Howard Gardner is a developmental psychologist most well-known for his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The theory posits there are eight different types of intelligence, rather than intelligence being measured on a single scale (Gardner, 2011). Thus, someone gifted in visual-spatial intelligence may show an aptitude for geometry and architecture, while someone gifted in verbal-linguistic intelligence would have a natural ability for writing. While both these people would be considered intelligent, there intelligence would be measured in different ways. Gardner’s theory contrasts with the concept of general intelligence, which evaluates intelligence on a single progressive scale.

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The first modality of intelligence in Gardner’s scale is musical-rhythmic. People who show an aptitude for musical-rhythmic intelligence would be naturally disposed toward musical understanding, such as being able to distinguish between tones and rhythms, or being able to sing in perfect harmony and pitch. Someone with significant musical-rhythmic intelligence might therefore become a singer, music producer, or disc jockey.

Visual-spatial intelligence refers to a person’s ability to evaluate spatial distances internally. People with strong visual-spatial intelligence are able to think in three-dimensions naturally and easily. Specific job types where this type of intelligence would be useful would be for architects and photographers.

Logical-mathematical intelligence refers to logic, reasoning and critical thinking skills. In other words, people with this type of intelligence tend to be problem-solvers; they are able to identify a problem, understand how it came to exist, and what the best solution might be. Essentially, people with this type of intelligence are analysts. They might best be suited for science or business.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence refers to the ability to maintain control over one’s movement. Those gifted in this area might be predisposed toward dancing, particularly if they are also gifted in musical-rhythmic intelligence; or become an athlete, such as a basketball player, if they are also gifted in visual-spatial intelligence.

Interpersonal intelligence refers to a person’s ability to work well with others. These persons have high levels of social skills and empathy; they are able to understand what a person is trying to communicate, whether using language or non-verbal cues such as body language, and provide an appropriate response. Thus, these people might be good politicians or counselors. Outside of Gardner’s framework, interpersonal intelligence is often referred to as emotional intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence denotes a strong understanding of ones self. Thus, this type of intelligence is a reflection of self-awareness. Intrapersonal intelligence might include awareness of one’s own values, weaknesses and strengths. They are able understand their own emotional tendencies. This does not mean they do not show emotion, but rather they are able to predict emotional responses.

Naturalistic intelligence was proposed by Gardner after he had published his first theory of multiple intelligences (Gardner 2014). Naturalistic intelligence refers to an inherent understanding of nature, such as easily distinguishing between different types of plants and animals, understanding the natural seasons that might be associated with growing crops, and demonstrating knowledge of animal behavior. Thus, those with strong naturalistic intelligence would be considered to have a green thumb and work well with animals.

Gardner’s theory works to explain why some individuals are good at one task, while others who struggle with this task might be good at another. However, this theory contrasts with the Theory of General Intelligence, which evaluates levels of intelligence on a linear, progressive scale (Geary, 2005). Nevertheless, Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences provides us with a way to evaluate different types of thought, particularly as they relate to concepts such as how we communicate with others and how we perceive our surroundings.

  • Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Basic Books.
  • Gardner, H. (2014). The Eight Types of Intelligence. Overview of the Multiple Intelligences Theory. Basic Books.
  • Geary, D. C. (2005). Evolution of General Intelligence. American Psychological Association.