Is Intelligence static? Does a person’s intelligence change over the course of their life?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

A question that has been debated for centuries, Is intelligence static? The answer to this question actually depends on many different factors. Research shows that people have been made smarter, but the truth is that these people have only actually been made to function better. For example, one can teach a student to become better at mathematics without actually teaching them mathematics. This child wasn’t made smarter but taught to use what they have more efficiently.

Understanding how to use ones own resources changes one’s IQ, but this doesn’t actually constitute becoming smarter. To understand changes in IQ requires understanding how intelligence can be measured. One very common mistake is confusing ability with knowledge. Everyone can study and have the ability to recall more facts, but this doesn’t necessarily make them smarter. With that said, the best way to measure intelligence is to measure the abilities that underlie the acquisition of knowledge, separately from the knowledge that we have. 

A professor from the University of Michigan, Richard Nisbett, said “Yes, your IQ can change over time. But [IQ] tests give you the same answer to a very substantial extent, even over a period of the year. The older you are, the more stable your test score will be”. This supports the fact that most volatility in IQ scores is in childhood, mostly in adolescence. According to contemporary data, the IQ of the average people is changing over time. People are gaining in modern industrial societies. IQ’s are increasing three points per decade. However, the validity of IQ as a measurement of all that we consider intelligence.  

For this question, there is a lot of evidence supporting it. An article written in November by Nature in Price journal is one example. There were 33 adolescents, who were between 12-16 when the study started. Price and her team gave them IQ tests. She then tracked them down 4 years later and gave them another test. The fluctuations in their IQ were huge. They were between 20-30 points. These changes in their IQ were not random at all. Structural and functional brain imaging supported the results. If the adolescents verbal IQ went up, it was verbal areas of the brain that changed.

There are many other studies that support the claim that IQ can change. Many of these changes are correlated to changes in schooling. School increases IQ by teaching students to “taxonomize”, or group things systematically instead of thematically. This kind of thinking helps students perform better on IQ tests. There are also studies that show the brain changes after some sort of regimen. If all the evidence is put together, it is quite compelling to believe that life experience and school-related experiences change one’s brain and IQ.

Overall, more research must be done if one is to be certain whether IP is static or dynamic.

-Sanaa Dalvi

Author at STEMTalksNC


“ASD Help – Understanding ‘Dynamic Intelligence’ versus ‘Static Intelligence.’” Equinox Family Consulting,

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