Key Points in Multiple Intelligences Theory

Beyond the descriptions of the eight intelligences and their theoretical underpinnings, certain points of the model are important to remember:

  1. Each person possesses all eight intelligences. Of course, the intelligences function together in ways unique to each person. Most of us fall somewhere in between two poles -- being highly developed in some intelligences, modestly developed in others, and relatively underdeveloped in the rest.

  2. Most people can develop each intelligence to an adequate level of competency. Although an individual may complain about his deficiencies in a given area and consider his problems innate and intractable, Howard Gardner suggests that virtually everyone has the capacity to develop all eight intelligences to a reasonably high level of performance if given the appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction.

  3. Intelligences usually work together in complex ways. Gardner points out that no intelligence exists by itself in life (except perhaps in very rare instances in savants and brain-injured individuals). Intelligences are always interacting with each other. To cook a meal, one must read the recipe (linguistic), possibly divide the recipe in half (logical-mathematical), develop a menu that satisfies all members of a family (interpersonal), and placate one's own appetite as well (intrapersonal). Similarly, when a child plays a game of kickball, he needs bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (to run, kick, and catch), spatial intelligence (to orient himself to the playing field and to anticipate the trajectories of flying balls), and linguistic and interpersonal intelligences (to successfully argue a point during a dispute in the game).

  4. There are many ways to be intelligent within each category. A person may not be able to read, yet be highly linguistic because he can tell a terrific story or has a large oral vocabulary. Similarly, a person may be quite awkward on the playing field, yet possess superior bodily-kinesthetic intelligence when she weaves a carpet or creates an inlaid chess table. MI theory emphasizes the rich diversity of ways in which people show their gifts within intelligences as well as between intelligences.

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