Multiple Intelligences: An Overview

The Eight Intelligences Described

Almost eighty years after the first intelligence tests were developed, Howard Gardner challenged the view that something called "intelligence" could be objectively measured and reduced to a single number or "IQ" score. In his book Frames of Mind (Gardner 1983) he proposed the existence of at least eight basic intelligences. In his theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI theory), Gardner sought to broaden the scope of human potential beyond the confines of the IQ score and suggested that intelligence has more to do with the capacity for (1) solving problems and (2) fashioning products in a context-rich and naturalistic setting.

Here are Gardner's eight comprehensive categories or "intelligences":

  • Linguistic Intelligence: The capacity to use words effectively, whether orally (e.g., as a storyteller, orator, or politician) or in writing (e.g., as a poet, playwright, editor, or journalist).

  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: The capacity to use numbers effectively (e.g., as a mathematician, tax accountant, or statistician) and to reason well (e.g., as a scientist, computer programmer, or logician).

  • Spatial Intelligence: The ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately (e.g., as a hunter, scout, or guide) and to perform transformations upon those perceptions (e.g., as an interior decorator, architect, artist, or inventor).

  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: Expertise in using one's whole body to express ideas and feelings (e.g., as an actor, a mime, an athlete, or a dancer) and facility in using one's hands to produce or transform things (e.g., as a craftsperson, sculptor, mechanic, or surgeon).

  • Musical Intelligence: The capacity to perceive (e.g., as a music aficionado), discriminate (e.g., as a music critic), transform (e.g., as a composer), and express (e.g., as a performer) musical forms.

  • Interpersonal Intelligence: The ability to perceive and make distinctions in the moods, intentions, motivations, and feelings of other people.

  • Intrapersonal Intelligence: Self-knowledge and the ability to act adaptively on the basis of that knowledge.

  • Naturalistic Intelligence: The ability to easily recognize and classify plants, animals, and other things in nature.

Note: When Howard Gardner wrote Frames of Mind in 1983, he deliberately limited his examination of human capacities to seven intelligences. Are there more? Yes. In fact, after this book was published Gardner added an eighth intelligence to the list. The Naturalist Intelligence is the ability to recognize plant or animal species in one's environment.

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