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Intelligence Definition and Description

Numerous disciplines have differing definitions of intelligence, which makes it harder to describe and classify it. Various psychologists have proposed various intelligence; for example, Sternberg (2020) proposed multiple intelligence. Both of these propositions have some generalizations stemming from the theories of intelligence. Although there are divergent viewpoints regarding intelligence, the most appropriate definition should be based on learning and adapting to new situations, and applying knowledge to think abstractly and manipulate one’s environment.

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Intelligence should comprise a set of skills, usually working in harmony, to learn, adapt to, and deal with new and challenging situations. It is the skilled use of reason that should qualify one as intelligent. For example, when an intelligent person meets new people, this individual easily adapts to this new environment seamlessly. Every unique situation, though challenging, is an opportunity for a smart individual to thrive (Sternberg, 2020). Therefore, intelligence is the ability to meet, learn, and adapt to various circumstances.

An alternative definition of intelligence is that it is the ability to think abstractly and use knowledge to manipulate the environment to realize appropriate outcomes. The application of knowledge in a specific context stems from many other cognitive processes, including problem-solving, perception, learning, reason, and memory (Sternberg, 2020). For any setting, intelligence draws a few skill sets from some of these processes to effectively manipulate the environment. For example, a researcher learning about the management of a given medical condition finds and learns about it from various materials and then uses reason to apply the knowledge acquired to find the appropriate treatment of the disease. Thus, intelligence is the ability to handle any circumstance through abstract thinking, and it draws from many cognitive processes.

In conclusion, intelligence is not easy to define, but understanding how it develops makes it easy to derive a plausible definition. It comprises a set of skills, which work in harmony to enable effective adaption to new situations. Additionally, intelligence is the ability to think abstractly to manipulate a situation. Most importantly, it draws various skills from a number of mental processes, such as reason, memory, learning, perception, and memory.


Sternberg, R. J. (2020). The Cambridge handbook of intelligence. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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