What is general intelligence (G factor)? (2023)

General intelligence, also known asgrama Factor, refers to the existence of a broad mental capacity that affects the performance of measures of cognitive capacity. Other terms such as intelligence,FOR, general cognitive ability and general mental ability are also used interchangeably to mean the same as general intelligence.

What is general intelligence (G-factor)?

General intelligence can be defined as a construct composed of different cognitive abilities. These skills allow people to acquire knowledge and solve problems.

This general mental capacity underlies specific mental abilities related to areas such as spatial, numerical, mechanical, and verbal skills. The idea is that this general intelligence influences the performance of all cognitive tasks.

How it works

General intelligence can be compared to athletics. A person can be a very skilled figure skater, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will also be a great figure skater.

However, because this person is athletic and fit, they will likely be much better at other physical tasks than a less coordinated, more sedentary person.

Psychologist Charles Spearman helped develop a statistical technique known as factor analysis, which allows researchers to use many different test items to measure overall ability. For example, researchers may find that people who do well on vocabulary questions also do better on reading comprehension questions.

In 1904, he suggested that this g factor was responsible for overall performance on tests of mental ability. He observed that people who succeeded and often excelled in certain areas, people who did well in one area tended to do well in other areas as well.

All items on intelligence tests, whether related to verbal or math skills, were influenced by this underlying g-factor.

Components of General Intelligence

There are several key components that are believed to make upintelligence. These include:

  • fluid reasoning: This implies the ability to think flexibly and solve problems.
  • Knowledge: This is a person's general understanding of a variety of subjects and can be equated with crystallized intelligence.
  • Quantitative argumentation: This is the ability of an individual to solve problems involving numbers.
  • visual-spatial processing: Refers to a person's abilities to interpret and manipulate visual information, such as B. putting together puzzles and copying complex shapes.
  • working memory: This involves using short-term memory, e.g. B. the ability to repeat a list of items.

How measured?

Many modern intelligence tests measure some of the cognitive factors thought to be responsible for general intelligence. Such tests indicate thatintelligencecan be measured and expressed as a single number, such as B. an IQ score.

The Stanford Binet, which is one of the most popularintelligence tests, aims to measure the g factor. In addition to providing an overall score, the current version of the test also offers a variety of composite scores, as well as subtest scores in ten different areas.

What do IQ test results mean?

While rating systems vary, the average score for many is 100, and the following tags are commonly used for different rating areas:

  • 40 - 54: Moderately worsened or delayed
  • 55 - 69: Slightly worsened or delayed
  • 70 - 79: edge deteriorated or lagging
  • 80 - 89: Low average intelligence
  • 90 - 109: Average
  • 110 - 119: average high
  • 120 - 129: superior
  • 130 - 144: Skilled or highly advanced
  • 145 - 160: exceptionally gifted or very advanced

What is a Genius IQ Score?


Although the concept of intelligence is still debated in psychology, researchers believe that general intelligence correlates with overall success in life. Some of the effects it can have on a person’s life include areas such as:

academic achievement

One of the most obvious effects of general intelligence is in the area of ​​academic performance. Although intelligence plays an academic role, there has been much debate about how much it influences academic performance.

Research has shown that there is a strong link between overall mental ability and academic performance, but it doesn't work on its own. Some research suggests that 51-75% of performance cannot be explained by the g-factor alone.

This means that while general intelligence affects children's academic performance, other factors can also play a role.

Professional success

It has long been assumed that IQ scores correlate with professional success. This is why psychological testing for pre-employment screening and entry into the workforce is so widely used. However, many have questioned whether a general mental ability is really more important than specific mental abilities.

A 2020 study published inJournal of Applied Psychologyconcluded that both general intelligence and specific intellectual abilities play important roles in determining career success, including income and job performance.

The importance of the g-factor for professional success increases as the complexity of the job increases. For professions with a high degree of complexity, greater general intelligence becomes a great asset.

health and longevity

The field of cognitive epidemiology studies the links between general intelligence and health. Such asHealth may play a role in influencing intelligence, a person's intelligence can affect their health. Studies have found that people with high IQs have a lower risk of:

  • coronary heart disease
  • hypertension
  • obesity
  • Career
  • some cancers

Research has found that people with higher general intelligence also tend to be healthier and live longer, although the reasons for this are not entirely clear.


Research also suggests that people with higher intelligence scores also tend to earn higher incomes. However, it is important to note that other factors play a mediating role, including education, occupation, and socioeconomic background.

While the g-factor has several implications, other variables are also important. Factors such as socioeconomic status andemotional intelligence, for example, can interact with general intelligence and play an important role in determining a person's success.


The idea that intelligence could be measured and summarized by a single number on an IQ test was controversial even in Spearman's day. IQ and intelligence tests have been topics of discussion ever since. The G factor, while influential, is just one way of thinking about intelligence.

Thurstone's Primary Mental Abilities

Some psychologists, including L.L. Thurstone, challenged the g-factor concept. Instead, Thurstone identified a series of what he calledprimary mental skills:

  • associative memory
  • number setting
  • perceived speed
  • argumentation
  • Raumvision
  • linguistic understanding

He suggested that all humans possess these mental abilities, albeit to varying degrees. People can be small in some areas and big in others.

Gardner's multiple intelligences

More recently, psychologists such asHoward Gardnerspoke out against the idea that a single general intelligence can accurately capture all of human intellectual capacity. Gardner proposed insteadmultiple intelligencesexist.

Each intelligence represents abilities in a specific area, such as visuospatial intelligence, verbal-linguistic intelligence, and logical-mathematical intelligence.

Left brain dominance versus right brain dominance

A Word from Verywell

Current research points to an underlying mental capacity that contributes to performance on many cognitive tasks. It is believed that IQ scores, which measure this general intelligence, also affect a person's overall success in life.

However, duringIQ may play a role in academic and life success, other factors such as childhood experiences, educational experiences, socioeconomic status,Motivation, maturity and personality also play a crucial role in determining overall success.

6 gears

Verywell Mind only uses quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. read ourpublishing processto learn more about how we review our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and reliable.

  1. Gottfredson LS.Why G Matters: The Complexities of Everyday Life.intelligence. 1997;24(1):79-132. doi:10.1016/S0160-2896(97)90014-3

  2. Tichomirova T, Malykh A, Malykh S.Predicting academic achievement using cognitive skills: a cross-sectional study of schooling.Behavioral Science (Basel). 2020;10(10):158. doi:10.3390/bs10100158

  3. Lang JWB, Kell HJ.General mental skills and specific skills: their relative importance for extrinsic professional success.Journal of Applied Psychology. 2020;105(9):1047-1061.doi:10.1037/apl0000472

  4. Kanazawa S.Intelligence in children and obesity in adults.obesity(Silver Spring). 2013;21(3):434-40. doi: 10.1002/oby.20018

  5. Kajantie E, Räikkönen K, Henriksson M, et al.Stroke is predicted by low visuospatial skills compared to other intellectual abilities and coronary artery disease by low general intelligence..Another. 2012;7(11):e46841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046841

  6. Kanazawa S.General intelligence, disease heritability, and health: a preliminary test.personality and individual differences. 2014;71:83-85.doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.07.028

keep reading

  • Coon D, Mitterer JO.Introduction to Psychology: Portals to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps.Wadsworth; 2010.

  • Myers DG.Psychology, seventh edition. Worthy Editors; 2004

  • Terman LM, Oden MH.Genetic Studies of Genius. volume V. The Gifted in Midlife: Thirty-Five Years of Aftercare for the Senior Child.Stanford University Press; 1959.

What is general intelligence (G factor)? (1)

ForKendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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