Reflections, Insights, and Realizations

Investigation: What is intelligence?

I surveyed my own family about the nature of intelligence.  I requested their participation via email and these are the responses I received.

The Questions

1. What is intelligence?  Define what it means to you.
2. Describe an intelligent person (physically, characteristically…)

The Answers

female, mid-80s

Intelligence is the ability to follow a train of thought, while considering all relevant facts, to a logical conclusion.

I see intelligence as looking like a child’s face lighting up after discovering a fact of the world which had been hidden from him/her before. (I still remember the explosion of light the day I understood long division for the first time…….)

female, late-50s

I think of intelligence as the innate ability to accurately interpret and understand stimuli, the ability to learn quickly, and the ability to look at problems/solutions from multiple perspectives (oh yes, and use big words ;>) .

I think an intelligent person is one who can think multidimensionally.  An intelligent person never stops learning.  Superficially, an intelligent person would have a clear, unwavering gaze (and, of course, have a giant forehead and big, thick glasses ;>)  ).

female, early 60s

1. Intelligence is the capacity to grow in understanding the physical world and abstract mental concepts, making connections as knowledge increases.  Being very complex, humans may best understand internally and experience the world externally in different ways from each other, which can enrich each others’ intelligence.  The more caring and fertile the environment, the more the capacity to understand can develop.

2. An intelligent person is more interested in absorbing and observing the inner and outer world than judging it and compartmentalizing it.  The more a person is open to discovery, the more she/he will see.  But intelligence may not be recognized contemporaneously if observers are not looking at the same things.

female, late 20s

1) There are obvi tons of different kinds of intelligence, but for me intelligence is a mix of interpersonal and analytical ability.  Basically it means being able to navigate the world with ease and develop deep understandings of issues and deep relationships with people.

2) Hmmm intelligent people come in all shapes and sizes.  Stereotypically I think of someone who wears glasses, tweed, and ponders a lot.

male, early 30s

I think there are different types of intelligence but that is mostly honed from experience.  At its core, I believe intelligence is summed up as curiosity about life and the quest to learn about it.

Actually more like this: Using tools and resources [both ones you have or can acquire, mental faculty /learning included in resources] to your advantage.  Not to gain advantage over someone/thing but relative to those who could but do not use the tools/resources to improve a situation.

female, 4

I think she just drew a picture of herself. 🙂


female, 6

She thinks everyone in her family (including Grandma Bopa) is intelligent.


The responses here shied away from physical characteristics but generally focused on cognitive ability and accepted multiple categories of intelligence.  One person defined intelligence as an innate ability but others mentioned the influence of environment and experience on intellectual potential.  Many definitions attributed insatiable curiosity or drive to an intelligent person.


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