What Is Crystallized Intelligence And Why Does It Matter?

By: Nadia Khan

Updated February 13, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

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Have you ever heard of crystallized intelligence? If you haven't then you're most definitely not alone because it's not a concept that most people talk about, though psychologists have been studying and discussing it for some time now. In order to understand crystallized intelligence, it's important to also look at something called fluid intelligence. We'll take a look at what both of them are and what they mean for you and your overall intelligence now and in the future.

What Is Fluid Intelligence?

So, just what is fluid intelligence? If you've ever heard people talk about how they get less smart as they get older, you've heard them talking about fluid intelligence (though most people don't even realize that when they're doing it). Fluid intelligence is being able to think or be able to reason abstractly, and it is used for problem-solving. It's not about actual learning or the education you get from school. Instead, it's about solving puzzles, learning how to solve problems and other ways of creating answers based on something other than education.

This type of intelligence is, well, fluid. That means that as you get older, it's going to start waning slightly, a little more each year as you continue to age. In fact, your fluid intelligence seems to peak right about adolescence and from there, it only continues to decrease. You'll probably notice that you have more difficulty solving problems and coming to more abstract conclusions when you're older than you ever had when you were a teenager or even when you were a child. There are ways to slow down the decline of fluid intelligence, but there aren't ways to stop it altogether.

What Is Crystallized Intelligence?

So, if fluid intelligence is problem-solving and abstract, what exactly is crystallized intelligence? This type of intelligence is about learning. That means things that you do in school or things you learn from experience. It's regular knowledge that affects how you can accomplish different tasks. For example, reading comprehension, vocabulary and other tests will measure your level of crystallized intelligence. It's all about facts and experiences in general, and as you continue to learn more and more, your crystallized intelligence is going to get even stronger.

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What this means is that you will increase your level of crystallized intelligence as you age. Rather than fluid intelligence that continues to decrease over time, you learn more and more as you get older. That's because you have more educational opportunities and far more experiences. This is increasing your level of crystallized intelligence and as long as you live this level of intelligence will continue to rise. There's no end to the things that you can experience or learn, after all, so why would there be an end to the intelligence that you gather through this process?

Why You Need Both

Think about taking a test. You're going to need a whole lot of intelligence to pass, right? You need intelligence to know about the equation. You need intelligence to solve the equation. You need intelligence, in short, for every aspect of the test-taking process. But did you know that your test-taking process uses both types of intelligence? The fluid intelligence that you have helps you figure out how you're going to solve the problem. It helps you figure out, for example, that you need one specific equation to do it. Your crystallized intelligence then helps you to remember that equation.

Without both types of intelligence, you'd never be able to get through that test, but you wouldn't be able to get through other aspects of your life either. You use both of these in different situations; to make sure you can come up with a solution to any problem that you face and to be a little more creative in your approach to certain things as well. Without both types of intelligence, you'd have a difficult time making it through an average day, which is why some things tend to become more difficult for your brain to understand as you get older.

Improving Your Crystallized Intelligence

As you continue to get older, you continue to improve in crystallized intelligence, but what if you're trying to improve this type of intelligence even more? Well, then the best thing that you can do is seek out additional ways to train and educate your brain so that you develop a stronger and more complex 'database' of sorts that encompasses a lot of different information. So what could you do to get even more information? Just about anything you want.

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Experiences and education both help to form a framework of your crystallized intelligence. That means going out with friends, traveling the world, taking a dance class, getting a degree and even watching TV are ways that you can increase your level of crystallized intelligence. Anything that gives you experience or some bank of information to draw from is going to make you even smarter in crystallized intelligence. That makes it quite easy for you to continue to improve because you can do anything at all and you're going to help yourself in the long run, but maybe you're not quite sure what you want to do to improve your intelligence.

Talking With A Pro

Why would you need to talk to a professional if you're looking to get smarter? Well, the truth is that you'll be able to use professional help a lot because a professional can help you understand what works for you and what doesn't work for you. They'll also be able to help you in choosing things that you enjoy most and things that you might want to avoid. That's because they're going to help you get right inside your head and learn a whole lot more about what it is that you want.

Talking with a professional doesn't have to be about a mental health concern. You can talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist just because you want to understand yourself better or just because you want to talk to someone and they are a person who won't judge you. There are plenty of reasons to go out and find someone that you feel comfortable with and plenty of benefits that you're going to see as you continue to talk to them as well. That's going to be a bonus for you and your future as well.


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Finding a professional can be a bit of a hassle though. You can find them all over, of course. You can look up people in your area and find out what their specialty is or find out who you know has talked to them. But you'll be limited by their location, and you'll be limited in regards to appointments as well. After all, you're going to need to schedule around things like work and getting home to change before the appointment. You might have to cancel at the last minute because you have an out of town trip. But there is a solution to that problem.

BetterHelp Can Help

If you're looking for someone that can help you out with your mental health problems or if you're looking for someone that can help you with anything else you want to talk about, BetterHelp is a great resource for you. You'll be able to find a professional that's available whenever you need them, and that's available no matter where you are. That's because BetterHelp is entirely online, without the need for physical offices or physical proximity to the psychiatrist or another professional that you're talking to. You can connect from wherever you are.

With this system, all you need to do is log on to your computer or another internet connected device, and you'll be able to reach out to a variety of different professionals from all over the country. Then, you'll be able to find out more information about different mental health topics or common questions that you might have. You'll also be able to choose a professional that you feel comfortable with, and it doesn't even matter if they're located all the way across the country from you because you're communicating online.

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Because all the communication is carried out online, you'll also be able to meet up with them no matter where you are. If you go on vacation or have a spontaneous trip that you have to go on you'll still be able to get in touch with your therapist to carry out the meeting. That's because all you need is an internet connected device and you're going to be ready to go. Wherever you feel the most comfortable is going to be your brand new psychiatrist's office. There's no need to cancel an appointment or try to cram visiting an office into your already busy schedule. You just log on to your computer or tablet, and you're going to be ready to go.

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