Understanding Human Intelligence through Human Limitations

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Recent progress in artificial intelligence provides the opportunity to ask the question of what is unique about human intelligence, but with a new comparison class. I argue that we can understand human intelligence, and the ways in which it may differ from artificial intelligence, by considering the characteristics of the kind of computational problems that human minds have to solve. I claim that these problems acquire their structure from three fundamental limitations that apply to human beings: limited time, limited computation, and limited communication. From these limitations we can derive many of the properties we associate with human intelligence, such as rapid learning, the ability to break down problems into parts, and the capacity for cumulative cultural evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-883
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • artificial intelligence
  • cultural evolution
  • inductive bias
  • meta-learning
  • rational meta-reasoning


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding Human Intelligence through Human Limitations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this