What is learnable intelligence? Find out in this lesson and learn to differentiate between the three types of intelligence described by David Perkins in his theory of learnable intelligence.
David Perkins and Intelligence
The year is 1967. A young graduate student is working on a doctoral degree in mathematics and artificial intelligence at MIT when he becomes one of the founding members of Project Zero. This research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education will embark on a 25-year mission to explore learning processes in children, adults and human organizations.
In the process, he will boldly develop a new theory of intelligence that no one has proposed before.Mathematics and artificial intelligence is a bit of an unusual background for a theorist on human intelligence, yet David Perkins has developed a powerful theory that describes intelligence as three-dimensional. These three dimensions are the neural dimension, the experiential dimension and the reflective dimension.
Three Types of Intelligence
Neural intelligence involves the genetically determined abilities of a person’s neurological system. Perhaps borrowing from his artificial intelligence background, Perkins calls this the ‘hard-wired, original equipment’ that determines the processing speed of our brains, similar to computer hardware. There is not much that can be done to increase neural intelligence. This is the type of intelligence that is measured by traditional IQ scores.
Experiential intelligence is the knowledge you obtain through experience. Experiential intelligence is accumulated as we navigate through the various contexts of life. Because of this, the more we experience, the more we expand our experiential intelligence. Experiential intelligence encompasses all of our experiences as a whole. Since this type of intelligence can be accumulated, people who are exposed to stimulating environments have an intellectual advantage over those who are exposed to less stimulating environments.
If we want to follow through on the computer analogy, we would think of this as the different programs that we can run.Reflective intelligence refers to a person’s ability to use and manipulate their mental skills. These are the thinking strategies we use to effectively utilize our neural and experiential intelligence. This includes self-monitoring and self-management.
You can increase your reflective intelligence by increasing your awareness of how you think and making changes to those patterns when necessary. This would be like a computer’s operating system. Reflective intelligence would utilize the hardware to run its programs. Like operating systems, it can also be upgraded.
We now have a working understanding of Perkins’ three types of intelligence. How do these come together to form his theory of learnable intelligence? Learnable intelligence is the combination of experiential intelligence and reflective intelligence. The main premise of learnable intelligence is Perkins’ belief that we can learn to think and act more intelligently.Our reflective intelligence is the key to this opportunity. When we engage our reflective intelligence, we can learn new strategies for problem solving or making decisions by directing our experiential intelligence towards getting specific information that is most useful to us.
In other words, we can learn to be more intelligent even though we cannot make changes to our neural intelligence.Let’s think of a computer one more time. There is specific hardware that we have to work with (our neural intelligence). The operating system (our reflective intelligence) determines how we will run programs on the hardware and can be updated when a better operating system is needed.
We upload programs (our experiential intelligence) that are useful to us as we go about our work. Through operating system upgrades and the addition of programs, we increase the usefulness of the computer as a whole (or we increase our learnable intelligence).
David Perkins’ Theory of Learnable Intelligence describes intelligence as being three-dimensional. These three dimensions are the neural dimension, the experiential dimension and the reflective dimension.
Neural intelligence is the genetically determined abilities of a person’s neurological system. Experiential intelligence is the knowledge you obtain through experience. Reflective intelligence is a person’s ability to use and manipulate their mental skills.The combination of experiential and reflective intelligence is learnable intelligence. You are born with neural intelligence, and it does not change, but you can increase your experiential and reflective intelligence.
Increasing this learnable intelligence in turn increases a person’s overall level of intelligence.
After reviewing this lesson, you’ll have the ability to:
- Summarize David Perkins’ background
- Describe the three types of intelligence identified by Perkins
- Identify what sets neural intelligence apart from the other two types of intelligence
- Explain Perkins’ Theory of Learnable Intelligence