Difference Between Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence (With Table)

Intelligence has been defined as the ability to act as to the circumstances and the way in which a person finds solutions to daily life problems. As per the famous psychologist Raymond Cattell, general intelligence is used by people to tackle general issues which are not associated with any academic principle. The two main types of general intelligence are fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

Fluid Intelligence vs Crystallized Intelligence

The main difference between fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence is that the former remains constant throughout lifewhile the latter keeps changing with time. Fluid intelligence is known to be age specific while crystallized intelligence does not change much with age. Both these types come under the category of general intelligence and cannot be defined in an objective way by any discipline.

Fluid intelligence is the non-flexible type of intelligence, as laid down by Cattell. It is oriented based on capacity to accumulate new dimensions of intelligence as the person goes through new things. No role is played by age as no two persons go through the same experience. All the facets of fluid intelligence are related with problem solving by applying recently acquired skills.

Crystallized intelligence in known to be inherited and it does change with learning or life experiences. It is also believed that the actual quotient of this type of general intelligence normally increases in average people, with the passage of time. Memory is deeply associated with crystallized intelligence. As far as the effect of past experiences is concerned, they help in building up the basis of crystallized intelligence.

Comparison Table Between Fluid And Crystallized Intelligence

Parameters of ComparisonFluid IntelligenceCrystallized Intelligence
DefinitionIntelligence based on skills acquired and problems tackled in life.Intelligence based on pre-existing knowledge which shapes the way a person reacts to any upcoming stimulus.
Effect of Age It is not affected by increase in age of person but might decrease in later years. It ncreases with increasein age.
Main AbilityIt provides logical solutions by applying intelligence.It can only tackle issues based on learning from past experiences.
Experiential LearningExperiences find no reference in the usage of fluid intelligence. Past experiences form the backbone of crystallized intelligence.
ApplicationMaking new strategies and solving puzzles (on the spot).Writing exams using memorized facts and recalling past events.

What is Fluid Intelligence?

Fluid intelligence is also referred to as Gf (general-fluid). Cattel defines fluid intelligence as “the innate capacity to handle situations irrespective of how a similar situation was handled in the past”. Mostly, reasoning issues are solely solved using this types of intelligence, including logical problems, strategical planning, quizzes, and other types of extempore activities which require use of mental skills or abilities.

Forming correlations and analyzing scientific issues is not possible without applying this form of intelligence. One can either engage in inductive reasoning or deductive reasoning using the same. It is possible to rely on thinking patterns as well because using this form of intelligence allows a person to transfer the logical aspect of the mind to simple problems in order to solve them within time.

As per the etymology, “fluid” refers to the constantly flowing intelligence. It might be realized as a stream flowing throughout life and accumulating all that comes along. The decline in fluid intelligence with age is due to the weakness of brain cells. As the person gets older, the capacity reduces as the use of logical reasoning does not remain constant in average individuals.

What is Crystallized Intelligence

Crystallized intelligence is also referred to as Gc (general-crystallized). Acquired knowledge is applied by crystallized intelligence to handle life situations which are related to the basis of learning. School education and moral thoughts inculcated right from childhood contribute to the progression in the assessment of crystallized intelligence. Various tests can be performed to study the effect of age on this category.

The significance of pre-existing knowledge lies in the fact that similar issues arise and recalling old experiences helps a person in maintaining the standard of life. For instance, a person who learns comprehension skills in early childhood applies the same “core knowledge” to the comprehension questions asked in competitive exams. Memorizing tables also applies the same principles.

Increase in crystallized intelligence with age can be attributed to the increase in mental capacity to memorize more facts and assimilate experiential learning in a deeper manner. This aspect is closely related to fluid intelligence as well. In this manner, fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence go hand in hand.

Main Differences Between Fluid And Crystallized Intelligence

  1. Fluid intelligence is defined as the intelligence based on personal skills and thinking capacity while crystallized intelligence relies on past knowledge which can be applied to tackle present situations.
  2. Age affects fluid intelligence negatively, that is, it decreased with age. On the other hand, crystallized intelligence keeps on increasing as a person ages and goes through numerous other experiences in different facets of learning.
  3. Logic is necessarily applied to solve problems using fluid intelligence while crystallized intelligence relies only on existing knowledge instead of any kind of mental ability.
  4. Fluid intelligence is not at all driven by past experiences while life experiences form an essential part of crystallized intelligence.
  5. Examples of fluid intelligence include solving logical reasoning quizzes, completing puzzles while examples of crystallized intelligence include memorization of historical facts, recalling memorized material during examination,etc.


Since both types of intelligence work simultaneously, all the differences correlate with the exclusive similarities. A person needs to balance the usage of different types based on the problem at hand. One must make sure that the acquired knowledge does not lead to disintegration of experiential learning. The age factor cannot be controlled by human attributes but the social skills can be shaped accordingly,


  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/edu/54/1/1/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/000169186790011X
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