Intelligence is a skill that enables us to understand our environment, give meaning to it, and decide what action to take. The better and faster we can do this, the more intelligence we are. Nowadays we differentiate 9 types of intelligence: verbal, logical, musical, physical, visual, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential.  In our capitalistic and scientific society verbal, visual and logical are the most valued.

In the past, each generation has become around 10% smarter. Today this seems to be flattening. A likely reason is, that our children are too pampered and little challenged by our parents and society. In the Netherlands, many parents are called Curling parents. They brush away all obstacles and irregularities, to ‘help’ and ‘protect’ their offspring. They do not understand that by denying them these ‘opportunities’, they will be unprepared and face many disappointments as adults in the real world.

There are two major influences that affect intelligence: inheritance and environment. Especially in the first seven years, (see our brains) the inheritance factor can have a major impact if the children are challenged and stimulated instead of patronized and limited. In these early years, we develop our motor functions, long-term memory, autobiographical memory and, most importantly our verbal capacities. If by then they have not learned to speak well, the chances are great they get stuck at that level.

From the age of 8 to 20 years, we develop skills such as: actively storing in the memory, learn to oversee consequences and balance self-interest with short term and long term goals. Because these functions all arise in combination with the development of sexual awareness, it is a very confusing (and sometimes risky) period in our lives.

After this period, we start developing more complex cognitive functions; such as organizing and planning, cognitive flexibility, and evaluating meaningful or less meaningful activities. These cognitive functions ensure that we: pay attention, learn effectively, use good strategies, and behave more socially. From the age of 40, more connections are made between the cognitive and emotional parts of our brain; resulting in a better and more balanced capacity for self-reflection. 

We know (see brain) that there is a right and left part of the brain. Left for the rational, logical and deducting abilities and right for reasoning, intuitive, spatial and holistic. To become more creative and quicker in solving questions of life, it’s necessary to involve both brain parts. The development of our intelligence doesn’t stop at a certain age. Although we lose brain cells as we get older, this is largely compensated by making more connections between the remaining brain cells; so that they are used better and more efficiently.  Of course, this only works when you keep your self active; not only mentally but also physically (a way to get new brain cells).

Urbanization is a big reason why we became more intelligent in the last 150 years. The reason being, that when you want to get better at something you have to practice. With so many people and ideas in one place, it rapidly improved our communication and social skills in order to create a good and coherent society. All these challenges and interactions sharpened our minds.

During our lifetime, intelligence transforms experiences and facts into knowledge. The existence of knowledge can only be confirmed when it is shared with others. When knowledge is shared it spread like a virus, contaminating everybody it touches with this new idea or concept. For some, it will wait for the right time to flourish; others will react immediately.

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