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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

9 Types of Intelligence (And How to Know Your Type)

9 Types of Intelligence (And How to Know Your Type)

When I was a child, my mom told me I was special—that there was no one on Earth just like me. Now, I’m of two minds when it comes to teaching our children that they’re special.

First, it’s true. We all have strengths, weaknesses, and proclivities that make us different from other people. I’ll get to my second interpretation of teaching everyone they’re special after a deep dive into Howard Gardner’s Theory of multiple intelligences.

Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Harvard professor Howard Gardner introduced the world to his theory of multiple intelligences in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind. Simply put, the idea is that one’s intellectual intelligence or IQ doesn’t tell the complete story about someone’s full range of potential.

Therefore, Gardner proposed eight types of intelligence to more accurately measure a broader range of human strengths and abilities. Gardner’s types of intelligence are in line with what most of us have been brought up to believe—that we are all special because we all have different strengths and interests.

Let’s take a look at Gardner’s original seven types of intelligence plus two more that he’s added over the years. By examining the definitions and characteristics of each type of intelligence, you should be able to discern which types of intelligence you’re strongest in.

9 Types of Intelligence

Read the following definitions for the nine types of intelligence and then answer the questions in each to see how you stack up.

1. Visual-Spatial Intelligence

Visual-Spatial Intelligence has to do with how well someone is at maneuvering through space and visualizing things. People with high visual-spatial intelligence tend to excel at identifying patterns and interpreting charts and graphs.

If you’re usually the navigator and map reader of your squad, you just might have high visual-spatial intelligence.

Questions: Are you good at reading maps? Do you rarely get lost? Can you visualize objects moving and changing through space? Do you have a good sense of direction?

These could all be signs of high visual-spatial intelligence.

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2. Linguistic-Verbal Intelligence

Linguistic-Verbal Intelligence is all about words, words, words. We’re talking great readers, writers, and speakers. Generally, if someone can tell a good story and memorize words quickly, they have high linguistic-verbal intelligence.

Questions: Are you a good writer? Do you enjoy playing around with language and wording? Are you good at memorizing things? Can you explain yourself easily to others? Are you a good communicator?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you probably have high linguistic-verbal intelligence.

3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

Logical-Mathematical intelligence is about logical problem solving and number sense. People with high logical-mathematical intelligence would obviously be great at solving math problems and be strong conceptual thinkers. Think of scientists and mathematicians.

Questions: Are you good at math? Do you excel at logical problem-solving? If you’re given a brainteaser, are you usually able to figure it out?

If you said yes to these questions, you’re probably doing well with your logical-mathematical intelligence.

4. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence is how well people can move through space. If you have high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, you have excellent control of your body and superb body awareness, meaning you know what your body is doing at any given time. People with this intelligence might excel at sports and dance and have good hand-eye coordination.

Questions: Do you enjoy dance or sports? Do you have good body awareness, meaning are you able to move your body in the way your brain wants? Do you have good hand-eye coordination? Are you good at balancing and moving through space?

You’re probably scoring high in your bodily-kinesthetic intelligence if you’ve said yes to these questions.

5. Musical Intelligence

Can you clap to the beat and sing in tune? You might have a decent musical intelligence. People with above-average musical intelligence can recognize tones and hear patterns in songs. Obviously, they would be drawn to music—both listening and creating.

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Questions: Can you find the rhythm when a song is playing? Are you able to match the pitch of a musical note? Do you enjoy listening to or playing music? Would your friends describe you as musical?

People who say yes to these questions tend to have high musical intelligence.

6. Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence is, not surprisingly, about interpersonal or social skills. If someone is empathetic and good at understanding other people’s intentions and emotions, they probably have high interpersonal intelligence.

People with this intelligence excel at group work and keeping the peace in organizations. They’re excellent communicators and sensitive to other people’s needs. They are also able to see other people’s perspectives.

Questions: Are you the peacemaker of your group? Would you describe yourself as empathetic? Are you able to figure out what people’s body language means? Do you tend to know what people are thinking or feeling without having to ask? Are you good with other people’s emotions?

If you said yes to these questions, you probably have high interpersonal intelligence.

7. Intrapersonal Intelligence

This is self-awareness. Intrapersonal intelligence is all about how well someone is at reflecting on and being aware of their own mental and emotional state at any given time. These are the philosophers and the daydreamers.

Questions: Do you spend time daydreaming? Would people describe you as reflective? Do you know what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it? Have people described you as being self-aware?

If you said yes to these questions, you probably have high intrapersonal intelligence.

8. Naturalistic Intelligence

After publishing Frames of Mind, Gardner discussed other types of intelligence that fit into his theory of multiple intelligences. Other scholars have added others, but Gardner only agreed to this and the next type.

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People with high naturalistic intelligence are nature lovers. They are sensitive to slight changes in their environment and gravitate to exploring nature and examining flora and fauna.

Questions: Do enjoy spending time in nature? Do you have an interest in wild plants and animals? Do you notice subtle changes in the environment? Does being in nature make you feel better?

People who answer yes to these questions tend to have high naturalistic intelligence.

9. Pedagogical Intelligence

These are the effortless teachers. People who can instruct, facilitate, and convey information to others have excellent pedagogical intelligence. It’s one thing to understand a topic, but it’s a very different skillset to be able to help other people understand that same topic.

Questions: Do you enjoy teaching people? Are you good at conveying information to others?

Good teachers probably have high pedagogical intelligence.

Criticism of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Some have criticized the theory of multiple intelligences as nothing more than a list of skills and abilities.[1] Perhaps, “talents” would have been a better way for Gardner to describe his list than “types of intelligence” because it describes what people are drawn to and excel in easily.

This talent in no way dictates what people should do for a living. Instead, thinking you are strong in one intelligence may limit the effort you put into other areas.

Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, states that when we look at skills and abilities as changeable through hard work and practice, we’re able to change those abilities. This is called a growth mindset.

However, when we think that our skills and abilities are innate, it is less likely that we can improve. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences runs the risk of tricking us into thinking our skills and abilities are in-born and that effort and dedication won’t have much of an impact, which is untrue.

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The theory of multiple intelligences should be approached more like Neil Fleming’s theory of learning styles. Fleming proposed that people have different styles of learning or ways that they are better able to learn: reading/writing, kinesthetic, aural, and visual.

The problem with the theory of learning styles, and with types of intelligence, is that there’s not much empirical evidence to show that your learning style or type of intelligence impacts how you learn. In short, just because I’m drawn to nature and good at building campfires, it doesn’t mean that’s how I learn best.

Think talent more than intelligence, and I think you’ll be better able to appreciate Gardner’s theory for what it is.

Maybe No One is Special?

Let’s go back to that idea that everyone is special, something I think Gardner was advocating way back in the ‘80s. Sure, one way to look at it is that we all have skills, abilities, and strengths that set us apart from other people.

This can be a great thing to explore when you’re trying to find your place in the world or choose your career. However, too much navel-gazing and selfish thinking can be destructive, which brings me to my second interpretation of the “everyone is special” movement.

What if no one is special?

Hear me out. If we stop thinking so much about how we’re special, we can spend more time being curious about other people, places, and things.

In my book, Play Your Way Sane: 120 Improv-Inspired Exercises to Help You Calm Down, Stop Spiraling, and Embrace Uncertainty, I have a whole chapter about the advantages of not thinking that your special. It’s called “Your mom was wrong, you aren’t special,” and it’s filled with exercises and games that help people look for what’s special in other people, instead of in themselves. This shift in focus, from internal to external, can make you less anxious and more connected to other people.

Final Thoughts

So, when you’re done thinking about which types of intelligence you’re better at, take more time to think about what other people are good at. Because when we use theories like multiple intelligences and learning styles to help other people look good, it makes all of us, and society in general, look a whole lot better.

Featured photo credit: Siora Photography via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Last Updated on June 1, 2021

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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