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8 Types of Intelligence: Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

To continue with our theme of diversity in learning types, we will dive deeper into the world of educational psychology and discuss Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Intelligence, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

This definition is a broad one; historically, the concept of intelligence is rock-solid as a measure of worth and potential. You are born with a level of intelligence, measured by IQ tests, and you cannot change or improve your set level of intelligence. 

This definition and pre-conceived notion limit growth and block the different paths a person can pursue. In the 1980s, new concepts surrounding intelligence and its various forms began emerging. A Harvard psychologist named Harvard Gardner proposed one such theory that identified different learning perspectives through cognitive research.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

According to Gardner’s theory, “We are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.”

Therefore, he suggests that the long-held view of intelligence is too limiting to the entire population and that people have at least eight kinds of intelligences. Gardner first proposed this theory in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

To encompass a person’s entire psyche, he theorized that people have the capacity for a range of intelligences. This range includes linguistic, musical, naturalistic, spatial-visual, and more. An individual can maintain any number of these different intelligences, and each person will have varying levels of each. Not all of them are measurable through the ever-popular IQ intelligence test.

Counterargument to Multiple Intelligences

With every new theory comes the criticism from scholars, psychologists, and educators. Most critiques note that Gardner’s definition is quite broad, and his identified “intelligences” can be considered talents, traits, interests, or abilities. Additionally, critics note that there is insufficient empirical evidence to support his theory.

However, the theory of multiple intelligences enjoys considerable popularity with educators. Many teachers utilize various intelligences in their teaching philosophies and work to integrate Gardner’s theory into the classroom.

A Summary of the Eight

  1. Visual-Spatial Intelligence – Visual and spatial judgment
  2. Linguistic-Verbal Intelligence – Words, language, and writing
  3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence – Analyzing problems and mathematical operations
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence – Physical movement and motor control
  5. Musical Intelligence – Rhythm and music
  6. Interpersonal Intelligence – Understanding and relating to other people
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence – Introspection and self-reflection
  8. Naturalistic Intelligence – Finding patterns and relationships to nature
howard garner's theory of multiple intelligences
Image Credits: Thrive Global, 2019.

With each intelligence comes their strengths, common characteristics, and common career choices. Knowing your strengths and interests, or “intelligences,” can help you determine your future career path and how to get started.

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