What does it mean to be intelligent? We often think of people that are good at math and science as intelligent, like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. How about Mozart? Was he a genius? Or a great artist like Picasso? What about great actors like Bette Midler? I have a friend who says her daughter is “socially gifted” – is that a form of intelligence? How about LeBron James? Is being a great athlete a form of intelligence?
Prior to 1983, intelligence was thought of mainly in the classic sense of being able to reason and understand complex ideas. Then, in 1983 Harvard professor Howard Gardner published his theory of multiple intelligences.
His theory, which is widely accepted today, stated that intelligence isn’t one single unit of measurement, but instead proposed seven separate intelligence types.
- Visual-Spatial – picture smart
- Bodily-kinesthetic – body smart.
- Musical – music smart
- Interpersonal – people smart
- Intrapersonal – self smart.
- Linguistic – word smart.
- Logical-Mathematical – number and reasoning smart.
- Naturalistic (added later) – nature smart
According to Dr. Gardner, our culture focuses on verbal and logical-mathematical intelligences and does not give enough weight to people with different gifts. Additionally, he stated these multiple types of intelligence “challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well.”
Gardner’s theory has had a big influence on educational philosophy in America and has improved curricula to more broadly recognize and teach to the multiple types of intelligence.
Here’s a short quiz based on Dr. Gardner’s multiple intelligences that gives some insight into individual strengths: Multiple Intelligences Assessment