What is Intelligence? | Education Elephant

“The true sign of intelligence is imagination.” – Albert Einstein.

Intelligence is a tricky thing to define. We often think of it as ‘how smart we are’ or ‘how much we know’ when in reality intelligence is so much more than just knowledge itself. Simply put, intelligence is the total group of abilities needed in order to acquire knowledge and subsequently apply that knowledge to solve problems and achieve goals. Intelligence is not based on the quantity of what we know, more so the quality of how we obtain information and the way in which we then use that information in any given situation.


So, then what is IQ?

IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient – a way in which we can measure an individual’s intelligence that is indicated through a number. An IQ score of 100 is considered to be the average, with 95% of the population scoring between 70-130. An IQ test score that is lower than 100 indicates that an individual is below average. And, an IQ test score over 100 indicates that an individual is smarter than average. There are many different types of IQ tests that fit different needs and timeframes, but ultimately the majority of them score similarly.



Can you be more intelligent in one area than another?

Intelligence is commonly thought of as just one single thing. However, as mentioned above, it is a combination of a variety of skill sets used in the application of knowledge. Therefore there are a variety of different types of intelligence that each individual can display:

      • Linguistic intelligence: an individual’s ability to read, write, comprehend and talk
      • Spatial intelligence: navigational skills, reading maps, organising, packing bags
      • Logic-mathematical intelligence: having the ability to solve puzzles, make calculations and apply scientific reason
      • Musical intelligence: playing an instrument, singing, writing and understanding music
      • Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence: the way in which an individual is able to use their body, having coordination, playing sports
      • Interpersonal intelligence: the ability to interpret the behaviours of others
      • Intrapersonal intelligence: to contemplate and understand your own actions and feelings
      • Naturalist intelligence: being able to identify objects in the natural world and connect with them

While there will be people who are seemingly brilliant in all areas, it is more common to excel primarily in one or two areas of intelligence over the others. For example, some people may have very weak mathematical skills but may be excellent at sports, or someone who is not very musically inclined may be a great conversationalist and communicate well with others.


What about Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Unlike a standard IQ test, an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) focuses on the multiple aspects of emotional intelligence, such as empathy, intrinsic motivation, and the way in which we navigate and comprehend the emotions of ourselves and others. Scoring works similarly to IQ testing, with lower scores indicating that an individual may be struggling socially. Many professionals now argue that a strong EQ is just as important in determining ones success as a high IQ is.

Certainly, to be prepared for the future, it’s critical that we teach and model for young children and students alike the importance of extending empathy and understanding for others, as well as appreciating a right for the emotional wellbeing of ourselves and others. By fostering EQ in our students, and not just IQ, they will be more resilient, collaborative, and ready to problem-solve important issues for themselves and others with appropriate confidence.