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.
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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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
More Articles About the Types of Intelligence
- What’s Your Intelligence Type?
- Everyone Is Talented In Their Own Way: The 9 Types Of Intelligence You Should Know
- Which Kind Of Multiple Intelligences Are You Especially Good At?
Featured photo credit: Siora Photography via unsplash.com
|ResearchED: Myth-Busting: Gardner’s multiple intelligences