Practical Intelligence

21 Sep

Intelligence Quotient, popularly known as IQ, is considered a measure of a person’s intelligence though it has been found that it is not correlated to success in real life. In 1983, Howard Gardner, Professor of education at Harvard University, proposed his famous Theory of Multiple Intelligences. He said that there are different types of intelligences possessed by people that are better indicators of their cognitive abilities.

Practical Intelligence
We use our practical intelligence while performing several activities in our daily lives. We never think about whether we are deliberately thinking or calculating when we do those activities. Practical intelligence cannot be measured by a multiple-choice test. However, it has been proved to exist in many activities by ethnographic researchers.

Cooking: A Cognitive Activity
I cook occasionally. I ask my wife for simple recipes and almost always get the dishes right. It all seemed pretty straightforward unless I thought about it a few years ago while taking a class at Stanford University on this topic.

While cooking, I encounter scenarios that make me think about the spices I need to use, the quantity and sequence of spices, or the vegetables that go together. I also make decisions such as – should I fry the vegetables first and put the spices or fry onions and spices and put the vegetables later. If I want to make a dish to last two meals, what would be the quantity of each of the vegetables such as onions and potatoes? What would be the quantities if I want the dish to last three meals? And the changing size of vegetables complicate the matters further.

When I start cooking, I analyze the size of onions, for example. Should I use three small ones or one large and one small, or two medium ones? Then I select the onions based on the quantity of the dish I want to make and the kind of dish it is. Then I start frying the onions, while simultaneously peeling and cutting other vegetables. I put the cut vegetables in the frying pan and fry with the onions. Now it’s the time to put the spices and salt and let the dish cook while occasionally stirring it. I use my judgment to estimate the amount of each spice and this judgement is not arbitrary. Rather, a lot of thinking is involved that is just not apparent.

Great cooks score high on practical intelligence though their IQ may not reflect their ability.


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