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Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was devised by the American psychologist Howard Gardner as a counterweight to the paradigm of a single intelligence.

Gardner proposed that human life requires the development of various types of intelligence. Thus, Gardner does not conflict with the scientific definition of intelligence, as the “ability to solve problems or produce valuable goods.”

Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner and his collaborators at the prestigious Harvard University warned that academic intelligence (obtaining degrees and educational merits; academic record) is not a decisive factor in knowing a person’s intelligence.

A good example of this idea is observed in people who, despite obtaining excellent academic qualifications, have significant problems in relating to other people or in managing other facets of their lives. Gardner and his collaborators could affirm that Stephen Hawking does not have a greater intelligence than Leo Messi , but that each of them has developed a different type of intelligence.

On the other hand, Howard Gardner points out that there are clear cases in which people have extremely developed cognitive abilities, and others very poorly developed: this is the case of savants . An example of a savant was Kim Peek , who despite having a poor reasoning ability in general, was able to memorize maps and entire books, in practically all their details.

These exceptional cases made Gardner think that intelligence does not exist, but that there are actually many independent intelligences.

Multiple intelligences: 8 types of intelligence

Howard Gardner’s research has managed to identify and define up to eight different types of intelligence . We are going to know in more detail each of the intelligences proposed by Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences below.

? Linguistic intelligence

The ability to master the language and be able to communicate with others is transversal to all cultures. From a young age we learn to use the mother tongue to be able to communicate effectively.

The linguistic intelligence not only refers to the ability for oral communication, but other forms of communication such as writing, gestures, etc.

Those who best master this ability to communicate have superior linguistic intelligence. Professions in which this type of intelligence stands out could be politicians, writers, poets, journalists, actors …

? Logical-mathematical intelligence

For decades, logical-mathematical intelligence was considered raw intelligence. It was the main axis of the concept of intelligence, and it was used as a yardstick to detect how intelligent a person was.

As its name suggests, this type of intelligence is linked to the ability for logical reasoning and mathematical problem solving . The speed to solve this type of problem is the indicator that determines how much logical-mathematical intelligence you have.

The famous IQ tests are based on this type of intelligence and, to a lesser extent, on linguistic intelligence. The scientists, economists, academics, engineers and mathematicians tend to excel in this kind of intelligence. Likewise, chess players also require logical ability to develop game strategies better than those of their opponent, and in turn anticipate their movements.

? Spatial intelligence

Also known as visual-spatial intelligence, it is the ability that allows us to observe the world and objects from different perspectives. In this intelligence, chess players and professionals in the visual arts (painters, designers, sculptors …) stand out, as well as taxi drivers, who must have an exquisite mental map of the cities they pass through.

People who excel in this type of intelligence often have abilities that allow them to devise mental images, draw and detect details, as well as a personal sense of aesthetics. In this intelligence we find painters, photographers, designers, publicists, architects, creatives …

? Musical intelligence

Music is a universal art . All cultures have some kind of music, more or less elaborate, which leads Gardner and his collaborators to understand that there is a latent musical intelligence in all people.

Some areas of the brain carry out functions related to the interpretation and composition of music. Like any other type of intelligence, it can be trained and perfected.

It goes without saying that the most gifted in this kind of intelligence are those capable of playing instruments , reading, and composing musical pieces with ease.

? Body and kinesthetic intelligence

The physical and motor skills required to handle tools or to express certain emotions represent an essential aspect in the development of all cultures in history.

The ability to use tools is considered kinesthetic bodily intelligence . On the other hand, there is a follow-up of more intuitive abilities such as the use of bodily intelligence to express feelings through the body.

Dancers, actors, athletes, and even plastic surgeons and creators are especially brilliant in this type of intelligence , since all of them have to use their physical abilities in a rational way.

? Intrapersonal intelligence

The intelligence intrapersonal refers to that intelligence that enables us to understand and control the domestic sphere of self in what concerns the regulation of emotions and attentional focus.

People who excel in intrapersonal intelligence are able to access their feelings and emotions and reflect on these elements . According to Gardner, this intelligence also allows you to deepen your introspection and understand the reasons why you are the way you are.

On the other hand, both knowing how to distance oneself from the situation to de-dramatize events with a negative emotional impact and knowing how to identify one’s own thinking biases are very useful tools both to maintain a good level of well-being and to perform better in different aspects of life.

? Interpersonal intelligence

The interpersonal intelligence enables us to warn others things beyond what our senses fail to capture. It is an intelligence that allows us to interpret the words or gestures, or the objectives and goals of each speech. Beyond the Introversion-Extraversion continuum, interpersonal intelligence assesses the ability to empathize with other people.

It is a very valuable intelligence for people who work with large groups. Your ability to detect and understand the circumstances and problems of others is easier if you have (and develop) interpersonal intelligence. Teachers, psychologists, therapists, lawyers and pedagogues are profiles that usually score very high in this type of intelligence described in the Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

? Naturalistic intelligence

According to Gardner, naturalistic intelligence allows us to detect, differentiate and categorize aspects related to the environment, such as animal and plant species or phenomena related to climate, geography or natural phenomena.

This kind of intelligence was later added to Gardner’s original study on Multiple Intelligences, specifically in 1995. Gardner considered it necessary to include this category because it is one of the essential intelligences for the survival of the human being (or any other species) and which has resulted in evolution.

It should be noted that although for Gardner this type of intelligence was developed to facilitate the creative use of the resources that nature offers us, currently its use is not only limited to environments in which there are no human constructions, but the latter are also they could be “explored” in the same way.

In context

Gardner affirms that all the people are owners of each one of the eight classes of intelligence , although each one excels more in some than in others, not being any of the eight more important or valuable than the others. Generally, it is required to master a large part of them to face life, regardless of the profession that is exercised. After all, most jobs require the use of most types of intelligence.

The education taught in the classroom strives to offer content and procedures focused on evaluating the first two types of intelligence: linguistic and logical-mathematical. However, this is totally insufficient in the project of educating students to their full potential. The need for a change in the educational paradigm was brought to debate thanks to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner.

On the other hand, Howard Gardner has pointed out that the important thing about his theory is not the 8 intelligences that he proposes, but the conceptualization of human cognition as parallel and relatively independent processes . For this reason, he has pointed out several times that possibly the multiple intelligences are not those that he proposed, but others that he has not taken into account or that he groups under the name of a single intelligence.

Bibliographic references:

  • Gardner, Howard (1998). “A Reply to Perry D. Klein’s ‘Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight'”. Canadian Journal of Education 23 (1): 96–102. doi: 10.2307 / 1585968. JSTOR 1585790.
  • Scarr, S. (1985). “An authors frame of mind [Review of Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences]”. New Ideas in Psychology 3 (1): 95–100. doi: 10.1016 / 0732-118X (85) 90056-X.


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