How do you think about intelligence? Just one dimension – the one that gets you a great score on the ACT or SAT? Or something more?
Imagine that your teacher has assigned you to read a novel and then develop a project of your choice based on the book. One student immediately decides to draw a comic strip depiction of several different scenes from the novel. Another student in the class decides to compose a brief musical interpretation of the book, while yet another student opts to write a creative essay from the point of view of one of the characters in the story.
The tendency to choose such widely varied projects based on the same novel can understood by looking at each student’s individual strengths. Students who are good with visual information often prefer to work with visual imagery, such as drawing a scene or image. Students who are strong with tone or rhythm might prefer to do a project that incorporates music, while students who are good with words might prefer to write about their thoughts and ideas.
Psychologist Howard Gardner would suggest that each of these preferences actually represents a different type of intelligence. In his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Gardner proposed that intelligence is not just a single intellectual capacity. Instead, he suggested, there are multiple kinds of intelligence that people can possess.
Gardner describes eight different kinds of intelligence:
- Visual: Good with art and design
- Linguistic: Good with words
- Logical: Good with numbers and math
- Bodily: Good at action, movement and sports
- Musical: Good with music, tone and rhythm
- Interpersonal: Good at communicating with others
- Intrapersonal: Good at self-reflection
- Naturalistic: Good at appreciating the world and nature
The theory has come under criticism from psychologists and educators who argue that Gardner’s definition of intelligence is too broad, and that his eight different intelligences simply represent talents, personality traits and abilities. Despite this, the theory of multiple intelligences enjoys considerable popularity with educators. Many teachers utilize multiple intelligences in their teaching philosophy and work to integrate Gardner’s theory into the classroom.
You can learn more about these eight different types of intelligence in this overview of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.