Intelligence: Acquired or Inherited?

I am a student at the University of Puerto Rico. I have been asked to define intelligence and to show two contrasting opinions (one in favor, one opposed) to the statement "intelligence, is it acquired or inherited". This part of my assignment has been very difficult for me because I really don't know where to look for those contrasting opinions. I would appreciate any cooperation on your part.

Cristobal Estrada, student of Psychology, Puerto Rico - May 8th, 1997

There is considerable controversy about this subject, not only because research is not entirely conclusive, but also because it is loaded with many political and social overtones, particularly in the racial area. It has been called the "nature vs nurture" debate, and it has been raging for decades.

The definition of intelligence is not easier, either. The best treatment on intelligence I know of has been proposed by Dr. Eisenck, a British psychologist, who has defined the "factors" of intelligence. It is currently accepted that there are different forms of intelligence, which varies a lot among individuals. For instance, "mathematical intelligence", "spatial intelligence", "esthetic intelligence", "verbal expression intelligence", etc., express themselves in different degrees in a single individual. A person can be highly intelligent in dealing with numbers and mathematics, but a complete moron regarding verbal intelligence; or the opposite can be true in other persons.

Since there seems to be different forms of intelligence coexisting in the same person, so the importance of genetics (inheritance) and environment (learning) can be different. Spatial intelligence, for instance, seems to be dependent not only on inheritance, but it is also sex-linked, also (men are better at it than women).

Generally speaking and taking all these factors in consideration, research with identical twins which were separated at birth points to the conclusion that about 60 % of our intelligence depends on genetic factors, and 40 % on environmental factors. The main researcher in this area has been the British psychologist Dr. Burton, already deceased. However, recently his results have been put under suspicion, so the controversy remains.

Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD, Neuroscientist and specialist in Medical Informatics, Campinas (SP), Brazil - May 8th, 1997

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Copyright 1997 Universidade Estadual de Campinas