Is Memory a Sign of Intelligence? (Quick Facts)
Having a bad memory is a sign of high intelligence. If you have a hard time remembering, it’s a good indication that your brain is more focused on the essential things. Packing your brain full of memories for an exam or a business meeting is overrated and could harm your chances of success.
Memory is designed to optimize decision-making. The brain needs to forget irrelevant details to make room for what matters.
If you have a hard time remembering facts, or consider yourself forgetful, don’t beat yourself up by assuming this means you’re unintelligent. Intelligence is not only about your cognitive abilities.
Are you a person who would call yourself forgetful? If so, continue reading to discover the correlation between memory and intelligence and why this may be the answer you’ve been looking for.
What is IQ or intelligence?
When we use the term intelligence, we usually refer to academic or cognitive intelligence. Cognitive ability is defined as the mental capacity to do the following:
- Storing and retrieving information
- Abstract thinking
- Complex idea thinking
- Learning from experience
To define intelligence, IQ, also known as intelligence quotient, is a test to measure cognitive ability. There are many types of IQ testing, and a typical test will involve answering various multiple-choice questions and will take between one to two hours to complete. The results are then combined into the IQ score and adjusted by age and location to create a median score.
Test scores vary, but they typically fall between 85 and 115, reflecting average cognitive ability.
Uses of IQ tests
Each IQ test measures intelligence in different ways. For example, some modern intelligence tests focus on mathematical skills and language. In contrast, others focus on memory, reasoning skills, and short-term memory abilities.
Not all tests measure the same type of intelligence because they are used for different purposes:
- Schools or education: academic assessment and cognitive research
- Military or health: assessment and diagnosis of intellectual capability/potential or disability
- Recruitment: evaluate job candidacy
- Personal use: for bragging rights or not
Not all IQ tests are created equal, and depending on the specific situation, most will overlap in similarities and differences.
Can an IQ test determine intelligence?
Experts disagree on the reliability of IQ tests to determine intelligence and argue that these tests are questionable because they measure different things.
According to Harvard psychologists, there are multiple types of human intelligence. And socio-economic factors such as culture, environment, and educational access can impact a person’s IQ score.
- One study discovered that those with acute illness had poor cognitive abilities because the body uses energy to fight disease instead of brain function and development.
- An IQ test score can provide important insights into specific cognitive abilities, but it cannot measure broader definitions of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence or creativity.
- While IQ can indicate academic and career success, it is not always a guarantee of high functioning life. Sometimes, people with low IQs achieve more than others, while some with high IQs will not.
Research has shown that while short-term memory helps us retain information that may assist during an IQ test, these tests don’t accurately assess all cognitive abilities.
So while an IQ test determines intelligence based on a scoring system, don’t feel dejected if your score is lower than average—similarly, try not to get too overexcited if you score high on an IQ test.
Types of Memory
Memory is a complex phenomenon and takes many different forms. Memorization is good for learning, but how we store and retrieve information will depend on our memory processing abilities.
Although the concept of memory is still undefined, experts and researchers agree that memories can be classified into four main categories, as defined by stages and processes.
According to this view, memory begins as sensory, moves to short-term memory, and then may move to long-term memory. Various categories of working memory exist, as described by cognitive psychologists.
Sensory memory refers to the ability to remember sensory information after the stimulation has ended. Researchers characterize sensory memories as the precursor to all other memories.
Typically, your sensory memory only retains information for a short period of time.
Some examples of the different types of sensory memory include:
- Echoic memory: refers to the sense of hearing.
- Haptic memory: refers to sensory memories acquired through touch.
- Iconic memory: is a register that stores visual images once their stimulus is over.
Sensory memory retains sensory information for very short periods, usually less than a second. From here, memories and other kinds of information are processed. Consequently, a person may move sensory, short-term memories to long-term memory if they pay attention to that memory or it becomes relevant, such as the smell of a new perfume.
Short-term memory is the ability to store short-term information before dismissing it or transferring it to long-term memory. It is important to have short-term memory to function. That is why short-term memory loss can be frustrating and, in some cases, debilitating.
Without repetition or active awareness, short-term memories last mere seconds. As you reach the end of this sentence, it helps you to understand by storing information from the beginning of the sentence.
The working memory is where information is temporarily stored and manipulated to support complex cognitive tasks like language comprehension, learning, and reasoning.
Working memory underpins cognitive development and helps us remember the details of our current task. Some behaviors that use working memory include remembering the ingredients of your favorite recipe, or when calling a friend, you need working memory to remember digits. Performing basic tasks like spelling or problem solving might take longer without it.
Long-term memory consists of information stored indefinitely by the brain. It’s scary to consider that it’s impossible to determine how much and for how long our long-term memory can last.
But for most of us, many of our memories are stored through this process. Any memory we can recall after 30 seconds is classified as long-term memory. Memories can range in importance from remembering the name of the friendly cashier at your local shop to crucial details like your best friend’s name or your date of birth.
In addition, long-term memory can be divided into two main categories: explicit and implicit long-term memory.
Explicit long-term memory
Explicit long-term memories are those that have formed through conscious and deliberate recall of an important or entertaining event- a fact from our lives or something we have learned.
In general, explicit long-term memories can be semantic or episodic.
Episodic memories are linked to personal facts or events formed through significant events in our lives. For example, the first time you learned to swim, autobiographical information, or the first tentative day at a new job.
Semantic memories are a collection of general facts and information we have acquired over time. When writing an article, you recall words from your semantic memory. Learning or studying something may cause you to remember a fact or event you didn’t actually experience.
A semantic memory is, for example, knowing what a fish looks like. However, it is an episodic memory if you can recall skinning a fish after you’ve caught one.
Implicit long-term memory
In contrast to explicit memory, implicit memory does not require conscious thought and ensures we carry out tasks automatically. Unconscious memories form and can influence a person’s thinking and behavior.
Typically, implicit long-term memories can be procedural or thorough priming.
Procedural memory helps us perform familiar tasks, such as walking or driving. These tasks might have been challenging at first, but they eventually become automatic functions of our procedural memory.
Priming is a phenomenon whereby experiences affect a person’s behavior without conscious thought or intention. Memories of a sweet, crumbling cheesecake after a meal or liking an Instagram photo because it looks nice to us.
We often use implicit memory when learning motor skills. If you learn how to ride a bike when you are five and don’t pick it up again until you are 30, implicit memory helps you remember how it works.
Is good memory an indicator of intelligence?
Essentially, yes, but not in the way you may think.
Short-term memory storage is linked to greater signs of intelligence as measured in IQ tests. But having perfect recall isn’t necessarily correlated with high intelligence. Remember how we said different intelligent factors may or may not be covered by each test?
Intelligence is more than simply memorizing facts. It’s the quality of your memories that determines your cognitive abilities. The purpose of memory is to have better decision-making abilities. So you forget unimportant details to remember the bigger picture.
So the next time someone calls you forgetful, tell them that forgetfulness is a trait of higher intelligence since forgetting things makes us smarter.
This doesn’t mean that memory isn’t necessary, though. Having a good memory is essential to those who work within fields where they have to remember things like medicine or science.
Memory plays a fundamental role in life, and without it, we would cease to function correctly.
Intelligence can be viewed from a number of perspectives, but most experts agree that it goes beyond book smarts and IQ tests.
You don’t have to take a test to confirm or deny your cognitive abilities- unless you take all the IQ tests in the world and calculate your results, which would be tough to achieve.
Instead, focus on the things you can achieve, like maximizing your memory to boost your cognitive abilities. We memorize or retain data by combining images, sounds, tastes, smells, and sensations (touch) in a very organized and meaningful way in our brains.
Considering points and ideas that can assist you in improving your memory will help you to further develop your memory capacity. Your retention methods will be enhanced as a result.