Intelligence facts

Humans have thought about the nature of intelligence for millennia. This picture is from a work by Robert Fludd published between 1617 and 1621.

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including as one's capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity, and problem solving. It can be more generally described as the ability or inclination to perceive or deduce information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context.

Intelligence is most widely studied in humans, but has also been observed in non-human animals and in plants. Artificial intelligence is intelligence in machines. It is commonly implemented in computer systems using program software.

There is disagreement about which has more influence on intelligence, genetics or environment. Also, intelligent behaviour is possibly learned when an organism (a living thing) reacts enough to a stimulus.


Chimpanzee and stick
The common chimpanzee can use tools. This chimpanzee is using a stick to get food

The definition of intelligence is controversial. Some groups of psychologists have suggested the following definitions:

  • A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—"catching on," "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do.
  • Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person's intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria.

Human intelligence

Human intelligence is the intellectual power of humans, which is marked by complex cognitive feats and high levels of motivation and self-awareness. Intelligence enables humans to remember descriptions of things and use those descriptions in future behaviors. It gives humans the abilities to learn, form concepts, understand, and reason, including the capacities to recognize patterns, comprehend ideas, plan, solve problems, and use language to communicate. Intelligence enables humans to experience and think.

In animals

Although humans have been the primary focus of intelligence researchers, scientists have also attempted to investigate animal intelligence, or more broadly, animal cognition. These researchers are interested in studying both mental ability in a particular species, and comparing abilities between species. They study various measures of problem solving, as well as numerical and verbal reasoning abilities.

Artificial intelligence

Intelligence artificielle
Mock up of AI

Artificial intelligence (or AI) is both the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science which aims to create it, through "the study and design of intelligent agents" or "rational agents", where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximize its chances of success.

Achievements in artificial intelligence include constrained and well-defined problems such as games, crossword-solving and optical character recognition and a few more general problems such as autonomous cars. General intelligence or strong AI has not yet been achieved and is a long-term goal of AI research.

Intelligence Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.