Fluid and Crystalized Intelligence (Cattell) (2023)

main conclusions

  • Our general intelligence, which enables us to learn and remember, comprises our fluid intelligence and our crystallized intelligence.
  • Fluid intelligence involves understanding, reasoning, and problem solving, while crystallized intelligence involves remembering stored knowledge and past experiences.
  • Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence depend on different brain systems, despite their interrelationship in the performance of many tasks.
  • Various tools are used to measure fluid and crystallized intelligence, and new research suggests that fluid intelligence can be improved, even though until now it was assumed to be static.

Our ability to learn romance and remember the past is calledgeneral intelligence(Cattel, 1963). It is a construction of psychometric investigations of human intelligence and our cognitive abilities.

General intelligence encapsulates the correlations between various cognitive tasks that can be classified into two subdivisions (Cattell, 1971). These are fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

The theory of fluid versus crystallized intelligence simultaneously challenges and extends what was once supposed to be the sole construct of general intelligence.

In this article

Origin and Development

The theory of fluid intelligence vs. crystallized intelligence was first postulated as a theory based on psychometry by psychologist Raymond B. Cattell in 1963. He argued that fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence are two categories of general intelligence.

In his book Intelligence, Its Structure, Growth, and Action, Cattell identified a component of general intelligence that embodies a fluid quality and can be addressed by any problem (Cattell, 1987).

He came to identify the other component as a part invested in the areas of crystallized abilities. She pointed out that the latter involves acquiring crystallized knowledge and skills that can be individually disturbed without impacting others.

The two concepts of fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence were developed by Cattell's former student and cognitive psychologist John Leonard Horn (Horn & Cattell, 1967).

fluid intelligence

Fluid intelligence is the ability to think quickly and reason flexibly to solve new problems without relying on past experience and accumulated knowledge.

Fluid intelligence allows us to perceive and make inferences about relationships between variables and conceptualize abstract information, which helps in problem solving. It correlates with essential skills such as understanding and learning.

As Raymond Cattell (1967) has pointed out, it is an ability to "perceive relationships independently of prior practices or specific instructions related to those relationships."

Examples of the use of fluid intelligence include solving puzzles, creating strategies to tackle new problems, visualizing patterns in statistical data, and speculative philosophical reasoning (Unsworth, Fukuda, Awh, & Vogel, 2014).

(Video) Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence

Horn (1969) noted that fluid intelligence is formless and only minimally dependent on acculturation and prior learning, which includes both formal and informal education.

He further asserted that fluid intelligence is capable of flowing in a myriad of diverse cognitive activities. Consequently, the ability to solve abstract problems and engage in figurative analysis and classification, Horn argued, depends on a person's level of fluid intelligence (Horn, 1968).

Fluid intelligence was long thought to peak in the late 1920s before gradually beginning to decline (Cacioppo, Freberg 2012).

The decline in fluid intelligence is likely related to impaired neurological functioning, but it may also decline as it is used less frequently in old age.

Fluid and Crystalized Intelligence (Cattell) (1)

This decline in fluid intelligence has been attributed to local brain atrophy on the right side.cerebellum, age-related brain changes and lack of training (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2006). However, recent research challenges previous assumptions and suggests that certain parts of fluid intelligence may not peak until the age of 40.

crystallized intelligence

Crystallized intelligence refers to the ability to use skills and knowledge acquired through prior learning (Horn, 1969). The use of crystallized intelligence involves remembering pre-existing information, as well as abilities.

Examples of the use of Crystallized Intelligence, on the other hand, include recalling historical events and dates, recalling geographic locations, building one's own vocabulary, and reciting poetic texts (Horn, 1968).

Crystallized intelligence is the result of accumulated knowledge, including knowledge of how to reason, language skills, and understanding of technology. This type of intelligence is tied to education, experience, and cultural background and is measured by general information tests.

The use of crystallized intelligence involves remembering pre-existing information, as well as abilities. For example, knowing how to ride a bike or read a book.

Horn (1969) explained that Crystallized Intelligence is a "precipitate of experience" arising from a prior application of fluid intelligence.

Effective completion of tasks involving the mechanics of language (such as vocabulary building) and general information relies on Crystallized Intelligence.

Crystallized Intelligence gradually increases and remains stable throughout adulthood until it begins to decline after age 60 (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2006). Despite the observance of this general trend, the age at which Crystallized Intelligence reaches its peak has yet to be determined (Desjardins, Warnke & Jonas, 2012).

How the types of intelligence work together

Although fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence are different, it is important to take into account the multiplicity of tasks that these two components involve. For example, while taking a math test, one can rely on their fluid intelligence to build a strategy to answer the given questions within the allotted time.

However, at the same time, it may be necessary to use one's Crystallized Intelligence to recall various mathematical concepts and theories in order to provide the correct answers.

Likewise, an entrepreneur may have to use their fluid intelligence to identify a new opportunity in the market. However, creating a product to meet consumer demand may require knowledge of the past and therefore the use of your Crystallized Intelligence.

(Video) Fluid vs. Crystallized Intelligence

Despite this manifest interrelationship, Crystallized Intelligence is not a type of fluid intelligence that crystallizes over time (Cherry, 2018). However, the investment of fluid intelligence through the learning of new information produces Crystallized Intelligence.

In other words, the critical analysis of problems through fluid intelligence creates and transfers information to long-term memory, which is part of crystallized intelligence.

fluid intelligence measurements

Woodcock-Johnson tests of cognitive abilities

The Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities Third Edition encompasses concept formation involving categorical thinking and analysis synthesis involving sequential reasoning (Woodcock, McGrew & Mather, 2001).

Concept formation here requires the inference of underlying rules for solving puzzles presented in order of increasing difficulty (Schrank and Flanagan 2003).

Analysis synthesis, on the other hand, requires learning and orally presenting solutions to logical puzzles that emulate a mathematical system. The association of procedural learning with muscle memory can make certain actions second nature (Bullemer, Nissen, & Willingham, 1989).

Raven's Progressive Matrices

Raven's Progressive Matrices assess the ability to discern relationships between various mental representations (Raven, Raven & Court 2003).

It is a non-verbal multiple-choice test that requires the completion of multiple drawings based on the examinees' ability to perceive pertinent features based on the spatial location of various objects (Ferrer, O'Hare & Bunge 2009).

Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition, is based exclusively on visual stimuli and is a non-verbal test consisting of a matrix reasoning test and a picture concept assessment (Wechsler, 2003).

The picture concept task assesses the child's ability to discern the underlying features that govern a set of materials, while the matrix reasoning test assesses the child's ability to begin with the established governing features/rules to identify the solution to a problem. a new problem (Flanagan, & Kaufman, 2004).

The solution here is a picture of a puzzle that fits the stated rule.

Crystallized Intelligence Measurements

a test c

The C-Test is a text completion test initially proposed as a foreign language proficiency test, which provides an integrative measure of crystallized intelligence (Baghaei, & Tabatabaee-Yazdi, 2015).

The underlying construct of the C-Test matches the skills underlying the linguistic component of crystallized intelligence.

However, research suggests that careful selection of relevant domain knowledge texts may allow the C test to also measure the factual knowledge component of crystallized intelligence.

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)

The revised form of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, which has been used since 1981, comprises five performance subtests and six verbal subtests (Kaufman & Lichtenberger 2006).


These verbal tests include comprehension, information, digit length, vocabulary, similarities, and arithmetic (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Revised). Most of these verbal tests are widely interpreted as measures of crystallized intelligence.

Can fluid intelligence be improved?

As crystallized intelligence is known to improve over time and remains stable with age, it is generally recognized that education and experience increase crystallized intelligence (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2006). However, the fluid intelligence approach has been characterized by complexity.

Until recently, it was widely accepted that fluid intelligence is static, largely determined by genetic factors, and therefore cannot be changed. However, some research has suggested that fluid intelligence can be enhanced.

During experiments conducted in 2008 by psychologist Susanne M. Jaeggi, 70 participants were subjected to daily tasks and regular training to improve their fluid intelligence (Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides & Perrig, 2008).

At the end of the period, a noticeable increase in the fluid intelligence of the participants was observed. A similar study by Qiu, Wei, Zhao, and Lin also supported Jaeggi's conclusions (Qiu, Wei, Zhao, and Lin, 2009).

However, subsequent studies have neither corroborated nor refuted Jaeggi's results.


Baghaei, Purya and Tabatabaee-Yazdi, Aqui. (2015).The C-Test: an integrative measure of crystallized intelligence.Intelligence Diary, 3(2), 46-58.

Cacioppo, J.T., & Freberg, L. (2012).Discovering psychology: the science of the mind. Cengage Learning.

Cattell, R.B. (1963). Theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence: a critical experiment.Journal of Educational Psychology, 54(1), 1–22.

Cattell, RB (1971).Skills: Its structure, growth and action.. Nueva York: Houghton Mifflin.

Cattell, Raymond B. (1987).Intelligence: its structure, growth and action. Elsevier Science Publishers.

Cavanaugh, JC; Blanchard-Fields, F (2006).Adult Development and Aging (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing/Thomson Learning.

Desjardins, R. y Warnke, A.J. (2012).Aging and skills (PDF). OECD Education Working Papers.

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Geary, DC (2005).The origin of the mind: evolution of the brain, cognition and general intelligence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

(Video) Arthur Brooks: Fluid and Crystalized Intelligence

Horn, J.L. (1968). Organization of abilities and development of intelligence.Psychological review, 75(3), 242-259.

Horn, J.L. (1969). Intelligence: Why it grows. Why does it drop?Transaction, 4, 23-31.

Horn, J.L. & Cattell, R.B. (1967). Age differences in fluid and crystallized intelligence.psychological act, 26, 107–129.

Jaeggi , SM , Buschkuehl , M. , Jonides , J. and Perrig , WJ (2008).Improving fluid intelligence with working memory training.Annals of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(19), 6829-6833.

Kaplan, JT, Gimbel, S.I. y Harris, S. (2016).Neural correlates of holding one's political beliefs in the face of contrary evidence.Scientific reports, 6, 39589.

Kaufman, Alan S.; Lichtenberger, Elizabeth (2006).Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Assessment (3rd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Martín, JH (2003).Limbic system and brain circuits for emotions, learning and memory. Neuroanatomy: Text and Atlas (3rd ed.). Empresas McGraw-Hill.

Brown, JV, Brown, PJ, Janer, KW y Raichle, ME (1990).The anterior cingulate cortex mediates processing selection in the Stroop attentional conflict paradigm.Annals of the National Academy of Sciences, 87(1), 256-259.

Qiu, F., Wei, Q., Zhao, L. y Lin, L. (2009, diciembre).Study on how to improve fluid intelligence through Gabor's stimulus-based cognitive training system. since 2009First International Conference on Information Science and Engineering(pp. 3459-3462). IEEE.

Cuervo, J.C. (1983). Raven's Handbook of Progressive Matrices and Vocabulary Scales.Standard Progressive Matrices.

Schrank , F. A. ; Flanagan, D.P. (2003).Clinical use and interpretation of WJ III. Perspectives of scientific practice. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Unsworth, Nash; Fukuda, Keisuke; Oh, Eduardo; Vogel, Edward K. (2014).Working memory and fluid intelligence: capacity, attentional control and recovery of secondary memory.cognitive psychology, 71, 1–26.

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Adults - Revised. TEST LIST Available in the CPS Test Library.Nova Southeastern University Center for Psychological Studies.

Wechsler, D. (2003). WISC-IV technical and interpretive manual.San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.

Woodcock, RW; McGrew, KS; Mather, N (2001). Woodcock Johnson III.Itasca, Illinois: Riverside.

Other reading

(Video) Fluid & Crystallized Intelligence Theory by Cattel & Horn.


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