Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences in Psychology


If you were asked to define an intelligent person, how would you attribute them? The first thing that comes to one’s mind after listening to the word ‘intelligent’ is that a person is good at studying. As the conversation continues, the word is used to define a person’s capability to excel in a field. In today’s world, terms such as ‘book-smart’ and ‘street-smart’ are used often. Howard Gardner, in his 1983 book ‘Frames of Mind’, suggests that different types of intelligence exist. This article takes a detailed look at his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, enabling the reader to gain a better understanding of the concept of ‘intelligence’.

Read More; Theories of Intelligence in Psychology

Development of the Howard Gardner’s Theory:

Howard Gardner’s research hugely focused on the nature of human intelligence. Rather than focusing on how intelligent a person is, Gardner wanted to explore what kind of intelligence people express. He believed that several types of thinking come into play even while performing a single task. Keeping that in mind, he further suggested that each skill is governed by a different area of the brain. As a part of his work on human cognition and potential, Gardner proposed his initial theory of multiple intelligences, consisting of six types of intelligence. This later evolved into eight types, and currently, the theory includes nine types of intelligence. The possibility of the existence of other types of intelligence may further expand the theory in the future.

Read More: Navigating Fluid and Crystallised Intelligence

Types of Intelligence:

While the types and the diversity of intelligences might make them sound like learning styles, Howard Gardner himself has said that they are not the same. Knowing these types of intelligence can help in understanding students, selecting activities they engage in, developing teaching curriculums, etc. Let’s look at the nine different types of intelligence that have been identified so far.

  • Visual-Spatial Intelligence: People with this kind of ability are more capable to comprehend and recall visual elements in their surroundings. People high in this intelligence are good with directions, charts, etc. They enjoy reading and writing. They are also good at understanding graphical representations of data. Being an artist or an engineer are two of many other professions that these people excel in.
  • Linguistic Intelligence: Linguistically intelligent people are those who are good with words and language. These are people who are good at speaking, reading and writing. They are also good at memorizing the texts that they encounter. Prospective career paths include that of an author, lecturer, journalist, etc.

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  • Musical Intelligence: These people have a strong affinity towards patterns, sound or rhythm. They might be good at playing instruments, recognizing tones or remembering memories. Jobs such as that of a music teacher or a singer might be a good fit for these people.

Read More: The Neurobiology of Music and Emotions

  • Naturalistic Intelligence: This kind of intelligence makes a nurturing person. These people are in a sink with the environment, explore more of it, and learn about other species. They might prefer feeling a sense of familiarity with their surroundings. People with this intelligence enjoy subjects such as Biology and Zoology. They might opt for professions such as farming or nature conservation.
  • Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence: These are people who have good body movement and physical control. They are skilled in tasks such as dancing. They have excellent eye-hand coordination and are good at remembering by doing. People with this intelligence can be good surgeons or dancers.

Read More: 10 Signs of Intelligent People, According to Psychology

  • Interpersonal Intelligence: These people are capable of skilfully interacting with other people, and understanding and empathising with them. These people can gauge the emotions, motivations and intentions of those around them. These people are good at communicating and also picking up on non-verbal cues. These people can be intelligent salespeople or politicians, and be good counsellors or psychologists.
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence: People with this kind of intelligence are self-aware. They have strong abilities to introspect. They can understand their strengths and weaknesses. They know the basis of their actions and motivations. These people can be successful theorists, scientists or philosophers.
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: People intelligent in this area are good at reasoning. They can logically analyse problems. These people are effective problem solvers. They can be good computer programmers, mathematicians or accountants.

Read More: The Psychology Behind Prodigies and Child Geniuses

  • Existentialist Intelligence: These people reflect on the questions of the meaning of life. They always look at the big picture. They can view situations from an outside perspective. These people can be philosophers, pastors or theologians.
Criticisms Faced by the Theory:

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has gained much recognition in the field of psychology. However, it has also been subjected to a lot of criticism. The theory was said to have broadly classified intelligence into what can be called one’s skills. The lack of evidence regarding the types of intelligence has also been a major critique of the theory. Challenges were also faced in practically applying Gardner’s theory, further reducing its significance. Educational institutions also weren’t ready to apply these concepts and change their traditional ways of education. Cognitive psychologists and psychometricians have also shown resistance to the theory.

Summing Up

The Theory of Multiple Intelligence by Howard Gardner has significantly contributed to understanding human being’s cognitive abilities. It lets people reflect on the different mental strengths that people have. His suggestion that intelligence is not a single entity has given way to a lot of new research. His theory has also given way to understand one’s interests and the career path that they might succeed in. These types of intelligence are not to be mistaken for learning styles, which determine an individual’s preference in processing information.

Gardner himself is against the word ‘style’ being used with learning. Certain types of these intelligences are seen as much re valuable in society. In India, logical-mathematical intelligence can be identified to be one of the most valued types of intelligence. In these cases, the valued types are seen to become the standard, and other kinds of intelligence are often not even recognised. Thus, Multiple Intelligence Theory is important for people to understand that intelligence goes beyond one’s academic achievements. It lets people identify and focus on their strengths, which also helps them invest their time properly.

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