Is Your Ability to Do Abstract Reasoning Hereditary?

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Is Your Ability to Do Abstract Reasoning Hereditary?

Date of Content: March 5, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD



In the labyrinth of human cognition, abstract reasoning, one of the many intelligence types, emerges as a beacon illuminating the realm of intelligence. But what exactly is abstract reasoning, also often dubbed as fluid intelligence?

What is Abstract Reasoning?

If you’ve ever marveled at the lightning-fast problem-solving skills of a friend or colleague, abstract reasoning might hold the key to unlocking their mental prowess. Abstract reasoning, synonymous with fluid intelligence, represents the ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. 

Unlike crystallized intelligence, which relies on past experiences and learned information, abstract reasoning is characterized by adaptability, quick thinking, and pattern recognition. It plays a pivotal role in various cognitive tasks such as problem-solving, decision-making, and learning.

Research suggests that abstract reasoning is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. While genes contribute significantly to individual differences in cognitive abilities, environmental factors such as education, socio-economic status, and cultural experiences also shape cognitive development. Understanding the interplay between genetics and environment provides valuable insights into the origins and development of abstract reasoning.

Abstract Reasoning

How Does a Person Do Abstract Reasoning?

Neuroimaging studies have identified neural networks associated with abstract reasoning, highlighting the involvement of regions such as the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobes, and anterior cingulate cortex. These brain regions collaborate to integrate information, manipulate mental representations, and execute cognitive processes essential for abstract reasoning tasks.

Firstly, abstract reasoning relies on the brain’s capacity to identify patterns and relationships among different elements. When faced with a problem, the brain activates various neural networks, including the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobes, and anterior cingulate cortex. These regions work together to process information, manipulate mental representations, and execute cognitive tasks.

Next, abstract reasoning often involves mental visualization and manipulation of concepts. Individuals mentally simulate different scenarios, explore potential outcomes, and infer solutions based on logical reasoning. This process requires flexible thinking and the ability to consider multiple perspectives simultaneously.

Moreover, abstract reasoning draws on fundamental cognitive processes such as attention, memory, and executive functions. Attentional control enables individuals to focus on relevant information and ignore distractions, while memory retrieval allows access to relevant knowledge and past experiences. Executive functions, including planning, problem-solving, and decision-making, coordinate cognitive activities and guide behavior during abstract reasoning tasks.

Practice and exposure to diverse problem-solving scenarios can enhance abstract reasoning abilities. Engaging in activities that stimulate critical thinking, such as puzzles, games, and challenging tasks, can foster cognitive flexibility and improve problem-solving skills over time.

Is Abstract Reasoning Genetic?

Abstract reasoning has a neurobiological basis and specific genes have been identified that generate cellular properties associated with overall intelligence and may ultimately explain the function and structure of the brain areas involved. Also, one of the most remarkable findings of twin studies is that the heritability of intelligence is extraordinarily large, in the range of 50%–80% even reaching 86% for verbal IQ.

To mention a few, gene TNSARE1 has an important function in the brain. The primary role of SNARE proteins is to mediate the docking of synaptic vesicles with the presynaptic membrane in neurons and vesicle fusion, and the association of the TNASRE1 genetic variant with abstract reasoning points directly to the important role of genes with known functions in synaptic communication, plasticity, and neuronal excitability via presynaptic organization and vesicle release.

Furthermore, genes with known functions in cell proliferation and mitosis are also involved in intelligence: the associated gene product, NCAPG protein, stabilizes chromosomes during mitosis.

While individual genes and genetic variants in specific genes can, one by one, be associated with a person’s abstract reasoning ability, another approach for determining a person’s genetic likelihood for a trait is to use a PRS (Polygenic Risk Score), which comes from a combination of multiple SNPs that together play a role in the genetic association.

LifeDNA’s high-density SNP signature for the Abstract Reasoning Trait has been developed from a set of 10,550 SNPs that together play a role in fluid intelligence (note: only 15 top SNPs are displayed on our report).

The top 15 include SNPs and genes rs34811474 (ANAPC4), rs2454206 (TET2), rs2305050 (MAP9), rs12554512, rs12043581, rs4344368, rs11586170 (LINC02607), rs3795243 (NCAPG), rs13107325 (SLC39A8), rs1487445, rs9384679, rs13270757 (SGCZ), rs4129585 (TSNARE1), rs7498665 (SH2B1), and rs2486012 (ST3GAL3).

What Other Factors Can Affect Abstract Reasoning?

Abstract reasoning abilities, integral to problem-solving and decision-making, are shaped by a multitude of factors, genetics as well as environmental influences. Let’s delve into the diverse environmental factors that can impact an individual’s abstract reasoning abilities.

  1. Education: Formal education plays a crucial role in the development of abstract reasoning skills. Research indicates that individuals with higher levels of education tend to perform better on abstract reasoning tasks. Education provides opportunities for exposure to complex ideas, critical thinking exercises, and structured problem-solving activities, all of which contribute to the enhancement of abstract reasoning abilities.
  2. Socioeconomic Status (SES): Socioeconomic status, encompassing factors such as income, occupation, and education level within a household, significantly influences cognitive development, including abstract reasoning. Studies consistently demonstrate a positive correlation between higher SES and better cognitive outcomes. Access to quality education, stimulating environments, and resources for cognitive enrichment are more readily available to individuals from higher socio-economic backgrounds, thereby fostering the development of abstract reasoning skills.
  3. Cultural Experiences: Cultural experiences shape cognitive processes and influence problem-solving strategies. Different cultures may emphasize distinct cognitive styles and approaches to reasoning. For instance, collectivist cultures may prioritize collaboration and holistic thinking, while individualistic cultures may emphasize independence and analytical reasoning. Exposure to diverse cultural perspectives broadens one’s cognitive repertoire and enhances adaptability in abstract reasoning tasks.
  4. Nutrition: Adequate nutrition is essential for optimal brain development and cognitive function, including abstract reasoning abilities. Malnutrition, particularly during critical periods of brain growth and development, can adversely impact cognitive performance. Essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals play crucial roles in neuronal function, synaptic plasticity, and neurotransmitter regulation, all of which are implicated in cognitive processes underlying abstract reasoning.
  5. Stimulating Environments: Environmental enrichment, characterized by exposure to varied stimuli, novel experiences, and cognitive challenges, fosters cognitive development, including abstract reasoning. Environments rich in sensory, social, and cognitive stimulation promote neuroplasticity, synaptic connectivity, and the formation of new neural pathways. Activities such as reading, engaging in intellectual discussions, and participating in problem-solving tasks stimulate cognitive growth and enhance abstract reasoning abilities.
  6. Parenting Style: Parenting practices influence cognitive development and shape cognitive abilities, including abstract reasoning. Supportive and responsive parenting styles that encourage exploration, autonomy, and intellectual curiosity facilitate the development of higher-order cognitive skills. Conversely, authoritarian or neglectful parenting styles may impede cognitive growth and limit opportunities for abstract reasoning stimulation.

Environmental factors play a significant role in shaping an individual’s abstract reasoning abilities. Access to quality education, socio-economic advantages, cultural experiences, nutritional status, stimulating environments, and supportive parenting practices collectively contribute to the development of cognitive skills essential for abstract reasoning. 

Understanding the impact of these environmental influences provides valuable insights into strategies for enhancing cognitive functioning and promoting optimal cognitive development across diverse populations.

Can You Be Allergic to Spicy Food?

While it’s rare to be allergic to spicy food specifically, some individuals may experience adverse reactions to certain components found in spicy dishes. These reactions are often related to compounds such as capsaicin, which gives chili peppers their heat, or other ingredients commonly used in spicy cuisine.

Capsaicin intolerance can manifest as symptoms such as gastrointestinal discomfort, heartburn, or skin irritation. These symptoms are typically not indicative of a true allergic reaction but rather a sensitivity to the compound. In some cases, individuals with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be more prone to experiencing discomfort after consuming spicy foods.

However, it is important to distinguish between intolerance and allergy. True food allergies involve the immune system’s response to specific proteins in food, leading to symptoms such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, or even anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions to spices themselves are uncommon but can occur in sensitive individuals.

If you suspect that you have a food allergy or experience severe symptoms after consuming spicy foods, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management. They can conduct allergy testing and provide guidance on managing your symptoms and dietary choices.

Does Having Abstract Reasoning Equate to a High IQ?

Having abstract reasoning skills is often associated with a high IQ, but the relationship between the two is nuanced. Abstract reasoning is only one component of intelligence, particularly fluid intelligence, which encompasses the ability to think logically, solve problems, and adapt to novel situations. 

However, while abstract reasoning is a significant aspect of IQ tests, IQ itself encompasses a broader range of cognitive abilities, including verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, and working memory.

Research indicates that individuals with high IQ scores tend to perform well on abstract reasoning tasks, suggesting a positive correlation between the two constructs. However, IQ is not solely determined by abstract reasoning abilities. 

Other factors, such as crystallized intelligence (accumulated knowledge and skills) and emotional intelligence, also contribute to overall cognitive functioning. Therefore, while abstract reasoning is an important component of intelligence, it is not the sole determinant of a high IQ.

What is an Example of Abstract Reasoning?

An example of abstract reasoning involves solving a pattern recognition puzzle. Imagine you’re presented with a sequence of shapes arranged in a specific order, such as circles, squares, triangles, circles, squares, triangles. The task is to identify the underlying pattern and determine the next shape in the sequence.

Abstract reasoning comes into play as you analyze the sequence and discern the rule governing the arrangement of shapes. You might notice that the shapes alternate in a predictable manner, transitioning from one shape to the next. In this case, the pattern could be the repetition of a sequence of three shapes: circle, square, and triangle. Following this pattern, the next shape in the sequence could be a circle.

What makes this example a demonstration of abstract reasoning is that it doesn’t rely on prior knowledge or specific instructions. Instead, it requires you to discern the underlying logic based on abstract principles of pattern recognition and logical inference. Abstract reasoning involves the ability to identify patterns, make connections, and apply logical rules to solve problems in novel situations, illustrating the adaptability and flexibility of human cognition.

Research in cognitive psychology has extensively studied abstract reasoning tasks like pattern recognition puzzles to understand the underlying cognitive processes and neural mechanisms involved. These tasks serve as valuable tools for assessing and measuring individuals’ abstract reasoning abilities, shedding light on the complexities of human intelligence.

How Do You Measure Abstract Reasoning (Fluid Intelligence)?

Measuring fluid intelligence, which encompasses the ability to think logically, solve problems, and adapt to novel situations, involves various standardized tests and assessment tools designed to evaluate cognitive abilities. Here are several methods commonly used to measure abstract reasoning or fluid intelligence:

  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: A test designed to measure intelligence across five key areas of cognitive ability. These include fluid reasoning, which is the ability to solve problems on the spot, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, and working memory. It evaluates both verbal and nonverbal responses to give a comprehensive understanding of cognitive skills.
  • Wechsler Adult and Child Intelligence Scales: These tests break down intelligence into four main components: verbal comprehension, which measures understanding of language; perceptual reasoning, assessing problem-solving abilities using visual and spatial cues; working memory, evaluating the capacity to hold and manipulate information temporarily; and processing speed, gauging how quickly one can process information and respond.
  • Raven’s Progressive Matrices: This widely used non-verbal test presents participants with visual patterns and requires them to identify the missing piece that completes each pattern. It assesses individuals’ ability to discern abstract relationships and patterns, making it a reliable measure of fluid intelligence.
  • Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test: Similar to Raven’s Matrices, this test evaluates individuals’ ability to solve visual problems without relying on language or cultural knowledge. It assesses abstract reasoning skills and is less influenced by cultural and educational background.

These assessment tools are standardized, meaning they have been validated through rigorous research and are administered and scored consistently to ensure reliability and accuracy in measuring fluid intelligence across diverse populations. 

By utilizing these methods, researchers and psychologists gain insights into individuals’ cognitive abilities and their capacity for adaptive problem-solving and reasoning in various contexts.

Are Abstract Reasoning Tests Always Hard?

Abstract reasoning tests can vary in difficulty depending on the complexity of the patterns or relationships presented. While some abstract reasoning tasks may be challenging, others may be more straightforward. Difficulty can also be subjective, influenced by individual cognitive abilities and familiarity with the test format.

Research suggests that abstract reasoning tests are designed to assess cognitive flexibility, problem-solving skills, and pattern recognition, rather than to be inherently difficult. Additionally, individuals with higher levels of fluid intelligence may find abstract reasoning tasks more manageable due to their enhanced ability to identify patterns and make logical deductions.

Ultimately, abstract reasoning tests aim to evaluate individuals’ capacity for adaptive problem-solving and reasoning in novel situations, rather than to confound or overwhelm participants. With practice and exposure to different types of abstract reasoning tasks, individuals can improve their performance and feel more confident when faced with such assessments.

Ways to Improve Abstract Reasoning

Improving abstract reasoning abilities, also known as fluid intelligence, involves engaging in activities that challenge cognitive flexibility, problem-solving skills, and pattern recognition. Let’s explore several evidence-based strategies for enhancing fluid intelligence.

Mental Stimulation

Engaging in intellectually stimulating activities such as puzzles, brainteasers, and strategy games can boost abstract reasoning abilities. Research suggests that regularly challenging the brain with complex tasks improves cognitive functioning and enhances problem-solving skills. Activities like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and chess require individuals to analyze patterns, make predictions, and apply logical reasoning, thus stimulating fluid intelligence.

Physical Exercise

Regular physical exercise not only benefits physical health but also enhances cognitive function, including fluid intelligence. Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been linked to improvements in cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, and executive functions. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, promotes the release of neurotransmitters involved in learning and memory, and stimulates the growth of new neurons, thereby facilitating cognitive enhancement.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation practices, which involve focused attention and non-judgmental awareness of present-moment experiences, have been shown to enhance cognitive flexibility and attentional control. Research indicates that regular mindfulness practice improves executive functions, including working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility, all of which are essential components of fluid intelligence.

Cognitive Training Programs

Several computer-based cognitive training programs have been developed specifically to target and improve fluid intelligence. These programs typically involve engaging in tasks that challenge working memory, processing speed, and problem-solving abilities. Studies have shown that participating in structured cognitive training interventions can lead to significant improvements in fluid intelligence, with effects lasting beyond the training period.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes balanced nutrition, sufficient sleep, and stress management can positively impact cognitive function, including abstract reasoning abilities. Nutrient-rich diets, adequate hydration, and regular sleep patterns support optimal brain function and cognitive performance. Additionally, managing stress through relaxation techniques, social support, and mindfulness practices reduces cognitive load and enhances cognitive resilience.

Incorporating these strategies into daily routines can contribute to the enhancement of abstract reasoning abilities and overall cognitive functioning. By stimulating the brain through mental challenges, lifelong learning, physical activity, mindfulness practices, cognitive training, and healthy lifestyle choices, individuals can optimize their cognitive potential and maintain cognitive vitality across their lifespan.

LifeDNA’s Abstract Reasoning (Fluid Intelligence) Report

Unlock the secrets of your mind with LifeDNA’s Abstract Reasoning (Fluid Intelligence) Trait Report. Our scientifically-backed and comprehensive Personality and Cognition Report dives deep into your genetic profile to uncover insights about your cognitive abilities, including abstract reasoning.

Understanding your fluid intelligence can empower you to maximize your potential in problem-solving, decision-making, and adapting to new situations. But it’s not just about genetics—nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting cognitive function. That’s why LifeDNA’s reports provide personalized recommendations tailored to your unique genetic makeup.

With almost 200 trait reports available under all our Report categories, including Vitamins and Supplements, Wellness, Nutrition, Fitness, Sleep, and Skincare, LifeDNA offers a holistic approach to optimizing your well-being. Whether you’re curious about your cognitive strengths or seeking ways to improve your overall health, our reports deliver actionable insights to guide you on your wellness journey.

Ready to take the first step towards a healthier, more vibrant life? Avail of LifeDNA’s plans today and gain access to a wealth of knowledge about your genetic predispositions and personalized recommendations for a lifestyle that’s tailored to you. Start your wellness journey with LifeDNA and unlock the potential within you.


  • Abstract reasoning, or fluid intelligence, is essential for problem-solving and decision-making.
  • It involves logical thinking and pattern recognition, independent of acquired knowledge.
  • Genetic and environmental factors influence abstract reasoning abilities.
  • Neuroimaging studies identify brain regions involved in abstract reasoning.
  • Environmental factors like education, socioeconomic status, and cultural experiences shape abstract reasoning.
  • Nutrition impacts cognitive function, with malnutrition affecting performance.
  • Stimulating environments and supportive parenting styles foster abstract reasoning skills.
  • Strategies to improve abstract reasoning include mental stimulation, learning new skills, physical exercise, mindfulness meditation, cognitive training, and healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Incorporating certain strategies can enhance cognitive functioning and optimize fluid intelligence across the lifespan.



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