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The Theory of Multiple Intelligences Explained

Everyone likes to think of themselves as intelligent, and joys to hear themselves called 'clever' by other people. I am the same, and I bet you are too. We have all heard of IQ tests, and most of us have heard of the three main intelligence groups: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. The first idea is a little out of fashion, and the second never really caught on. According to a famous Harvard Professor of Education, both ideas fail because there are actually 9 intelligences! And, wonderfully, we all possess these intelligences to uniquely differing degrees.

9 types of intelligence

Multiple Intelligences: An Educational Theory

Howard Gardner, Ph.D. has spent the latter part of his career finessing the theory that all humans share nine distinct 'intelligences' to varying degrees. Rather than intelligence being something that can be described as if on a spectrum, i.e. 'this man is more intelligent than that man', every individual has a unique set of intelligence skills. And this is not wishy-washy make-believe, but a renowned psychological theory from a Harvard expert.


His theory has been associated with the recent trend in schools to focus on so called ‘child centered’ learning, because traditional teaching assumes one single type of intelligence, which is unfair on those of us who don't fit that straight jacket. Gardner would prefer that learners take an active role in their own assessment, internalizing the kind of adjustments they need to make based on their experience of feedback from trained professionals (teachers). He compares this with how people learn and master sports, music and arts. But these examples can be expanded to include all of us in our daily lives, not just kids at school. As you know, everyday is a school day in the real world.


What are The 9 Different Intelligences?

Have a think about how well cultivated these 9 parts of your mind are. Do you possess some of these intelligences naturally? Have you improved upon others? Which have you been neglecting. Learning Gardner's theory will really help you think about yourself as a whole person. 


1. Musical-rhythmic and harmonic

musical intelligence

Have you always had a tremendous understanding of the relationship between feeling and sound? Perhaps you enjoy a particular awareness and appreciation of sound, with superb recognition of patterns of tone and rhythm. People with high skills in this area often become successful as: composers, DJs, entertainers, music producers, musicians, voice coaches. How much of this intelligence do you think you have?

2. Visual-Spatial

spatial intelligence
All those years ago at school did you enjoy making art? Then you probably have a very high visual spatial intelligence. Even if you didn’t do very well at art you still have this intelligence to some degree. We all have a certain understanding of the relationship between different images, and between space and effects. People who do well in these areas often spend their professional life in these fields: architecture, art, engineering, graphic designing, inventing, photography, landscaping, sculpting. Have you ever fancied doing jobs like these? Perhaps you have already done so.


3. Verbal-lingusitic

verbal intelligence
If you feel very comfortable expressing yourself using the written and spoken word, interpreting and explaining ideas with language, then you must have a very high verbal-linguistic intelligence. The kind of jobs you would be suited for would include: journalist, lawyer, poet, teacher, TV/radio presenter, writer. Does this sound like you?

4. Logical-mathematical

mathematical logical intelligence
If you are good at analyzing problems, noticing patterns and have always had skill at making mathematical calculations then you surely possess logical-mathematical intelligence in great abundance. People with such intelligence are suited to these jobs: banker, computer programmer, engineer, scientist, trader. Are you such a person?

5. Bodily-kinesthetic

bodily kinesthetic intelligence
Not often thought of as an intelligence, people who rank highly in this area of the mind exhibit good body to eye coordination, great manual dexterity and enjoy poise, balance and agility. People who excel at bodily-kinesthetic intelligence often succeed in careers as: athletes, dancers, nurses, biologists, physical therapists, sign-language interpreters. How well could you have seen yourself doing in jobs like these?

6. Interpersonal

interpersonal intelligence
This intelligence describes our ability (or lack of ability) to relate to other people. People’s behavior often requires interpretation, and that’s where this part of our intelligence kicks in. People who really excel at reading their neighbors can do very well in these types of employment: advertising, care giving, coaching/mentoring, counseling, education, HR, mediation, politics, psychology, sales, teaching, training, therapy. Do you believe you can read people well?

7. Intrapersonal

intrapersonal intelligence
This intelligence should not be confused with interpersonal, which describes our relations with our neighbors. Intrapersonal intelligence is our sense of self-awareness. Do you understand yourself? Can you react to your own needs and changing circumstances? How aware are you of your place in relation to others? This kind of intelligence is necessarily subjective, therefore only a trained intelligence expert can be expected to tell you how much of this intelligence you have. Perhaps it is something that we can control ourselves through meditation.

8. Naturalistic

naturalist intelligence
This intelligence was a late addition to Gardner’s theory. It describes the kind of intelligence required to understand our relationship with our natural surroundings. For example, in earlier parts of our evolutionary story we would have had to understand the differences between flora and fauna, and develop our skills in hunting, farming and domestication. It has been suggested that not only farmers, hunters and modern day gatherers (or foragers) possess abundance of this intelligence, but also chefs and botanists. So if you are a bit of an amateur biologist and a keen cook, you probably are a true Naturalist.

9. Existential

existential intelligence
This is one of my favorite intelligences, because it is clearly something we all have inborn. As a child did you ask a lot of existential questions, such as ‘why is there something, and not nothing?’, ‘why is grass green?’ Or have you heard your grandkids asking the same questions – and been unable to answer? If so, you probably have something in common with some of the world’s greatest philosophers and spiritual leaders. 

Other possible intelligences

In the future it's possible that Gardner may add at least one more intelligence to his list. As a world famous educator it's perhaps unsurprising that he is beginning to recognize something called the 'teaching-pedagogical intelligence.' This may be enabling us to pass on information to other people. What else? Well, many people have argued that humor and sex require their own separate intelligences; Gardner however does not believe that these are intelligences by themselves.

Multiple Intelligence Test
So now you have had a good think about yourself and how intelligent you are, why not take this quick 5 minute test to see what kinds of percentages you possibly posses. However, there are no right answers, just your unique self. No matter what, you possess all of these different intelligences in varying degrees and they all go towards making you the special person you are. 
Bonus: Interview with the Multiple Intelligence Theory author, Professor Howard Gardner

h/t: 1; 2

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