Resource allocation and fluid intelligence: Insights from pupillometry


  • This research was supported by grants from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (NIL-I/II and Berlin NeuroImaging Center). I.W. is funded by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, Claussen-Simon-Stiftung. This work benefited from conversations with Herbert Hagendorf, Frank Krueger, and Steffen Landgraf. The authors acknowledge the assistance of Martin Brucks, Franziska Preusse, Roman Purkhart, Susanne Raisig, Torsten Schiemann, and Dorothea Ullwer.

Address reprint requests to: Elke van der Meer, Humboldt University Berlin, Department of Psychology, Rudower Chaussee 18, 12489 Berlin, Germany. E-mail:


Thinking is biological work and involves the allocation of cognitive resources. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of fluid intelligence on the allocation of cognitive resources while one is processing low-level and high-level cognitive tasks. Individuals with high versus average fluid intelligence performed low-level choice reaction time tasks and high-level geometric analogy tasks. We combined behavioral measures to examine speed and accuracy of processing with pupillary measures that indicate resource allocation. Individuals with high fluid intelligence processed the low-level choice reaction time tasks faster than normal controls. The task-evoked pupillary responses did not differ between groups. Furthermore, individuals with high fluid intelligence processed the high-level geometric analogies faster, more accurately, and showed greater pupil dilations than normal controls. This was only true, however, for the most difficult analogy tasks. In addition, individuals with high fluid intelligence showed greater preexperimental pupil baseline diameters than normal controls. These results indicate that individuals with high fluid intelligence have more resources available and thus can solve more demanding tasks. Moreover, high fluid intelligence appears to be accompanied by more task-free exploration.