What is Intelligence? || The Human Potential Lab

February 2, 2023

Welcome to The Human Potential Lab! In this special series of The Psychology Podcast, I will be doing solo episodes answering your burning questions about the mind, brain, human behavior, and human potential.

In the first episode of this series, I will be tackling a question I’ve been obsessed with virtually my entire life: What is Intelligence?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wondered what it means to be smart. Does it simply mean high IQ? Are there other ways of being intelligent? Do multiple intelligences exist? What does it mean to be generally intelligent? As a kid I was placed into special education due to an auditory learning disability which I eventually outgrew. I would look around and see greater potential among all my friends in special ed than other people gave them credit for. 

This ignited my passion for understanding intelligence, which carried me through to college where I started to scientifically study this fascinating topic, and I have been studying this topic ever since. I understand that the science of intelligence can be a controversial topic, but in today’s episode I’m just going to focus on the facts and the science, and attempt to show you why this topic is so fascinating and so important to study for a broader understanding of how to unlock the potential of all people.

Website: scottbarrykaufman.com

Twitter: @psychpodcast & @sbkaufman


  • What is intelligence?
  • History of IQ tests
  • The g factor
  • IQ and academic achievement
  • Theory of Multiple Intelligences
  • Theory of Successful Intelligence
  • Talent or intelligence?
  • Emotional intelligence
  • External factors affecting achievement
  • Gifted education
  • Theory of Personal Intelligence
  • There are infinite intelligences

4 Responses to “What is Intelligence? || The Human Potential Lab”

  1. Amir Barnea says:

    Dear SBK
    Could not be on a better moment as I completely agree with your definition which explains how do I operate since my childhood. I was looking through the issue of intelligence for many years’ but missed your book and this definition which is completely me.
    I shell try to find more about your future project; because I would like to start to create the job of the manager of the dreams at school in Israel which will accepts the idea. If you some information relevant – I shell be happy to hear. Your Amir

  2. SHELLEY says:

    I love the fact you emphasized that 50% of all students are achieving more than expected for their IQ level. There is a widespread belief within education that a student’s achievement is a direct reflection of their intelligence. Often, this is a result of putting too much stock into studies that show children from impoverished backgrounds have lower IQs and therefore their achievement will be stunted no matter what. Can you delve into exactly how much poverty changes IQ and what assumptions should and shouldn’t be made regarding the intelligence and potential of low SES students? Granted, more children in poverty have parents who have less education, but how much can we assume this is because of lack of opportunity versus lack of ability? Shouldn’t we see genius in every socio-economic group equally? What should educators make of such studies as this? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4687959/ Thanks again for such an interesting podcast.

    • MRilcox says:

      “Can you delve into exactly how much poverty changes IQ and what assumptions should and shouldn’t be made regarding the intelligence and potential of low SES students?”

      The point isn’t just to show low SES leads to low achievement, but regardless of SES, that IQ isn’t sufficient to account for achievement.

  3. Lorin says:

    Dr. Kaufman,
    I love pretty much every episode of The Psychology Podcast, but, as a K-12 educator, this episode was particularly inspiring and informative for me. I love your synthesis of the research on intelligence. I am very familiar with Gardener’s multiple intelligences, but was not familiar with success intelligences. I have long felt that the multiple intelligence theory was not altogether wrong, but lacking something, and, from practical experience in the classroom, I fear that our current ways of testing multiple intelligences might rely too heavily on general intelligence to be as useful as teachers are often led to believe. And thank you for sharing your own ideas about personal intelligence, too. I think it encourages a more personalized and holistic approach to uncovering a student’s abilities. I also can’t wait to look further into the educational nonprofit you mentioned. I want my school to have an Office of the Director of Dreams! It would also be good to have a Dreams Discovery Director to help students who don’t yet feel like they know what they want to do, but who simply want more opportunities to explore to try to figure it out. Again, thanks so much for your nuanced thoughtfulness on not just this topic, but on all the topics you cover in your episodes of the podcast.

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