16 Feb 2018
Howard Gardner proposed a new theory and definition of intelligence in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence, in 1983. His main argument was justifying whether intelligence was a consolidated solitary being or was it multi-faceted. (Gardner, 1999a, Pz.harvard.edu, 2016).
While working with stroke victims suffering from aphasia in Boston University, and while researching the cognitive development of children in a project initiated by Harvard, Gardner could not help but notice that ‘the human mind is better thought of as a series of relatively separate faculties. With only loose and unpredictable relations with one another, as compared to a single, all-purpose machine that performs steadily at a certain horsepower, independent of content and context’ (Gardner, Intelligence Reframed, p32).
According to Gradner, IQ (intelligence quotient) is not a suitable basis of measuring intelligence. He says that without productivity, having a high IQ amounts to nothing (Gardner 1999a). He developed several criteria to validate a capacity as ‘intelligence’:
- the potential for brain isolation by brain damage,
- its evolutionary background,
- core operations,
- susceptibility to encoding,
- a unique developmental progression,
- the existence exceptional people (savants, prodigies etc.)
- support from experimental psychology, and
- support from psychometric findings.
Based on the above-mentioned criteria, 8 types of human intelligence were established namely (Gardner, 1983):
- Verbal-linguistic intelligence: ability of analysing information and acuity in oral and written language. They learn best through hearing and seeing words, speaking, reading, writing, discussing and debating.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence: ability to develop equations, make calculations, and solve abstract problems. They prefer working with sequences and patterns, classifying, categorising, working with abstract ideas.
- Visual-spatial intelligence: comprehension of graphical information. They are gifted at working with pictures and colors, visualising, imagining, and drawing.
- Musical intelligence: ability of working with sound and melody. They learn through rhythms, singing, and melody.
- Naturalistic intelligence: ability to identify various plants, animals, and even weather. They love to explore living things, learn about plants, and natural events.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: pertaining to physical and motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. They learn through touching and moving. They gain knowledge through bodily sensations.
- Inter-personal intelligence reflects social skills entailing emotions, empathy, behavior etc. They work best by comparing, relating, sharing, interviewing, and cooperating.
- Intra-personal intelligence refers to aptitude self-reflection, far-sightedness (visionary people). Working alone, having space, reflecting, and doing self-paced projects is more their style.
Although Multiple Intelligence and Learning Styles are often mixed up. It is a misconception that they are the same. Multiple intelligence portrays different intellectual capabilities whereas learning styles are how individuals prefer to learn and their way of tackling a task (Edutopia, 2016).
Additionally, more research is needed in building a criterion of assessment and evaluation of the various intelligence. It is also to be noted that humans usually possess aptitude of several intelligence in varying capacities. It does not mean that their learning style will adhere strictly to their strongest intelligence (Plucker, 2012). A talented musician does not need to learn through melody (artistic approach) only, mathematics (science of sound) or language (lyrics) will add to it too. Learning style could range from theory to practice.
Moreover, as the education system has emphasised the importance of developing mathematical and linguistic skills. It often causes basing the merit of student and his/her success only on the measured skills in those two intelligence. Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence supports that this emphasis is unfair. Children whose musical intelligence are highly developed, for example, may be overlooked for gifted programs or may be placed in a special education class because they do not have the required math or language scores. Teachers must seek to assess their students’ learning in ways which will give an accurate overview of their strengths and weaknesses.
Edutopia. (2016). Multiple Intelligences: What Does the Research Say? [online]
Gardner, H. (1999a). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1998). Are there additional intelligences? The case for naturalist, spiritual, and existential intelligences. In J. Kane (Ed.), Education, information, and transformation (pp. 111-131). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill-Prentice Hall.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Morgan, H. (1996). An analysis of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence. Roeper Review 18, 263-270.
Plucker, D. (2012). The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. [online]
Pz.harvard.edu. (2010). Multiple Intelligences | Project Zero. [online]