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In education, the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or challenging situations. In psychology, the term may more specifically denote the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as the IQ test). Intelligence is usually thought of as deriving from a combination of inherited characteristics and environmental (developmental and social) factors. The subject remains hotly debated, and many have tried to show that either biology (especially genes) or environment (especially conditions reflecting socioeconomic class) are more or less exclusively responsible for producing differences in intelligence. Particularly contested have been studies purporting to show links between ethnic heritage and intelligence, most of which have not been accepted in the scientific community. General intelligence is often said to comprise various specific abilities (verbal ability, ability to apply logic in solving problems, etc.), but critics contend that such compartments fail to reflect the nature of cognition and that other models, perhaps based on information processing, are needed. High intelligence (as measured by tests) is sometimes shown to correlate with social achievement, but most experts believe other factors are important and that intelligence is no guarantor of success (and its lack is no guarantor of failure). See alsoartificial intelligence; creativity.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on intelligence, visit Britannica.com.