Have you ever wondered why you can remember everything that you read, but you aren’t able to visualize a three dimensional object? Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University would explain this phenomena by referring to his seven (or possibly eight) theories of intelligence. He would say that your strong intelligence was Verbal/Linguistic and that your Visual/ Spatial Intelligence was lacking. Gardner’s eight intelligences are, respectively, Visual/Spatial, Verbal/Linguistic, Musical/Rhythmic, Logical/Mathematical, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and the possible eighth intelligence is Naturalistic Intelligence.
The idea of different intelligences is not a new one. Before Gardner, L.L. Thurstone and other psychometricians asserted that human intellect encompasses several mental abilities (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996). Thurstone came up with these intelligences: spacial, perceptual, numerical, verbal, memory, word fluency, and reasoning. As you can see, many of these intelligences are similar to the ones that Gardner notes. However, Gardner makes the claim that each of his “intelligences” can be localized to a particular part of the brain, and that they are entirely separate entities, a claim that scientists before him failed to mention (McGuinness). According to Gardner, we all differ in how much of each of these intelligences we have and cultures may differ in their appreciation of these intelligences (McGuinness). Gardner notes that there may be even more intelligences that he has not yet uncovered, but the main point is that there is not just one underlying mental capacity (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996). Gardner allows that all normal people are capable of drawing on all the intelligences, but individuals are distinguished by their particular “profile of intelligences” (211).
First, let us briefly examine Gardner’s Intelligences and exactly what they mean. The initial intelligence Gardner’s describes is Visual/Spatial intelligence. Knowing occurs through seeing both externally (with the physical eye) and internally (with the mind’s eye) (Lazear, 1999). This includes being able to visualize an object and to create mental images. It deals with visual arts, navigation, architecture, and certain games such as chess. There are certain capacities involved with each intelligence. The capacities for this intelligence are active imagination, forming mental images, finding your way in space, image manipulations, graphic representation, recognizing relationships of objects in space, and accurate perception from different angles (Edwords, 1999). These individuals are able to grasp an idea without necessarily having a concrete example of it in front of them, whether the example would be too large, or is perhaps unavailable at the time. Geographers, surgeons, and navigators are just a few of the professions that lend themselves to this particular intelligence (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996).
The second intelligence is Verbal/Linguistic. This intelligence relates to words and language. Knowing occurs through the written, spoken, and read aspects of language (Lazear, 1999). Its capacities involve understanding order and meaning of words, convincing someone of a course of action, explaining, teaching, and leaning, humor, memory and recall, and “meta-linguistic” analysis (Edwords, 1999). Individuals possessing this intelligence in abundance are those who often amaze others with their communication skills. For example, a child who is rumored to use “big words” by their peers is oftentimes of Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence. People who excel at this intelligence often end up as journalists, advertising copywriters, lawyers, and poets (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996).
Next comes Musical/Rhythmic intelligence. While some may argue that this does not qualify as intelligence, Gardner’s defense is that certain parts of the brain play important roles in perception and production of music and that, while musical ability is not typically considered an intellectual skill like mathematics, it qualifies under his criteria (Gardner, 1993). This intelligence includes the ability to recognize tonal patterns, rhythm and beat. Also, it includes sensitivity to environmental sounds, the human voice and musical instruments. People who have a strong Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence appreciate the structure of music, have certain “schemas” or “frames” in the mind for hearing music, are sensitive to sounds, recognize, create and reproduce melody and rhythm, and have a sense of the qualities of tone (Edwords, 1999). These are the people who seem to put no effort into learning an instrument, but are still the best musicians in the band. Obviously, this intelligence is exhibited in composers, conductors, instrumentalists, acousticians, and audio engineers (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996).
Logical/Mathematical Intelligence (an intelligence that I do not possess) deals with inductive and deductive reasoning, numbers and relationships. This intelligence allows people to recognize patterns, work with geometric shapes and to make connections between pieces of information. Among the many capacities for this intelligence are performing complex calculations, recognizing problems needing a logical solution, understanding numerical relationship and concepts, and remembering a series of abstractions (Edwords, 1999). Mathematicians, computer programmers, financial analysts, and accountants are all examples of people exhibiting this intelligence (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996).
Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence relates to physical movement and the knowledge of the body and how it functions. Knowing occurs through physical movement and performance (learning by doing) (Lazear, 1999). It allows one to use the body to express emotions, to play games, and to invoke effective body language. Core operations associated with this intelligence are control over fine and gross motor actions and the ability to manipulate external objects. People who exhibit this intelligence often go on to become athletes, dancers, jugglers, etc. (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996).
An intelligence that I’m not lacking is Interpersonal Intelligence. This intelligence deals with person-to-person relationships and includes the ability to communicate with others and to have empathy for their feelings and beliefs. Knowing occurs through communication, teamwork, and collaboration (Lazear, 1999). Certain characteristics that identify this intelligence are working cooperatively in a group, sensitivity to other’s mood, temperaments, and feelings, and creating and maintaining synergy (a feeling of fellowship and togetherness) (Edwords, 1999). Individuals exhibiting this intelligence often end up being counselors, psychologists, or teachers (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996).
The final recognized intelligence is Intrapersonal Intelligence. This intelligence has to do with the knowledge of “self”. Among the identifying characteristics of this intelligence are metacognition (thinking about thinking), self-reflection and awareness of metaphysical concepts, awareness and expression of different feelings, and a higher order of thinking and reasoning (Edwords, 1999). People exhibiting this intelligence are comfortable, and often content, to spend time alone. They are well aware of their own feelings and emotions and thus, “this intelligence may act as a ‘central intelligence agency,’ enabling individuals to know their own abilities and perceive how to best use them” (Gardner, Kornhaber & Wake, 1996. p. 211).
Gardner calls his eighth intelligence Naturalistic Intelligence. It deals with the attunement to nature and the ability to recognize important distinctions in the natural world (“Naturalist”). Knowing occurs through encounters with the natural world that involve appreciation for and understanding of the various flora and fauna, recognition of species membership, and the ability to relate to living organisms (Lazear, 1999). Children possessing this type of intelligence may have a strong affinity to the outside world or to animals. (These are often the children who take mice, lizards, and other small creatures to bed with them.) Also, people possessing nature smarts are keenly aware of their surroundings and changes in their environment, even if these changes are at minute or subtle levels (Wilson, 1998). This intelligence is characterized by the ability to care, tame or interact subtly with a variety of living creatures, and people who are Naturalistic thinkers, tend to become farmers, fishermen, hunters, gardeners, and cooks (“Naturalist”).
There has been much controversy about trying to integrate these intelligences into school curriculums. Some claim that it will only slow the learning process down, while others expect that it will facilitate higher learning. Obviously, Gardner believes the latter, stating that if we know better what intelligence involves and the variety of form it takes, we have a better chance of cultivating it. Thus, Gardner believes that an informed education can make us smarter and better able to deal with the world that surrounds us (Kincheloe, Steinberg & Villaverde, 1999). However, Keith McGuinness, while agreeing with introducing the idea of multiple intelligences in general, concedes that such an approach may not suit some gifted children, particularly the highly gifted, who might simply want to get on with it, and who might regard some of the antics carried out in the name of “multiple intelligences” as a distraction (McGuinness).
Being a “gifted student” myself in junior high and high school, I can’t say I agree with this opinion. I believe that attempting to integrate the seven, or possibly eight, intelligences into school curricula would be a welcome addition. Classes would be more interesting and engaging, and the chances of losing the interest of the students would greatly decrease. “First, people do have different strengths and weaknesses, different interests, and do learn in different ways. Teaching practices based on MIT are likely to cater to a wider range of children. Second, teaching curriculum using a variety approaches is simply likely to be more interesting; and this in itself will stimulate the children’s enthusiasm for learning” (McGuinness, p. 3).
Edwords, Angela. (1999, December 10). Components of the Multiple Intelligences [File posted on the World Wide Web]. Retrieved April 17, 2000 from the World Wide Web: boisdarc.tamu-commerce.edu/www/e/edwords/components.htm
Gardner, Howard, Kornhaber, Mindy L., Wake, Warren K. (1996). Intelligence: Multiple Perspectives. Florida: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Gardner, Howard. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: HarperCollins Publisher, Inc.
Kincheloe, Joe L., Steinberg, Shirley R., & Villaverde, Leila E. (1999). Rethinking Intelligence: confronting psychological assumptions about teaching and thinking. New York: Routledge.
Lazear, David. (1999). Multiple Intelligence Approaches to Assessment: Solving the Assessment Conundrum. Arizona: Zephyr Press.
McGuiness, Keith. Multiple Intelligences – a comment on Howard Gardner’s ideas [File posted on the World Wide Web]. Retrieved April 17, 2000 from the World Wide Web: wysiwyg://10/http://www.nswagtc.org.au/info/articles/McGuinessMultIntellig.html
“Naturalist” Identified as the Eighth Intelligence [File posted on the World Wide Web]. Retrieved April 17, 2000 from the World Wide Web: www.dawnpub.com/html/naturalist_as_the_eighth_intel.html
Wilson, Leslie Owen. (1998, March 23). The Eighth Intelligence: Naturalistic Intelligence [File posted on the World Wide Web]. Retrieved April 17, 2000 from the World Wide Web: www.uwsp.edu/acad/educ/lwilson/LEARNING/natintel.htm