Our fluid intelligence is more about the way we think than the knowledge stored in our brains. In the past, people thought intelligence was fixed. However, we now know that there are many things we can do to increase our intelligence. This article looks at the ways we can develop it.

What Is Fluid Intelligence?

The idea of two distinct types of intelligence was developed by the psychologist Raymond Cattal in the 1960’s. He called these different types ‘fluid intelligence’ and ‘crystallized intelligence‘.

Crystallized intelligence is the ability to use all the knowledge and experience we have built up over time.

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

Our crystallized intelligence is developed by studying information and learning facts. It’s the type of intelligence that is built by studying for exams in school. We also develop this type of intelligence through our experiences. We learn what works and what doesn’t by a process of trial and error.

However, our fluid intelligence is not built on facts and data. We can increase it in a variety of ways. Andrea Kuszewski, a Cognitive scientist and behavior therapist, offers several strategies that might improve this type of our intelligence. There are also studies that suggest physical activity is a key factor.

So, if you want to increase your fluid intelligence, try out the following six techniques:

Try new things

When we try new things, we challenge our brains to work in new ways and to create new neural connections. Once we know how to do something, it becomes routine. However, doing something novel makes our brains work harder to develop new skills. So exploring as many novel ideas and activities as we can is a good way to improve our fluid intelligence.

Push your limits

We know that to build physical muscle, we have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. The same is true of our mental capacities. In order to continue to build our intelligence, we must always be pushing ourselves to our limits.

Once we get comfortable with a certain level of activity, the brain stops building new connections. So, once you have mastered something, you need to move on to a more advanced level to keep the brain developing.

Use your whole brain

To achieve maximum neural growth, we need to use all areas of our brains. If we rely on one strategy, whether that is reasoning, imagination or any other mental skill, we do not get the full benefit. So, in order to develop our brains, we must use a variety of skills, such as analytical skills and creativity, to solve problems.

In practice, this means that if you are comfortable with painting and writing poetry, you should try studying science. Conversely, if math is your bag, maybe you should try experimenting with flower arranging or woodworking.

Use it or lose it

Another similarity between our brains and our muscles is the idea that if we stop using them, they begin to decline. In our modern age, with so much technology to hand, we often don’t use our brains as much as previous generations. Technology can be handy, however, relying on spellcheck, calculators and satnav might not be good for us.

To keep challenging your brain and build your fluid intelligence, try practicing some mental maths, or ditching the satnav and using an old-fashioned map. You could also take a break from technology for a part of the week to work on building your intelligence.

Be Social

The complex relationships between humans may be one of the reasons we have such big brains in the first place. Socializing uses a lot of brain power. We have to use a range of skills from memory to empathy to develop good social relationships and this means lots of work for the brain.

Spending time with other people also exposes us to new ideas and ways of thinking, so socializing can improve our brain function in a variety of ways.

Stay Active

Many studies have suggested that physical activity is vital for brain development. Research has also suggested that staying active can reduce the risk of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

It may not seem to make much sense, but perhaps one of the most important ways to improve your mental capacities is to get out and do something physical.

Closing thoughts

We still really don’t know that much about how the brain works and many theories have different ideas about what intelligence is and how we can increase it. However, the above ideas will certainly challenge your gray matter and they definitely make for a more interesting and fulfilling life.


  1. www.medicaldaily.com
  2. wikipedia.org
  3. scientificamerican.com

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