Howard Gardner: Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner: Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Back in 1983, Howard Gardner made the case that intelligence was multifaceted rather than revolving around a particular set of skills. According to Gardner, there were eight requirements for intelligence. Then, based on his evaluation, he settled on eight distinct skills that he thought would suffice. So that everyone could develop in a way that made the most sense for them, it would be possible for people to determine their unique strengths in learning, including non-cognitive abilities.

Gardner listed eight things that must be met: an awareness of one’s place in evolutionary history; the ability to isolate one’s brain; the ability to do core operations; a susceptibility to coding; a unique developmental trajectory; the possibility of savants or prodigies; and psychological or psychometric findings.

After settling on these core elements for his theory, Gardner went on to identify a list of abilities that could be used to demonstrate that one has met his or her definition of intelligence.

Eight abilities that Howard Gardner chose

Howard Gardner picked skills that would demonstrate some kind of cognitive involvement, such as the ability to recognize a pattern and react appropriately. Each skill has its own unique benefits that make it indicative of intelligence on its own, or of a more advanced kind of intelligence when combined with the other skills.

Listed below are the eight skills that Howard Gardner considered most important.

Multiple Intelligences


1. Musical-rhythmic

Intelligence’s interactions with tones, sounds, rhythms, and music all fall into this category. Excellent pitch is a common trait among those who score highly in this domain. Others have perfect pitches. These people have extensive skills in performing vocally, writing musical compositions, and playing a wide range of instruments.

High-modality people are also incredibly aware of their surroundings in terms of meter, tone, pitch, and rhythm. They have a high standard of perfection for their own musical abilities and have a low tolerance for mistakes. The addition of music or melody makes even the most complex ideas easier to grasp.

2. Visual-spatial

High performers in this category have a strong mental image of physical space, allowing them to navigate it with ease. Individuals high in visual-spatial intelligence take pleasure in the written and spoken word. Their puzzle-solving skills are top-notch. They also have a natural talent for reading data presented in visual formats. Not only are they excellent pattern spotters, but they also take pleasure in the visual arts.

3. Linguistic

Most people have at least a basic proficiency in the languages they speak. People that do well in this category are more articulate in speech and writing, opting for precise terminology over vague expressions. Some people who use this type of intelligence may also have a natural talent for picking up foreign languages.

Many vocal techniques, such as recitation, narration, and memorization of facts and statistics, can be used to show this ability as well. It is a strong indicator of a person’s general intellect and can be tested by a verbal IQ test, providing insight into their cognitive abilities.

4. Mathematical

Despite the fact that the name of this approach implies that mathematical and logical concepts are key, the capacity to think critically is what really matters here. It’s proof that you’re capable of grasping the big picture. Those who perform well in this domain have a more stable mental ability and are better able to handle mathematical and abstract concepts and logical reasoning.

5. Kinesthetic

Being intellectual involves more than just being able to think coherently. Demonstrating mastery over instinctual behaviors is also essential. To manipulate things effectively, it is necessary for the mind to be able to direct the body’s movements.

Those that excel in this area are also adept at dealing with time-related challenges. By practicing, they can learn to time their responses to particular motions, actions, or intervals, allowing them to achieve their objectives. Those who are talented athletes, actors, or musicians often score well in this intelligence category.

6. Interpersonal

Those that excel in this kind of intelligence are typically referred to as “emotionally intelligent.” This is due to their exceptional awareness of the emotions, perspectives, and intentions of individuals in their surroundings. Those who score highly in this modality are able to read the emotions of complete strangers and predict how they will behave.

This type of intelligence is most effective when employed in a team environment. They try to find a role in which they can make a positive contribution, one that will allow everyone to get along with one another.

It’s easy to assume that extroverts have higher quotients of this trait, yet introverts can also score well. Being able to read someone’s mind is more important than developing feelings for them. These people are great educators, counselors, and social workers because they like stimulating conversations and debates.

7. Intrapersonal

This form of intelligence is similar to the interpersonal form, but its focus is on the individual. This is the capacity to have a deeper awareness of one’s own morality and values. Those that perform well in this mode have a thorough understanding of their own abilities and limitations. Also, they are confident in their individuality and don’t hide the qualities that set them apart from others.

The ability to understand one’s own feelings, responses, and actions is one of the things that makes intrapersonal intelligence unique.

8. Naturalistic

The original theory of multiple intelligences did not include this type of intelligence. In 1995, Gardner made the call to include it. Those that excel in this domain have a keen attention to detail and an amazing talent for naming plants and animals by sight. People with this skill also have a strong desire to protect and preserve nature because they can see what will happen if they do something. 

Expansion of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner has been hesitant to fully accept either spiritual intelligence or teaching pedagogical intelligence, even though there is evidence for both.

Moreover, those familiar with Gardner’s idea of intelligence have suggested additional modalities, but Gardner does not accept them as part of his theory. Sexuality and reproduction, cooking or other specialized skills, and humor are all possible modalities.

How do people feel about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences?

The most significant criticism against Gardner’s theory is that it fails to broaden our understanding of what constitutes intelligence. It plainly denies the concept of intelligence in the way that most people think about it. 

Gardner’s theory tends to show a low correlation between the various parts of intelligence. But many psychometrics, such as an intelligence test, tend to find strong links between the different parts of intelligence.

So what’s the deal? Unfortunately, Gardner’s theory lacks support from the data. There are a lot of people who can identify distinct abilities or traits that go along with each of the different types of intelligence. It is possible that some animals are on the same level as or even surpass human beings in some areas of evaluation. This tends to make the definition of intelligence even less clear, which is bad enough as it is because correlation levels are low.

Of course, there are also many who think the common understanding of what defines intelligence is too broad. Two people may share similar musical and mathematical abilities, yet their IQs may be very different. Instead of trying to define intelligence with a universal approach, you may treat it as something more subjective and individualized, more in line with how individuals learn and think.

Nevertheless, the theories of Howard Gardner’s many intelligences continue to be a hot topic of discussion and controversy, regardless of whether or not you agree with them. It’s possible that by doing so, it’s also helping to develop its own techniques.

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