Intelligence and Thinking
Intelligence and thinking make up part of the human experience. Intelligence is cognitive potential, while thinking is the use cognitive potential. Over the years, philosophers have shown interest in human intelligence and thinking and have attempted to understand how they vary from one individual to another. Besides variations in the levels of intelligence and thinking people display, philosophers have also explored the role genetics, culture, and environment have on an individual’s level of intelligence and thinking. Intelligence and thinking are the basis of human development and survival. Therefore, understanding how genetics, environment, and culture influence intelligence and thinking is crucial.
Intelligence and thinking are the results of interactions between multiple genes. Brain functionality and structure are features that affect one’s level of intelligence. These features are determined by biological factors such as the levels of chemical activities in the brain, the shape and size of the frontal lobes, the size of the cortex, and the amounts of gray matter in the brain. Optimal biological features and well-functioning pathways result in optimal brain efficiency and functioning, an indicator of high levels of intelligence and thinking (Oommen, 2014). The influence of genetics on an individual’s intelligence is also evident through the genome-wide studies. These studies have identified various inherited genome sequences that account for up to 50% of intelligence heredity (Plomin & Von Stumm, 2018). These studies also show a strong correlation between genetics and intelligence, mainly as individuals grow older.
The environment people live in influences their intelligence and thinking. While genetics determines brain structure and volume, the environment one is exposed to also affects one’s level of intelligence and thinking. For instance, good nutrition impacts a child’s brain development, thus affecting their level of intelligence. Also, studies have shown that high nutrient diets help premature babies reduce the loss of brain size, further highlighting the importance of nutrition in determining one’s level of intelligence (Isaacs., 2008). Other environmental factors that influence intelligence include physical activity, access to education, and place of residence (Makharia et al., 2016). For instance, individuals who exercise more are more intelligent as they have higher oxygen levels in their brains. Also, increased levels of oxygen improve memory, decision-making, and productivity. Access to education and place of residence determines the levels of cognitive stimulation and individual experiences. Therefore, high levels of mental stimulation result in higher levels of intelligence, while low levels of cognitive stimulation result in low levels of intelligence.
Intelligence is a human characteristic that is influenced by culture. Different populations around the world have different cultures. In the US, the predominant culture focuses on the individual instead of the group. Focusing on an individual emphasizes personal achievement; hence personal intelligence is valued over group intelligence. In contrast, a culture that focuses on the group will focus more on group intelligence than individual intelligence. Intelligence affects the way an individual thinks. Therefore, people’s belief on what it means to be intelligent is dependent on people’s cultures (Sternberg & Grigorenko,2004). Cultural context is therefore important in defining and determining one’s intelligence levels as well as shaping one’s thought process.
Intelligence and thinking are essential in human development and survival. As highlighted above, genetics, environment, and culture influence levels of intelligence and thinking. Optimal biological, environmental, and cultural conditions promote high levels of intelligence and thinking, while unideal conditions lower levels of intelligence and thinking. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how genetics, culture, and environment influence intelligence and thinking and ensure optimal conditions are achieved.
Isaacs, E. B., Gadian, D. G., Sabatini, S., Chong, W. K., Quinn, B. T., Fischl, B. R., & Lucas, A. (2008). The effect of early human diet on caudate volumes and IQ. Pediatric Research, 63(3), 308-314.
Makharia, A., Nagarajan, A., Mishra, A., Peddisetty, S., Chahal, D., & Singh, Y. (2016). Effect of environmental factors on intelligence quotient of children. Industrial psychiatry journal, 25(2), 189.
Oommen, A. (2014). Factors influencing intelligence quotient. Journal of Neurology and Stroke, 1(4), 1-5.
Plomin, R., & Von Stumm, S. (2018). The new genetics of intelligence. Nature Reviews Genetics, 19(3), 148-159.
Sternberg, R. J., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2004). Intelligence and culture: how culture shapes what intelligence means, and the implications for a science of well–being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1427-1434.
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