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Multiple Intelligence Theory

Howard Gardner is a psychologist and Professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. 
Gardner published, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. 

  • Gardner Proposes
      • A pluralistic view of intelligence
      • Individuals have 9 or more relatively autonomous intelligences
      • Individuals draw on these intelligences, individually and corporately, to create products and solve problems that are relevant to the societies in which they live
      • Intelligence is NOT the same as style
      • Intelligence is the combination of inherited traits and pertinent environmental experiences
          • Intelligence is a: (Gardner, 2011)
              • Property of all human beings (we all possess all forms)
              • Dimension on which human beings differ (no one has the same profile)
              • Way in which one carries out a task in virtue of one's goals
          • Piaget (1963) defined intelligence as, “an instance of biological adaptation,” (p. 3)
              • Organizing immediate environment
      • Subsequently an educator should individualize (meet the needs and capabilities of each learner) and pluralize (present/engage learners in a variety of ways), (Gardner, 2011, p. xvi)​

Criteria for Identification of an Intelligence 

(Gardner, 1983)

  • Potential isolation by brain damage
  • The existence of idiots savants, prodigies and other exceptional individuals
  • Identifiable core operation or set of operations
  • A distinctive developmental history, along with a definable set of expert "end-state" performances
  • An evolutionary history and evolutionary plausibility
  • Support from experimental psychological tasks
  • Support from psychometric findings
  • Susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system

Types of Intelligence Image


9 Types of Intelligence

Summary source: Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple intelligences in the classroom, (3rd ed). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

  • Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union. Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and crafts people exhibit well-developed bodily kinesthetic intelligence.

Existential Intelligence

  • Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why we die, and how did we get here.

Interpersonal Intelligence

    • Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and interact effectively with others. It involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives. Teachers, social workers, actors, and politicians all exhibit interpersonal intelligence. Young adults with this kind of intelligence are leaders among their peers, are good at communicating, and seem to understand others’ feelings and motives.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

    • Intrapersonal intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directioning one’s life. Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the human condition. It is evident in psychologist, spiritual leaders, and philosophers. These young adults may be shy. They are very aware of their own feelings and are self-motivated.

Linguistic Intelligence

  • Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. Linguistic intelligence allows us to understand the order and meaning of words and to apply meta-linguistic skills to reflect on our use of language. Linguistic intelligence is the most widely shared human competence and is evident in poets, novelists, journalists, and effective public speakers. Young adults with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading, telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

  • Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complete mathematical operations. It enables us to perceive relationships and connections and to use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns. Logical intelligence is usually well developed in mathematicians, scientists, and detectives. Young adults with lots of logical intelligence are interested in patterns, categories, and relationships. They are drawn to arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments.

Musical Intelligence

  • Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone. This intelligence enables us to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners. Interestingly, there is often an affective connection between music and the emotions; and mathematical and musical intelligences may share common thinking processes. Young adults with this kind of intelligence are usually singing or drumming to themselves. They are usually quite aware of sounds others may miss.

Naturalist Intelligence

  • Naturalist intelligence designates the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef. It is also speculated that much of our consumer society exploits the naturalist intelligences, which can be mobilized in the discrimination among cars, sneakers, kinds of makeup, and the like.

Spatial Intelligence

  • Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination. Sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and architects all exhibit spatial intelligence. Young adults with this kind of intelligence may be fascinated with mazes or jigsaw puzzles, or spend free time drawing or daydreaming.

More on Multiple Intelligence Theory


  • Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple intelligences in the classroom, (3rd ed). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
  • Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. NY: Basic books
  • Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. NY: Basic Books
  • Piaget, J. (1963). The origins of intelligence in children. NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.
May 26, 2022