Friday, July 27, 2007

Eight Kinds Of Human Intelligence

Some time ago, the Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner identified what he considers to be eight distinct kinds of human intelligence. His theory of multiple intelligences has taken root in the education community, where it is increasingly used to form various models for teaching. Yet, it's a fascinating theory in it's own right and I believe it has some predictive values which are largely unexplored. I intend to get into those predictions in some future posts. Here, I will simply offer one admittedly simplified list of Gardner's eight different kinds of intelligence:


PeopleSmart (interpersonal intelligence) involves the ability to work cooperatively in a group as well as the ability to communicate, verbally and non-verbally, with other people. It builds on the capacity to notice distinctions among others, for example, contrasts in moods, temperament, motivations, and intentions. In the more advanced forms of this intelligence one can literally “pass over” into another person's life context (that is, stand in their shoes, so to speak) and experience their intentions and desires. One can have genuine empathy for another’s feelings, fears, anticipations, and beliefs.

SelfSmart (intrapersonal intelligence) involves knowledge of the internal aspects of the self such as knowledge of feelings, the range of emotional responses, thinking processes, self-reflection, and a sense of or intuition about spiritual realities. Intrapersonal intelligence allows us to be conscious of our consciousness; that is, to step back from ourselves and watch ourselves as an outside observer does. Our self-identity and the ability to transcend the self are part of the functioning of this intelligence. SelfSmart is the most private and requires all other intelligence forms to express itself, such as language, art, music, dance, symbols, and interpersonal communication with others.

WordSmart(verbal-linguistic intelligence) is responsible for the production of language and all the complex possibilities that follow, including poetry, humor, grammar, metaphors, similes, abstract reasoning, symbolic thinking, and of course, the written word. Verbal-linguistic intelligence is awakened by the spoken word; by reading someone's ideas or poetry; and by writing one's own ideas, thoughts, or poetry

BodySmart (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence) is the ability to use the body to express emotion, to play a game, to communicate with others using "body language", or to create a new product. Our bodies are very wise. They know things our conscious minds don't and can't know in any other way. For example, if you had to lay out the keyboard of a computer on a piece of paper without moving your fingers, could you do it? Probably not. But your fingers know the keyboard without even pausing.

NatureSmart (NatureSmart (naturalist intelligence) is related to our recognition, appreciation, and understanding of the natural world around us. It involves such capacities as species discernment, the ability to recognize and classify various flora and fauna, and our knowledge of and communion with the natural world. You can see the naturalist intelligence when you find yourself drawn to and fascinated by animals and their behaviors. You see it when you notice the effect on your mood and sense of well-being when someone brings plants and-or cut flowers into an otherwise sterile, humanly-created environment. Think how often we head for nature when we want to relax, “unwind” or find inner renewal!

ImageSmart (visual-spatial intelligence) involves such activities as painting, drawing, and sculpture; navigation, mapmaking and architecture, and games such as chess (which requires the ability to visualize objects from different perspectives and angles). The key sensory base of this intelligence is the sense of sight, but it also involves the ability to form images and pictures in the mind. Our childhood daydreaming, when we pretended we could fly or that we were magical beings, or maybe that we were heroes-heroines in fabulous adventure stories used this intelligence to the hilt!

SoundSmart (musical-rhythmic intelligence) includes such capacities as the recognition and use of rhythmic and tonal patterns, and sensitivity to sounds from the environment, the human voice, and musical instruments. Many of us learned the alphabet through this intelligence and the “A-B-C song.” Of all forms of intelligence identified, the “consciousness altering” effect of music and rhythm on the brain is the greatest. Just think of how music can calm you when you are stressed, stimulate you when you're bored, and help you attain a steady rhythm in such things as typing and exercising. It has been used to inspire our religious beliefs, intensify national loyalties, and to express great loss or intense joy.

LogicSmart (logical-mathematical intelligence) is most often associated with what we call “scientific thinking.” Logical-mathematical intelligence is activated in situations requiring problem-solving or meeting a new challenge. This intelligence likewise involves the capacity to recognize patterns, to work with abstract symbols such as numbers and geometric shapes, and to discern relationships and-or see connections between separate and distinct pieces of information.

Different people have different mixes of those basic intelligences. Few people are exactly alike in their mix of intelligences. Gardner's model explains why people are often smart in some ways and not so smart in other ways.

To create his model, Gardner looked at a variety of evidence that people have multiple intelligences. But the most important evidence came from brain damaged people. Such people sometimes completely lack abilities in one kind of intelligence, but retain their full abilities in other kinds of intelligence. Gardner hypothesized that if human intelligence was unitary (i.e. if there was only one kind of human intelligence) that would not be the case. Instead, damage to the brain would lower overall intelligence, rather than leave some abilities intact while destroying others.


Gary said...

Hi, I found your blog through 'Off the Beaten Path' and was excited to see this post. You are right about Gardner's work being transferred to education. As a teacher I have explored his theory and have tried to apply it to my students learning. I look forward to reading more... Great blog!

Paul said...

Welcome to the Cafe, Gary, and thank you for the compliment!

I plan to write a few posts in the future on some of the more general philosophical and social implications of Gardner's work. I'd be highly interested in any comments you might make on him, including as his work pertains to education.