11.3 Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Another champion of the idea of specific types of intelligences rather than one overall intelligence is the psychologist Howard Gardner (1983, 1999). Gardner argued that it would be evolutionarily functional for different people to have different talents and skills, and proposed that there are nine intelligences that can be differentiated from each other.

Howard Gardner.^[[Image](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Howard_Gardner.jpg) by [Interaction-Design.org](http://www.interaction-design.org/references/authors/howard_gardner.html) is licensed under [CC BY-SA 2.0](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)]

Figure 11.15: Howard Gardner.450

Gardner contends that these are also forms of intelligence. A high IQ does not always ensure success in life or necessarily indicate that a person has common sense, good interpersonal skills, or other abilities important for success. Gardner investigated intelligences by focusing on children who were talented in one or more areas. He identified these 9 intelligences based on other criteria including a set developmental history and psychometric findings.451

Howard Gardner (1983, 1998, 1999) suggests that there are not one, but nine domains of intelligence. The first three are skills that are measured by IQ tests:

Table 11.1: Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences452
Intelligence Description
Linguistic The ability to speak and write well
Logical- mathematical The ability to use logic and mathematical skills to solve problems
Spatial The ability to think and reason about objects in three dimensions
Musical The ability to perform and enjoy music
Kinesthetic (body) The ability to move the body in sports, dance, or other physical activities
Interpersonal The ability to understand and interact effectively with others
Intrapersonal The ability to have insight into the self
Naturalistic The ability to recognize, identify, and understand animals, plants, and other living things
Existential The ability to understand and have concern from life’s larger questions, the meaning of life, and other spiritual matters

The concept of multiple intelligences has been influential in the field of education, and teachers have used these ideas to try to teach differently for individual students. For instance, to teach math problems to students who have particularly good kinesthetic intelligence, a teacher might encourage the students to move their bodies or hands according to the numbers. On the other hand, some have argued that these “intelligences” sometimes seem more like “abilities” or “talents” rather than real intelligence. There is no clear conclusion about how many intelligences there are. Are a sense of humor, artistic skills, dramatic skills, and so forth also separate intelligences?

  1. Image by Interaction-Design.org is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0↩︎

  2. Lifespan Development: A Psychological Perspective by Martha Lally and Suzanne Valentine-French is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0↩︎

  3. Lifespan Development: A Psychological Perspective by Martha Lally and Suzanne Valentine-French is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0; Table adapted from Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York, NY: Basic Books.↩︎