Adolescent and Adult Intellectual Development

Notes by Howard Gardner

study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science proposes a framework of adult intelligence that supplements more traditional views of intelligence to include domain knowledge, thereby taking into account information that is learned in occupations and avocational activities past adolescence.

Most studies of intelligence are carried out with young people. Recently, there has been growing interest in how intelligence develops, or fails to develop, over the course of a lifetime. This study documents the importance of what the author calls “the current depth and breadth of domain knowledge.” The author correctly notes that much of what goes on in the adult years concerns a person’s ability to sustain or even enhance his performance in specific areas—e.g. law, engineering, teaching, or the arts. While the study focuses on the domain of performance, rather than on the particular intellectual capacities under scrutiny, it seems evident that individuals do not randomly choose these domains. Rather, a person is attracted to, say, the practice of law, or teaching, or engineering, or the arts, because of his or her special combination of intelligences. The better the fit between an individual’s spectrum of intelligences and the domain of knowledge, the more likely that intellectual growth will continue through the adult years.

Ackerman, Philip. "Adolescent and Adult Intellectual Development." (2014). Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23 (4), pp. 246-251.