There are multiple kinds of intelligence, at least according to many in the educational and psychology fields. IQ is used as a measurement of one kind of intelligence, but many people believe that it is not actually that great of a measurement (it is seen to be flawed in many ways) and that it certainly does not give a full picture of a person’s abilities, capabilities and future success.

I first learned about the Theory of Multiple Intelligences when I was in school earning my Master’s Degree in Special Education. This theory was brought into the education world by Howard Gardner, Ph.D. in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. I, for one, believe very solidly in this theory, but Gardner has received some criticism of his work over the years. However, it is still used in the education and psychology fields, regardless of that fact. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences is something that I’ve thought quite a lot about over the years and I’d like to share some information and my own thoughts with you. So please, read on!

What Is The Theory of Multiple Intelligences?

In his book, Gardner suggested that the traditional way of looking at and measuring intelligence (IQ) was too limited. He thought that intellectual capacity (measured by IQ) was only a part of the full range of intelligence a person could possess. Today, it is recognized by many that there are at least nine different types of intelligence, and probably even more.

Here is a summary of those nine intelligences, found on the Concept to Classroom website:

  1. Verbal-linguistic intelligence (well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words)
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical and numerical patterns)
  3. Spatial-visual intelligence (capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly)
  4. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (ability to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skillfully)
  5. Musical intelligence (ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber)
  6. Interpersonal intelligence (capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others)
  7. Intrapersonal (capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes)
  8. Naturalist intelligence (ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature)
  9. Existential intelligence (sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence such as, “What is the meaning of life? Why do we die? How did we get here?”

Criticism of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

To be fair, it’s important to note that Gardner’s theory has received a certain amount of criticism. Some people and researchers suggest that these things are not “intelligences” but rather just learning styles or talents. In his book, Gardner did make a point to suggest that the intelligences should not be confused with learning styles. He most definitely saw them as discrete intelligences that could help us to better understand an individual’s learning and intellectual ability and capacity.

It’s also fair to note that IQ itself has many criticisms, not the least of which is that its development and the testing that is used to acquire the IQ score are founded in racism and classism. IQ and its testing can often be deeply flawed, especially in cases where there is trauma or educational disadvantages present.

Ultimately, when thinking about IQ and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, I think one of the most important things to do is to take it all with a grain of salt and to know that pure intelligence and certainly pure capacity or ability cannot actually be measured or pigeonholed to an ultimate degree.

Getting Past the Academic Question

For me, while it is interesting and sometimes important to ask these sorts of academic questions, there is more to it than academic ideas. Not everything has to be defined so rigidly, because we, as human beings are not necessarily so easily defined. I think one way to look at the question of multiple intelligences is through our intuition. What do we intuitively know about multiple intelligences?

Most of us have known or heard about that “musical genius” or someone who is a “math genius.” We know there are people who are such incredibly skilled athletes that the concept of “Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence” is one we can probably believe exists. All of those things, when seen in someone with genius-level abilities seem much more than mere “talent.”

People with incredible abilities to speak and to learn languages, almost intuitively, certainly exist. I’ve been jealous of them most of my life. Six years of studying Spanish and I could barely eke out a sentence my friends from Mexico could understand! And most of us are aware of the concept of “emotional intelligence,” which seems to me to be a combination of Gardner’s concepts of “Intrapersonal” and “Interpersonal” intelligences. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of “emotional intelligence,” stick around because I’ll be talking about that more in the future.

It seems almost a no-brainer, when you really think about it, that multiple intelligences is a concept that is real.

What Do We Do With This Information?

I was so delighted to learn about Gardner and his Theory of Multiple Intelligences when I was in college. I had a son who struggled in school so much that he was the main reason I went for my Master’s Degree in Special Education, in the first place. I was thrilled to no end when I found teachers who also believed in Gardner’s theory because it meant that they could see my child more as a whole person, rather than the sum parts of some test scores and pre-conceived notions about behavior and ability. It also helped me to realize that my son was much more than all of that, too, and it propelled me into several years acting as an educational advocate for special education children in the public school system.

Having this bit of knowledge about multiple intelligences fueled me in many a fight with school districts, who often just wanted to write off children who were different and/or challenged in some way or another. So, I definitely see how important this information can be when it comes to the lives and the education of our children. Parents and teachers alike can help their kids if they just keep this notion in mind.

But it also is good for us, as adults, to recognize that there are multiple intelligences. It can help us through some of our anxieties and deal with some of our own self-esteem issues. If we can identify in ourselves the areas where our intelligence is greater, it can sometimes help us to be less hard on ourselves. It’s helpful to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and thinking in terms of intelligences can make that easier. Identifying which intelligences we are stronger in can help us to make career or work decisions. Knowing about multiple intelligences can even help us identify a life purpose that aligns more closely with our innate abilities.

In The End…

I just thought that you might find this information about multiple intelligences to be useful in your life like I have. I would encourage you to spend some time pondering the different types listed above and to even think about whether you could add something to the list. Think about your own strengths and areas where you aren’t as strong and see if it doesn’t help you to alleviate some of your anxieties about yourself (and/or your child) or to shore up your (or your child’s) self-esteem in a positive way.

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