When Does Your Intelligence Peak?
We know that from early childhood to adulthood our intelligence grows and that after a certain point in adulthood our ability to learn declines. It is a commonly held belief that our intelligence and capacity to learn increases until we reach adulthood, but when does our intelligence peak?
Part of the answer to the question requires addressing and defining the different types of intelligence. We must also consider the way the brain grows and changes throughout different stages of development. The answer is complicated, but ultimately, different types of intelligence peak at different ages.
At what ages do different types of intelligence peak?
According to this study, the following is an approximate indication of the ages when different types of intelligence peak. Of course, the ages will vary depending on personal life experiences.
Late teens/early twenties: Information-processing peaks and starts to rapidly decline.
Mid-twenties: Short-term memory improves until about 25 and is mostly steady until it starts to decline near the age of 35.
Thirties: Facial recognition peaks and starts to slowly decline.
Mid-thirties: Short-term memory starts to decline.
Forties-Fifties: Emotional intelligence peaks.
Sixties: Vocabulary ability continues to increase.
Sixties and seventies: Accumulated knowledge (or crystallized intelligence) peaks.
Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence
According to this article, crystallized intelligence refers to our ability to use already accumulated experience, knowledge, and skills. Research suggests that the older we get, the more our crystallized intelligence grows. Fluid intelligence refers to using reason and problem-solving skills in new or unique situations.
While fluid intelligence peaks during young adulthood, crystallized intelligence continues to grow and peaks later in life. So while we may be more capable of absorbing new information, thinking more quickly, and solving new problems at a younger age, we have stronger vocabularies, higher emotional intelligence, and more overall knowledge when we are older.
The good news
This information goes against the commonly held belief that we are more intelligent and capable of learning at a young age and then slowly decline once we reach adulthood. The research clearly shows that our intelligence does not peak during young adulthood except for a few specific types of intelligence. This is possibly due to the fact that humans in today’s world have more access to information, are better educated, and have jobs that require more brainpower than ever before.
At every age, certain types of intelligence are reaching their peak, some are increasing, and some are declining. At no one point or age are we at the peak of all types of intelligence, so technically there is no peak age for the wide umbrella of the term “intelligence.”
Also, the above chart may not even be accurate for many people. Data from old intelligence tests reveal that different skills and types of intelligence peaked at various and surprising ages. There is no one size fits all model of intelligence, including at what age it peaks. More studies will need to be conducted to try to determine if there is any more conclusive common link between age and the different types of intelligence.