How smart are you? Find out what science says

How intelligent are you, really?

Being referred to as “intelligent” is one of the compliments we most love to hear.

Because the truth is:

In this world, intelligent people are given a lot of respect and admiration.

However, the pressure to do well in every endeavor can be stifling. When you commit even the slightest mistake, there is the risk of being criticized.

For example, a child who has high grades in school is considered intelligent because of outstanding performance.

But being smart doesn’t only include performing well academically. In truth, you can’t put “intelligence” in one single box.

So what does it truly mean to be smart? How do you know you’re intelligent, even if you don’t feel like it?

Read ahead to figure out what type of intelligence you have and how to develop it further.

What does it mean to be “smart?”

how smart are you

We used to have a very straightforward way of seeing “intelligence.” Being smart had everything to do about retaining information—how fast, how much, and how often you learn.

However, more recently, neuroscientists have started exploring what being “smart” truly means.

Howard Garnder has been at the forefront of this debate. His groundbreaking work on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences has changed the way we define human brainpower.

The evolution of intellect, according to him, has changed, just as much as our culture does.

He says:

“As history unfolds, as cultures evolve, of course, the intelligences which they value change. Until a hundred years ago, if you wanted to have higher education, linguistic intelligence was important.

Now, however, society demands emotional and mathematical intelligence in equal measure.

He explains:

“While your IQ, which is sort of language logic, will get you behind the desk, if you don’t know how to deal with people, if you don’t know how to read yourself, you’re going to end up just staying at that desk forever or eventually being asked to make room for somebody who does have social or emotional intelligence.”

Today, being smart means being able to navigate the modern world with a keen intellect and social savvy.

The good thing is, your smarts don’t need to depend solely on genetics. They help, of course. But that doesn’t mean you can’t elevate your brain power if you’re up to it.

The two types of intellectual skills

how smart are you

According to Cattell-Horn intelligence theory, an individual’s overall intelligence is a result of different skills and abilities mixing and interacting together. They categorized it into two types:

Fluid intelligence

Fluid intelligence is the ability to think abstractly, reason, identify patterns, solve problems, and discern relationships.

This type of intelligence depends mainly on one’s native ability and is not something that can be obtained through education or exposure to various environmental factors.

According to psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, Kendra Chelly:

“When you encounter an entirely new problem that cannot be solved with your existing knowledge, you must rely on fluid intelligence to solve it.”

This type of intelligence is innate in you and is often used when you are coming up with strategies to solve a particular problem like solving puzzles.

Most people with “street smarts”, have high fluid intelligence. Another way to identify this type of intelligence is its flexibility and adaptability wherein it can be applied in different ways, depending on the situation.

Crystallized intelligence

This type of intelligence is the opposite of fluid intelligence.

It refers to the knowledge and skills that are obtained through education, learning, and experience and because of this, crystallized intelligence can increase.

A perfect example is vocabulary and mathematical knowledge. As you go to school every year, your vocabulary and math knowledge increase until your skills crystallize.

Chelly puts it simply as:

“Crystallized intelligence is based upon facts and rooted in experiences. As we age and accumulate new knowledge and understanding, crystallized intelligence becomes stronger.”

Relationship between crystallized and fluid intelligence

It’s important to remember that these two categories of intelligence are correlated.

Yes. They are very separate and distinct types of intellectual prowess, but they have to work together. Sort of like yin and yang, if you will.

You cannot develop your crystallized intelligence if you don’t make use of fluid intelligence when information is learned.

Fluid intelligence is the fuel you need to process the information you acquire from your crystallized and learned experiences.

On the other hand, crystallized intelligence is the oil that keeps your fluid intelligence running in good condition.

Howard Gardner’s theory of intelligence

how smart are you

According to Howard Gardner, traditional psychometric views of intelligence are too limited. He theorized that all people have different kinds of intelligence in his book Frames of Mind.

Originally, Gardner proposed that there are eight intelligence but suggested that there is an additional “existentialist intelligence.”

To capture the full potential of a person, Gardner theorized that people have many kinds of intelligence including musical, interpersonal, spatial-visual, and linguistic intelligence.

A person can be particularly very strong in a specific area like musical intelligence but he or she could also possess verbal and mathematical intelligence.

“While we may continue to use the words smart and stupid, and while IQ tests may persist for certain purposes, the monopoly of those who believe in a single general intelligence has come to an end. Brain scientists and geneticists are documenting the incredible differentiation of human capacities, computer programmers are creating systems that are intelligent in different ways, and educators are freshly acknowledging that their students have distinctive strengths and weaknesses.” – Howard Gardner

To know what kind of “smart” you are exactly, here are Gardner’s 9 types of intelligence:

1. Logical-mathematical intelligence

This type of intelligence refers to superior inductive and deductive reasoning and calculating ability.

A person who is logical-mathematical intelligent easily recognize relationships and patterns, demonstrate sequential reasoning skills and generate and use abstract thoughts.

School psychologist Ann Logsdon describes people with this kind of intelligence as:

“They like to work with numbers, find logical methods to answer questions, classify, and categorize. They are comfortable working with the abstract.”

People with this type if intelligence also finds it very easy to spot trends and patterns and understand relationships. These people are attracted to logic puzzles, experiments, strategy games, and arithmetic problems.

If you like solving abstract problems, math, and anything that requires the use of logic, then you are logically-mathematical intelligent.

Suitable careers: Architect, Engineer, Programmer, Accountant, Financial Analyst, Electrician, Mathematician, Detective, Physicist, Aviation, Lawyer, Chemist, Doctor, Scientist

Famous people that are logical-mathematical intelligent: Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, Mark Zuckerberg

2. Linguistic intelligence

Linguistic intelligence is the person’s ability to think in words and use these to make oneself understood.

According to research conducted by the International Montessori Schools:

“The intelligence of language and communication. It includes the ability to speak, articulate, and express, and convey one’s thoughts and feelings to the outside world in one or more languages.

“This can be at an oral and written level. It also includes the ability to listen and to understand other people.”

In short, if you are linguistically intelligent, you absorb information best if it’s presented to you with words.

Being linguistically intelligent is more than just knowing two languages. It is about using the words well, both when writing and speaking.

People with this intelligence are typically very good at writing stories, memorizing information, and reading. They are also good at debating or giving persuasive speeches.

You know that you’re linguistically intelligent if you use a wide vocabulary and enjoy writing and keeping journals.

Suitable careers: Librarian, Curator, Writer, Journalist, Lawyer, Speech Pathologist, Translator, Teacher, Editor, Public Speaker

Famous people that have linguistic intelligence: J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, Natalie Portman, James Franco

3. Visual-spatial intelligence

This intelligence refers to having a very active imagination.

People with this intelligence will be drawing on their imagination when putting this intelligence to use. Visual-spatial intelligence involves the following capacities:

Mental imagery is the capacity of the person to “see” in his mind’s eye a particular object, even if it is not physically present within his line of sight. It is the ability to draw up an image or picture as a representation of the physical world, even if it is from past memory or experience.

Spatial reasoning is the person’s capacity to think about objects in 3D and draw generalizations from the limited information available. For example, one can mention a pyramid to a person with visual-spatial intelligence and he will have an image of how a pyramid will look like when viewed from the front or from the top.

Image manipulation is the capacity to view an image and being able to imagine how it will look like when tweaked or altered. They are those who have no issues seeing how an object will turn out when the proposed changes are made.

Artistic skills is a person’s ability and skills in creating fine art. It also involves graphics skills because being visually and spatially intelligent often go hand in hand with creativity.

Suitable careers: Artist, Painter, Filmmaker, Photographer, Fashion designer, Sailor, Pilot, Engineer

Famous people that have visual-spatial intelligence: Leonardo Da Vinci, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso, Neils Bohr, I. M. Pei

4. Naturalist intelligence

Naturalistic is the most recent addition to Gardner’s theory.

He explains his theory, saying:

“When I originally described my seven intelligences, which was a long time ago, I didn’t include a naturalist intelligence.

“But I became convinced about five years ago that there was an eighth form of intelligence that has to do with the capacity to be sensitive to the natural world, the world that God created, as opposed to the man-made world. It has to do with sensitivity to plants and animals, living things, what to eat, what to stay away from, what to chase, what to be chased by. It also goes to sensitivity to the seasons, the clouds, the temperature, the seas, and the mountains.

“It’s really being very involved in the world of nature and how it works.”

These are individuals who are interested in nurturing, exploring the environment, and learning about other species.

They can “read” and understand nature which includes all the living things in and on it.

If you have the sensitivity for all living and non-living elements, it makes you “nature-smart”.

Suitable careersBiologist, Veterinarian, Garner, Botanist, Horticulturist, Archaeologist, Farmer, Landscaper, Wildlife Photographer

Famous people that have naturalist intelligence: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jacques Costeau, Steve Irwin, Charles Darwin, Gerald Durrell

5. Musical intelligence

People who have strong musical intelligence are good at thinking in music. It includes understanding patterns, rhythms, and sounds.

According to Kelley:

“People who excel in this intelligence typically are able to use rhythms and patterns to assist in learning.”

They are characterized by having a strong appreciation for music and are great in musical composition and performance.

Musically smart people have very little trouble picking up and developing musical skills. Some are even able to imitate sounds on musical instruments just by hearing them once.

If you’ve always been fast on your feet when it came to anything musical, you might consider yourself having musical intelligence.

Suitable careersMusician, Composer, Conductor, Disc Jockey, Songwriter, Music Teacher, Record Producer

Famous people that are musically-intelligent: Michael Jackson, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

6. Existential intelligence

People who are “existentialist” have no problem tackling existentialism issues and questions. They love anything about human existence.

According to Gardner:

“This candidate for intelligence is based on the human proclivity to ponder the most fundamental questions of existence.

“I sometimes say that these are questions that transcend perception; they concern issues that are too big or small to be perceived by our five sensory systems.”

You have high existential intelligence if you ask serious questions like “why do we live?”, “Why do we die?”, and “what happens to us after death?” combined with a passion to pursue the answers to these questions.

Do you consider yourself an old soul? Or are you interested in achieving higher consciousness? Then you might have existential intelligence.

Suitable careersPsychologist, Writer, Theologian, Criminologist, Philosopher, Criminologist, Career Counselor

Famous people that have existential intelligence: Buddha, Socrates, St. Augustine

7. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

People who have high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are said to be good at body movement, performing actions, and physical control because of their excellent hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

As school psychologist Ann Logsdon puts it:

“Bodily kinesthetic learners prefer bodily information over other forms. Movement serves as an aid to their memory and they remember movement from others as well as their own. They may seek out touching and manipulating objects when learning about them.”

Most of the time, they are sportsmen. This intelligence also refers to your physical skills, and how you can use your physicality to manipulate objects.

The following are the characteristics of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence:

  • strong and agile physical capabilities
  • graceful and precise movements, especially in dancing and sports
  • adept at handling tools/machines using hands
  • adept at creating things by hand
  • the ability to remember by doing, rather than by hearing or seeing

Suitable careersAthlete, Farmer, Carpenter, Construction Worker, Dancer, Paramedic/EMT, Firefighter, Personal Trainer

Famous people that have body-kinesthetic intelligence: Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Jim Carrie, David Copperfield

8. Interpersonal intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence is also known as emotional intelligence. It refers to a person’s ability to sense other people’s feelings, as well as read their motives.

When you are intelligent in this area, you possess good to very good communication skills – both verbal and non-verbal.

While others learn by words or actions, you learn through interactions and lively discussions.

You may have interpersonal intelligence if you enjoy having people come to you for help and advice. You derive pleasure from your social prominence.

Here are the characteristics of people having high interpersonal intelligence:

  • you can spot distinctions or differences among people. For example, you easily recognize people you know even in a large crowd.
  • you sense the moods and temperament of other people
  • you can see situations from different perspectives

Suitable careersSocial Worker, Teacher, Actors, Public Relations, Psychologist, Salesperson, Politician, Marketing, Counselor

Famous people that have interpersonal intelligence: Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Clinton, Phil McGraw, Tony Robbins

9. Intrapersonal intelligence

Intrapersonal intelligence is characterized by self-awareness wherein you truly understand yourself – your feelings wants and needs.

You have high intrapersonal intelligence if you are:

  • fully aware of what you want and you take action to plan and direct your life, without others telling you what to do
  • shy, introverted and have the constant need for self-reflection
  • good at analyzing your strengths and weaknesses

Potential career:

These people are those who are good theorists, scientists, writers, spiritual leaders, psychologists, guidance counselors, and even philosophers.

How do you improve your intelligence?

how smart are you

If Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence makes sense to you, then how can you proceed to improve your area of expertise?

Keeping in mind that fluid and crystallized intelligence are both important aspects of optimal learning, there are some ways you can actively harness and improve your “smarts”.

Here are 3 ways to do it:

1. Be open to new experiences and opportunities.

What is it that they say?

Experience is the best teacher.

And when it comes to intelligence, that’s certainly the case.

According to research, it’s all about this thing called neural plasticity. Plasticity refers to the number of connections our neurons make between each other, how they are affected, and how long-lasting they are.

In short, our intelligence is affected by how much information our neurons took in and passed on to each other. Regularly exposing yourself to new experiences and learning opportunities literally primes your brain for learning.

So if you really want to be smarter, look for things that stimulate you. They don’t even have to be deep or academic. Just get your brain moving.

Having various pursuits prevents your mind from being idle—and when it comes to learning, idleness is your archenemy.

2. Exercise.

That’s right.

Exercise isn’t just good for your health and body, it’s good for your brain too.

It raises your IQ, protects your brain from diseases, improves memory and attention capacity, and even slows aging.

A Swedish study even suggests that engaging in cardiovascular activities can increase your verbal intelligence by 15%.

According to the study’s authors:

“These findings support the notion that cardiovascular exercise improved cognition through increased amounts of circulating factors that positively influence brain plasticity and cognitive function.”

3. Get enough sleep.

Aren’t we all guilty of not getting enough sleep?

The repercussions don’t really seem to weigh much if you don’t think about it. But the truth is, lack of sleep is detrimental to your overall health. Especially when it comes to your intelligence.

A study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health proves that sleep deprivation affects cognitive and physical performance.

Another study also shows that inadequate sleep harms cognitive, behavioral, and functional aspects in young children and adolescents.

So the next time you’re torn about losing sleep, remember that your brain hangs on the balance, too.


“When one has a thorough understanding of a topic, one can typically think of it in several ways.”

– Howard Gardner

According to Edutopia, everyone has all of the nine types of intelligence but in varying aptitude. For example, a person may score higher in linguistic and musical intelligence but score lower in mathematical and kinesthetic intelligence.

Given the types of intelligence above, it is safe to say that we are all intelligent. Have you found the type of intelligence that you possess in greatest abundance?

Picture of Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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