Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

7: Thinking and Intelligence

In other chapters, we discussed the cognitive processes of perception, learning, and memory. In this chapter, we will focus on high-level cognitive processes. As a part of this discussion, we will consider thinking and briefly explore the development and use of language. We will also discuss problem solving and creativity before ending with a discussion of how intelligence is measured and how our biology and environments interact to affect intelligence. After finishing this chapter, you will have a greater appreciation of the higher-level cognitive processes that contribute to our distinctiveness as a species.

  • 7.0: Prelude to Thinking and Intelligence
    Cognitive psychologists also study intelligence. What is intelligence, and how does it vary from person to person? Are “street smarts” a kind of intelligence, and if so, how do they relate to other types of intelligence? What does an IQ test really measure? These questions and more will be explored in this chapter as you study thinking and intelligence.
  • 7.1: What Is Cognition?
    Simply put, cognition is thinking, and it encompasses the processes associated with perception, knowledge, problem solving, judgment, language, and memory. Scientists who study cognition are searching for ways to understand how we integrate, organize, and utilize our conscious cognitive experiences without being aware of all of the unconscious work that our brains are doing.
  • 7.2: Language
    Language is a communication system that involves using words and systematic rules to organize those words to transmit information from one individual to another. While language is a form of communication, not all communication is language. Many species communicate with one another through their postures, movements, odors, or vocalizations. This communication is crucial for species that need to interact and develop social relationships with their conspecifics.
  • 7.3: Problem Solving
    When you are presented with a problem—whether it is a complex mathematical problem or a broken printer, how do you solve it? Before finding a solution to the problem, the problem must first be clearly identified. After that, one of many problem solving strategies can be applied, hopefully resulting in a solution. A problem-solving strategy is a plan of action used to find a solution. Different strategies have different action plans associated with them. For example, a well-known strategy is tri
  • 7.4: What Are Intelligence and Creativity?
    What exactly is intelligence? The way that researchers have defined the concept of intelligence has been modified many times since the birth of psychology. British psychologist Charles Spearman believed intelligence consisted of one general factor, called g, which could be measured and compared among individuals. Spearman focused on the commonalities among various intellectual abilities and demphasized what made each unique..
  • 7.5: Measures of Intelligence
    While you’re likely familiar with the term “IQ” and associate it with the idea of intelligence, what does IQ really mean? IQ stands for intelligence quotient and describes a score earned on a test designed to measure intelligence. You’ve already learned that there are many ways psychologists describe intelligence (or more aptly, intelligences). Similarly, IQ tests—the tools designed to measure intelligence—have been the subject of debate throughout their development and use.
  • 7.6: The Source of Intelligence
    Where does high intelligence come from? Some researchers believe that intelligence is a trait inherited from a person’s parents. Scientists who research this topic typically use twin studies to determine the heritability of intelligence.
  • 7.E: Thinking and Intelligence (Exercises)

Thumbnail: Le Penseur in the Musée Rodin in Paris. Image used with permission (Public Domain; AndrewHorne)