20 January 2012

Riding with the pizza guy demonstrates "crystallized intelligence"

From a column at the New York Times discussing mental fitness in the elderly:
Many researchers believe that human intelligence or brainpower consists of dozens of assorted cognitive skills, which they commonly divide into two categories. One bunch falls under the heading “fluid intelligence,” the abilities that produce solutions not based on experience, like pattern recognition, working memory and abstract thinking, the kind of intelligence tested on I.Q. examinations. These abilities tend to peak in one’s 20s.

“Crystallized intelligence,” by contrast, generally refers to skills that are acquired through experience and education, like verbal ability, inductive reasoning and judgment. While fluid intelligence is often considered largely a product of genetics, crystallized intelligence is much more dependent on a bouquet of influences, including personality, motivation, opportunity and culture.

To illustrate how crystallized intelligence can operate, Gene D. Cohen, a founder of the field of geriatric psychiatry, related a story about his in-laws from his book “The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain.” The couple, in their 70s, arrived in Washington for a visit during a snowstorm and found themselves stranded by the train station. When they saw a pizzeria across the street, his father-in-law had an idea. The couple went inside, ordered a pizza to be delivered to their daughter’s house, and then asked if they could ride along.
An excellent story - and a tip to remember.

More at the link, with a hat tip to CCL.


  1. Sorry, but the pizza delivery story is actually just a variation on a Captian Morgan "drink responsibly" tv commercial. In reality, pizza delivery people do not drive special snow vehicles, and this couple would simply have taken a cab.

    1. Both the book mentioned and the pizza delivery commercial are circa 2006, however, the story is suspect for any corporate chain (company insurance prohibits non-employees from riding with personnel in delivery vehicles).

    2. Where I live, pizza delivery boys drive through blizzards in 15-year-old clunker cars hoping for a $5 tip. I rather suspect that if taxis were unavailable during a storm and I were to offer one of these kids $30 to take the magnet sign off their door or the logo off the roof and drive my wife and me to the airport for $30, they would jump at the chance.


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