, sailors, hunters, drivers, pilots or chess players. It is interesting that recent research has also found a high level in London taxi drivers. They have to remember large amounts of spacial and visual data.

6. Internal intelligence

Thanks to it we understand ourselves. If we can handle stress or painful emotions well, we have a high level of this intelligence. The internal intelligence helps us to learn what situations and activities lead to which emotions.

7. Social (interpersonal) intelligence

Internal intelligence uncovers us only inside, but the social intelligence is the ability to get on with those around us. Thanks to it we can fit in, convince people and make them trust us. People with a high level of this intelligence can be found in politics, business or they can work as teachers, lawyers or be active in public relations or social work.

8. Natural intelligence

Howard Gardener added this type of intelligence only 10 years after the initial theory. People with a high level of this intelligence are kind to the environment, they sort recycling, do not buy products tested on animals, etc. People with a high level of this intelligence often work as biologists, zoologists or botanists.

It would seem that even eight does not have to be the final number. Gardener is currently working on ninth type. It is mental (existential) intelligence that should reflect the ability to ask the key life questions.

If we return to the question posed in the heading of the article, we have to say that it is not an easy one to answer. It would seem that there can be as many types of intelligence as there are types of human knowledge. And even if the human skills and abilities have their clear genetic basis, the impact of family, human will and effort can be incredible.

Further reading