Fluid intelligence is basically how smart you are.
It’s how much you can adapt yourself to understanding and solving things in your life and job.
By contrast, crystallized intelligence is the knowledge you have stored up and accumulated over your life and learning.
In short: crystallized knowledge is how much you know, fluid reasoning is your ability and capacity to understand and know things to start with.
The parts of fluid reasoning that are the most important are: spatial, visual, critical, conceptual, verbal, mathematical and creativity.
These are all aspects of “being smart” and they can be improved by various means.
Let’s take a look at 10 ways for how to improve fluid reasoning.
1) Question everything
Fluid intelligence is highly heritable, but it can be increased, as this study from the University of Bern in Switzerland proved.
The first way to increase your fluid reasoning capabilities is to start questioning things.
There are so many ways to stretch your brain and its ability to grasp concepts.
The first one is simply by asking questions and then trying to wrap your mind around the answers and how the answers were arrived at.
For example, how did the German scientist Johannes Kepler arrive at his theory of planetary motion and elliptical orbits?
Doing a dive into the basic math, visual, spatial, and critical reasoning that Kepler used to derive and prove his theory will give your brain the equivalent of an intense bench press at the gym.
If you find that something like the way planets move is a bit complex, start with a simpler spatial and mathematical concept like the law of gravity and Isaac Newton’s discovery of it.
What are the basics and how did Newton derive the proofs?
2) Look below the surface
The next of the best methods for how to improve fluid reasoning is to look below the surface of something that appears to be simple.
For example, here’s a quick way to boost and begin improving your verbal intelligence.
- Step one: watch a political speech and listen to the words that are used and how they make you feel.
- Step two: pick ten of these words and write them down. For example “freedom,” “opportunity,” “struggle,” “justice,” “prosperity.”
- Step three: look up these ten words and study their roots. Maybe they have ties to ancient Greek, Germanic languages, Latin or Arabic. Note this information down next to the words.
- Step four: what are the two main emotions that come up for you in response to each of these words. For example, maybe “struggle” is a word that makes you feel anxious but also determined.
- Step five: write down alternatives to these ten words that have basically the same meaning. How would using these words have changed the tone or feeling of the speech? Why do you think the speechwriters or politicians preferred to use the kinds of words they did rather than another kind? What was the overall purpose or intended emotional impact of this speech and what was it intended to convince the audience of?
Alternative: want to look below the surface and improve your verbal fluid reasoning in a way that also is highly creative?
Pick your current favorite song and do the same thing as the above exercise, but using the lyrics of the song!
A lot more goes into the words around us than we realize, doesn’t it?
3) Read or take philosophy
Philosophy is another way to increase your fluid reasoning and learn some very fascinating things.
Mathematics, in a sense, is pure philosophy. Books like Hegel’s 1816 Science of Logic are fairly short but crammed with intensely pure reasoning.
They deconstruct everything and put it back together. One sentence may take you two hours to understand but could be the equivalent of reading an entire simplified book of philosophy.
If you want to start with a simpler philosophy, try Plato or Aristotle, the ancient Greek fathers of modern philosophy.
Or start with a summary: maybe you want to read a summary of Kant or of what German Idealism and the movement involved and the concepts in it.
Your fluid reasoning will be going through the roof. Just make sure to put quality over quantity and not to race ahead just for the sake of finishing a book or pretending to understand if you don’t really.
4) Grab an LSAT
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized test that you have to take to enter US and Canadian law schools.
It uses many different forms of fluid reasoning including verbal, pattern recognition, conceptual and mathematical.
The purpose of the LSAT is to test your overall critical thinking skills and determine whether you will survive and thrive in law school.
Even the bottom of the barrel law schools requires considerable critical thinking and fluid reasoning skills.
“Critical thinking skills are important in all aspects of life, from personal relationships to education and work.
In order to be a successful student, you need to be able to critically evaluate information and arguments”
The learning hack here is that you can try out doing an LSAT test. Take the test and see how you do.
Check an LSAT study book out of the library and study for a month more. Then take the test again.
Your fluid reasoning abilities will be bulking up big time.
5) Get creative
One of the most important aspects of fluid reasoning is the ability and willingness to think outside the box.
People like Steve Jobs all the way to Elon Musk didn’t just get to the heights of success by being mathematically brilliant or logical.
They used creativity.
How can we solve challenges in unique ways?
How can we combine creativity with functionality?
How can we approach a way of working, traveling or living in an entirely different sense that would transform our lives?
Write down three ways that you could change life by implementing a new, as yet undiscovered technology that exists only in your imagination.
Who knows, maybe one day you (or somebody else) will invent this tech for real!
6) Watch mystery shows and movies
If you’re a fan of crime and mystery shows or movies, then you’re already on the write track here.
Now I realize these aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the great thing is that if they are you are already giving your brain a workout in the fluid reasoning department.
Grasping and speculating about who did the crime or why is a great workout for your brain.
It increases and exercises your capacity for fluid reasoning in so many different ways at once:
- In listening carefully to dialog clues, tonality and context
- In studying visual cues of the characters’ expressions and behavior
- In remembering what has already happening and synthesizing it with the present events
- In speculating about what may or may not be possible in terms of the crime or its motive
- In thinking about how it could have been different if A had been different or B had occurred in another form and so on…
These are all absolute Grade A workouts and boosters for your fluid reasoning!
7) Do puzzles and crosswords
Puzzles and crosswords are excellent ways to boost your fluid reasoning.
Crosswords employ both your spatial and verbal thinking skills and increase your vocabulary and ability to think of words in different ways.
Puzzles like sudoku help you try out different spatial configurations and employ a mix of mathematical and verbal intelligence.
These are all highly effective things to do in terms of finding out how to improve fluid reasoning.
Simple fluid reasoning hack?
Get a sudoku puzzle book for a few bucks at the gas station and do it with your morning coffee.
8) Meditate more
Meditation increases the gray matter in your brain, as well as your ability to focus, remain calm and clear your mind.
These are all deeply valuable fluid reasoning skills.
Practicing meditation, even for just a short time every day, will increase your fluid reasoning skills.
It will also leave you feeling calmer and more confident about the journey to boosting your fluid reasoning and critical thinking abilities.
9) Get better sleep
Many of us underestimate or dismiss the importance of sleep.
If you think about it, sleep is what we spend almost half our earthly life doing, so it’s clearly something we should pay attention to.
Getting a deeper sleep gives you more energy, mental clarity and psychological stability.
Make sure you get to bed on time, don’t eat too much too late and deal with issues like insomnia or snoring which may be interrupting your sleep quality.
This will leave your fluid reasoning much more room to grow and excel.
Let the fluid reasoning flow
Fluid reasoning is a crucial part of life.
When you can understand situations, challenges, people, and information, you become a more empowered, aware, and effective individual.
The above strategies for improving your fluid reasoning will help train your mind like a mental gym.
Enjoy, and remember to get a lot of good sleep and eat well!
Your fluid reasoning is, indeed, fluid. But it also needs the nutrients and rest to be able to function at the optimal level.