Concepts of environment and intelligence in psychology. (2023)

Environmental and intelligence research examines the influence of the environment on intelligence. This is one of the most important factors in understanding differences between human groups in IQ test scores and other measures of cognitive ability. Historically, in the field of intelligence research, there has been much interest in determining environmental influences on the development of cognitive functions, particularly fluid intelligence, defined by its stabilization at 16 years of age.

Neurobiological Theory

As babies, our neural connections are completely undifferentiated. Neurons establish connections with neighboring neurons, and these become more complex and idiosyncratic as the child grows, until age 16, when this process stops. This is also the time frame for the development of what is defined in psychometric studies as the general intelligence factor, or g, as measured by IQ tests. It is said that a person's IQ is relatively stable after reaching maturity.

The brain's ability to adapt its connections to environmental stimuli declines over time, so there is also a critical period for intellectual development. While the critical period for the visual cortex ends in early childhood, other cortical areas and abilities have a critical period that lasts until maturity (16 years), the same period for the development of fluid intelligence. In order for a person to develop certain intellectual capacities, they must receive the appropriate environmental stimuli during childhood before the critical phase of adaptation of their neural connections is over. It should be noted that some researchers believe that the critical period effect is a result of the way in which intellectual abilities are acquired, that changes in neural connections inhibit or prevent possible future changes. However, the critical period is observed in all people of approximately the same age, regardless of the level of intellectual ability reached.

environmental influences

cultural partner


Access to home resources and a learning-friendly family life definitely affect intelligence test scores. However, it is difficult to separate possible genetic factors from, for example, parental attitude or language use.

Peer Group

(Video) Biological and Environmental Influences on Intelligence | Psychology

JR Harris suggested in The Nurture Assumption that an individual's peer group strongly influences their intelligence over time, and that different peer group characteristics may explain the difference in IQ between blacks and whites. Several longitudinal studies support the idea that peer groups significantly affect academic performance, but relatively few studies have examined the effects on tests of cognitive ability. However, there is some evidence that peer groups influence tests of cognitive ability.


Education has a complicated relationship with intelligence; is a dependent and independent variable. For one thing, those who did better on intelligence tests during childhood tend to have lower dropout rates and complete more years of school, making intelligence a predictor of how well someone will do in later life. the school. However, on the other hand, education has been shown to improve a person's performance on these intelligence tests from a very early age.

training and interventions

Research on the effectiveness of interventions and the extent to which fluid intelligence can be increased, particularly after the age of 16, is somewhat controversial. Fluid intelligence is typically viewed as something more innate and defined as immutable after maturity. However, a recent article shows that fluid intelligence can be increased, at least for a period of time, by training to increase an adult's working memory capacity. Working memory capacity is defined as the ability to recall something temporarily, e.g. B. Remember a phone number long enough to dial it.

In one experiment, groups of adults were tested for the first time using standard fluid intelligence tests. They then trained groups over four different days, each for half an hour, with an N-back exercise that worked to improve working memory. It supposedly does this through a few different components, which involve ignoring irrelevant elements, managing tasks simultaneously, and monitoring performance during training while connecting related elements. Following this training, the groups were retested and those with training (compared to untrained control groups) showed significant improvements in fluid intelligence test performance.

environmental enrichment

From a neurobiological perspective, environmental enrichment affects cognition and intellectual development. In one experiment, four different habitats were established to test how environmental enrichment or relative impoverishment affects rats' performance on different measures of intelligent behavior. First, the rats were isolated, each in its own cage. In a second condition, the rats were still isolated, but this time they had an enriching toy or object with them in the cage. The third condition placed the rats in cages together to receive social enrichment without any enrichment objects. The fourth and final condition exposed the rats to both social interaction and some form of object enrichment.

When measuring intellectual ability, rats with both forms of enrichment performed better, with those with social enrichment coming in second best, and those with a toy in their cage performing even better than rats without toys or other mice. When rat cortex volume was measured, the amount of accumulation again correlated with greater volume, which is indicative of more synaptic connections and higher intelligence.

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biological influences


It has long been believed that prenatal malnutrition can lead to deficits in intellectual development. However, a study of Dutch people born during the wartime famine showed that short-term prenatal malnutrition was not related to intellectual development.

However, long-term postnatal malnutrition can have a significant impact on intellectual development. This relationship has been more difficult to establish because the problem of malnutrition is often confused with socioeconomic problems. However, it has been shown in some studies where preschool children in two Guatemalan towns (where malnutrition is common) received protein supplements for several years, and even in the lowest socioeconomic class, these children showed increased performance in intelligence tests, relative to controls without dietary supplements.

Early nutrition can affect brain structures that actually correlate to IQ scores. In particular, the caudate nucleus is particularly affected by early environmental factors and its volume is correlated with IQ. In an experiment by Isaacs et al. assigned preterm infants to a standard or nutritious diet in the weeks immediately after birth. When subjects were tested later in adolescence, the high nutrient group was found to have significantly larger caudate volumes and performed significantly better on verbal IQ tests. This study also found that the extent to which caudate volume size was selectively related to verbal IQ was much higher in male participants and not very significant in females. This may help explain the finding from other previous research that the effects of early nutrition on intelligence are predominant in men.

Another study by Lucas et al. confirms the conclusions about the importance of nutrition for the cognitive development of preterm infants. Men's cognitive function was also found to be significantly more affected by postnatal malnutrition. However, a unique finding was that those fed the non-nutrient-enriched formula experienced a higher incidence of cerebral palsy.

Breastfeeding has long been claimed to provide essential nutrients to a premature infant and has been correlated with greater cognitive achievement later in life. However, this effect has also been demonstrated in normal weight infants. Controlling for other environmental influences and maternal IQ, a study by Johnson et al. it even found that initiation of breastfeeding predicted three-year-olds' scores on intelligence tests. On average, breastfeeding resulted in a 4.6 higher score on intelligence tests.

Exposure to toxic chemicals and other substances.

Lead exposure has been shown to have a significant impact on a child's intellectual development. In a long-term study by Baghurst et al. In 1992, children who grew up near a lead shack had significantly lower intelligence test scores that were negatively correlated with blood lead concentration. Although lead levels in our environment have been reduced, some areas of the United States, particularly inner cities, are still at risk of exposure to your children.

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In addition, prenatal alcohol exposure can seriously affect a child's performance on tests of intelligence and intellectual growth. At high doses, fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes intellectual disability and other physical symptoms, such as facial and head deformities, heart defects, and slow growth, can develop. An estimated 1 in 1,000 babies born in the general population are born with fetal alcohol syndrome as a result of excessive alcohol use during pregnancy.

However, studies have shown that even at slightly lower doses, prenatal alcohol exposure can affect a child's developing intelligence without the full syndrome being present. A 1989 study by Streissguth, Barr, Sampson, Darby, and Martin showed that moderate prenatal doses of alcohol, defined as drinking 1.5 oz. daily, reduced children's test scores by 4 points below control values ​​at four years of age. They also showed that prenatal exposure to aspirin and antibiotics was also correlated with lower performance on intelligence tests.

In another study, prenatal drug exposure was shown to have significantly negative effects on cognitive function, measured at five years of age, compared with controls matched for socioeconomic status and urban setting. The researchers concluded that children exposed to drugs before birth are at increased risk of learning difficulties and attention problems at school and therefore should be targeted for interventions to support educational success. It can be hypothesized that the effect of these drugs on prenatal brain development and axonal guidance may be at the root of the negative consequences of later deficits in intellectual development.

In particular, prenatal marijuana exposure influences intelligence development later in childhood in a nonlinear manner with exposure level. Heavy maternal use in the first trimester is associated with lower scores for verbal reasoning on the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale; heavy use during the second trimester is associated with deficits in short-term compound memory and lower scores on quantitative tests; high exposure in the third quarter was also associated with lower quantitative scores.

perinatal factors

There is also evidence that complications of childbirth and other factors related to the timing of birth (perinatal) can have a serious impact on intellectual development. For example, prolonged periods without access to oxygen during labor can lead to brain damage and intellectual disability. Additionally, low birth weight has been linked to lower intelligence scores later in life for children. There are two reasons for low birth weight: premature birth or the baby's height slightly below average for gestational age; both contribute to intellectual deficits later in life. However, the correlations are relatively small unless the weight is extremely low (less than 1500 g), then the impact on intellectual development is more severe, often leading to intellectual disability.

genius development

It has been hypothesized that the development of genius in an area is the result of early environmental exposure to the subject in which the "genius" has prodigious knowledge or skill. This uses the definition of genius, which is not just a well-above-average IQ score, but also having exceptional understanding or special ability in a particular area. Einstein is often used as an example of genius; When he was a child, he did not display exceptional general intelligence, however, there is evidence that he began to explore ideas of physics and the universe at a very early age.

This fits the model of fluid intelligence development before adulthood, as neural connections are still made in childhood. The idea is that if you expose a child to theoretical physics concepts, for example, before their brain stops responding to the environment in plastic ways, then by adulthood you will gain an exceptional understanding of this area because a framework has been developed for it. in early childhood. However, Garlick suggests that early environmental experience with his genius realm is necessary but not sufficient for genius development.

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There are many environmental influences on intelligence, typically divided into biological and non-biological factors, often including social or cultural factors. The common element between these two divisions is early childhood exposure. It seems that exposure to these various influences, positive or negative, on the level of intelligence, defined as the fluid intelligence most commonly measured by IQ tests, must occur early in brain development, before the connections cease. neurons, to be effective. to form.


Training at an early age reduces synaptic pruning, which helps save neurons.


Early musical training in children is said to improve IQ. However, one study claimed that music training improves verbal IQ but not spatial IQ. Significant differences in brain structure were found between musicians and non-musicians.

Studies have shown that listening to Mozart before an IQ test improves scores. This is called the Mozart effect. The Mozart Effect improves spatiotemporal thinking.


Studies have shown that chess requires auditory* (can't find this reference)-verbal-sequential skills, not visual-spatial skills. A German study found that Garry Kasparov, a former Soviet-Russian world chess champion considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time, has an IQ of 135 and an extremely good memory. One study found that students who took chess classes improved their math and conceptual skills.


What is the relationship between environment and intelligence? ›

Intelligence is also strongly influenced by the environment. During a child's development, factors that contribute to intelligence include their home environment and parenting, education and availability of learning resources, and healthcare and nutrition.

What are the importance of environment on intelligence? ›

In order for a person to develop certain intellectual abilities, they need to be provided with the appropriate environmental stimuli during childhood, before the critical period for adapting their neuronal connections ends. The existence of a critical period of language development is well established.

What is intelligence in psychology? ›

Intelligence is the ability to think, to learn from experience, to solve problems, and to adapt to new situations. Intelligence is important because it has an impact on many human behaviours.

What is the role of environment and heredity to intelligence? ›

Heredity places an upper and lower limit on the IQ that can be attained by a given person. The environment determines where within these limits the person's IQ will lie.

What does environmental intelligence mean? ›

Environmental Intelligence ( EI ) is a system through which information about a particular region or process is collected for the benefit of decision makers through the use of more than one inter-related source.

What evidence shows that intelligence is influenced by environment? ›

Studies show that IQ scores of identical twins may be more similar than those of fraternal twins. Siblings who were raised together in the same environment have more similar IQs than those of adopted children who were brought up in the same household.

What are the 3 main point of intelligence? ›

Robert Sternberg developed another theory of intelligence, which he titled the triarchic theory of intelligence because it sees intelligence as comprised of three parts (Sternberg, 1988): practical, creative, and analytical intelligence (Figure 7.12).

What are the factors of intelligence? ›

The five factors being tested are knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, working memory, and fluid reasoning.

What is the importance of environments? ›

Environment plays an important role in healthy living and the existence of life on planet earth. Earth is a home for different living species and we all are dependent on the environment for food, air, water, and other needs. Therefore, it is important for every individual to save and protect our environment.

What is the main concept of intelligence? ›

Intelligence (in all cultures) is the ability to learn from experience, solve problems, and use our knowledge to adapt to new situations. This is the conceptual definition. In research studies, intelligence is whatever the intelligence test measures. This tends to be “school smarts” and it tends to be culture-specific.

What are the 4 types of intelligence According to Psychology? ›

"According to Psychologists, there are four types of Intelligence...
  • Intelligence Quotient (IQ)
  • Emotional Quotient (EQ)
  • Social Quotient (SQ)
  • Adversity Quotient (AQ)

What are the types of intelligence in psychology? ›

As you go through each, score yourself on a scale of one (doesn't come naturally) to five (comes very naturally).
  • Spatial intelligence. ...
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. ...
  • Musical intelligence. ...
  • Linguistic intelligence. ...
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence. ...
  • Interpersonal intelligence. ...
  • Intrapersonal intelligence.
10 Mar 2021

What is the concept of heredity and environment? ›

Heredity sets the upper limit of what an individual can attain, while environment affects the degree to which the potentialities can be realized.

Is intelligence Genetic or environmental? ›

Numerous studies on twins suggest that between 40 and 80 percent of the variance in IQ is linked to genetics, suggesting that genetics may play a larger role than environmental factors in determining an individual's IQ.

What are the 4 types of environment? ›

The atmosphere or air, lithosphere, or rocks and soil, hydrosphere, or water, and the biological component of the environment, or biosphere, are the four basic components of the environment.

What are the 3 types of environment? ›

The three types of environment are:
  • Internal environment.
  • External macro environment.
  • External micro environment.

What are the 4 environmental forces? ›

Environmental Forces

External environmental factors affecting business can include the economic climate, local politics, consumer income and the education of the labor force.

Do you think intelligence is influenced more by nature or nurture? ›

The majority of research on these topics has confirmed that both nature and nurture have an effect on the development of intelligence. Throughout life, genetics and the environment interact in significant ways in this process. However, the extent to which each has an influence is less clear.

Which intelligent is very aware of their environment? ›

Visual-Spatial - think in terms of physical space, as do architects and sailors. Very aware of their environments. They like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream. They can be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery.

What are three environmental factors that affect intelligence quizlet? ›

Environmental deprivation (conditions of isolation, poor nutrition, poverty, or lack of medical care) can have a negative impact on intelligence.

What are the four characteristics of intelligence? ›

Term Paper # 4. Characteristics of Intelligence:
  • It is an ability to abstract thinking.
  • It is a capacity to adjust in new situation.
  • It is a general mental adaptability.
  • It is an ability to relate diverse situations.
  • It is the capacity to acquire capacities and origins.

What are the 6 types of intelligence? ›

  • 1 Linguistic Intelligence (“word smart”) ...
  • 2 Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”) ...
  • 3 Spatial Intelligence (“picture smart”) ...
  • 4 Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“body smart”) ...
  • 5 Musical Intelligence (“music smart”) ...
  • 6 Interpersonal Intelligence (“people smart”)
9 Jun 2020

What are the concept of the environment? ›

Environment can be defined as a sum total of all the living and non-living elements and their effects that influence human life. While all living or biotic elements are animals, plants, forests, fisheries, and birds, non-living or abiotic elements include water, land, sunlight, rocks, and air.

What are 5 benefits of environment? ›

Natural areas help clean our air, purify our water, produce food and medicines, reduce chemical and noise pollution, slow floodwaters, and cool our streets. We call this work 'ecosystem services'.

What are 5 major environments? ›

The 5 components of a business environment are:
  • Economical environment.
  • Political environment.
  • Social environment.
  • Technological environment.
  • Legal environment.

What is the concept and nature of intelligence? ›

A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts.

Who gave concept of intelligence in psychology? ›

Important Points. In 1912, William Stern, a German psychologist, devised the concept of Intelligence Quotient (IQ). IQ refers to mental age divided by chronological age and multiplied by 100.

Who gave the concept of intelligence? ›

British psychologist Charles Spearman (1863–1945) described the concept of general intelligence, or the "g factor." After using factor analysis to examine mental aptitude tests, Spearman concluded that scores on these tests were remarkably similar.

What are the 8 forms of intelligence? ›

Eight types of intelligence
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence. ...
  • Linguistic intelligence. ...
  • Spatial Intelligence. ...
  • Musical Intelligence. ...
  • Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence. ...
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence. ...
  • Interpersonal Intelligence. ...
  • Naturalistic intelligence.

What are the 9 forms of intelligence? ›

  • Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence. ...
  • Mathematical-Logical Intelligence Ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns. ...
  • Musical Intelligence. ...
  • Visual-Spatial Intelligence. ...
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. ...
  • Interpersonal Intelligence. ...
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence.

What are the four domains of intelligence? ›

For the purposes of these lessons, we have chosen to use Daniel Goleman's model with four domains: self- awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

What are the two types of theories of intelligence? ›

Here are some of the major theories of intelligence developed by some of the most well-known psychologists:
  • Two-Factor Theory of Intelligence.
  • Gardener's Multiple Intelligences.
  • Triarchic Theory of Intelligence.
20 Oct 2020

What is the relationship between environment and IQ quizlet? ›

The environment can positively or negatively affect intelligence scores. High-quality environments that promote learning allow an individual to fulfill one's biological potential and generally reach the upper end of one's possible intelligence threshold.

What is the relationship between environment and behavior? ›

The environment can facilitate or discourage interactions among people (and the subsequent benefits of social support). For example, an inviting space with comfortable chairs and privacy can encourage a family to stay and visit with a patient. The environment can influence peoples' behavior and motivation to act.

What is the relation between environment? ›

Environment vs Ecosystem
It provides a living space for the elementsIt provides interaction between the elements
It provides the condition to live.It provides the relation between components to live.
Environment can be macro or micro.Ecosystem can be aquatic or terrestrial.
4 more rows

How intelligence is influenced by biology vs environment? ›

Numerous studies on twins suggest that between 40 and 80 percent of the variance in IQ is linked to genetics, suggesting that genetics may play a larger role than environmental factors in determining an individual's IQ.

What is environment according to Albert Einstein? ›

Albert Einstein defined it as “everything else except himself”. Buchanan (1983) defined it as “a surrounding, especially the conditions that play a part in determining the growth and development of living organisms”.

What is the relationship between psychology and environmental science? ›

Kazdin (2009) is sure that psychology plays important role in environment behavior. Psychology is a science which may encourage people for particular behavior in relation to air pollution prevention, to foster a certain behavior to support the strategies for air protection.

How does environment affect behavior in psychology? ›

Access to nature and green environments yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline and impulse control, and greater mental health overall. Less access to nature is linked to exacerbated attention deficit, higher rates of anxiety disorders, and higher rates of clinical depression.

How does environment influence personality? ›

Environmental factors, such as upbringing, culture, geographic location, and life experiences, greatly influence our personality. For example, a child raised in a harmonious environment may have a more positive or calm outlook and disposition.

How does the environment contribute to human behavior? ›

Human behavior depends on the environment in which it takes place, while in turn people also influence the environment by their presence and activities [1,2]. As part of the environment, people behave in response to both physical and social settings [3].

What is the importance of environment? ›

Environment plays an important role in healthy living and the existence of life on planet earth. Earth is a home for different living species and we all are dependent on the environment for food, air, water, and other needs.

What are the benefits of environment? ›

The natural environment gives us a wealth of services that are difficult to measure in dollars. Natural areas help clean our air, purify our water, produce food and medicines, reduce chemical and noise pollution, slow floodwaters, and cool our streets. We call this work 'ecosystem services'.


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