Are you a “Genius”.. ALL of the time?

Theory of Multiple Intelligences

The theory of multiple intelligences was proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983 to more accurately define the concept of intelligence and to address the question whether methods which claim to measure intelligence (or aspects thereof) are truly scientific.

Gardner’s theory argues that intelligence, particularly as it is traditionally defined, does not sufficiently encompass the wide variety of abilities humans display. In his conception, a child who masters multiplication easily is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles to do so. The second child may be stronger in another kind of intelligence and therefore 1) may best learn the given material through a different approach, 2) may excel in a field outside of mathematics, or 3) may even be looking at the multiplication process at a fundamentally deeper level, which can result in a seeming slowness that hides a mathematical intelligence that is potentially higher than that of a child who easily memorizes the multiplication table.

The multiple intelligences

According to multiple intelligence theory, there are eight basic types of intelligence.

  • Visual-spatial
  • Verbal-linguistic
  • Logical-mathematical
  • Bodily-kinesthetic
  • Musical-rhythmic
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Naturalistic

 

Visual-spatial

This area deals with the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye, so to speak and spatial judgment. Careers which suit those with this intelligence include architect.

 

Verbal-linguistic

This area has to do with words, spoken or written. People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

Careers that suit those with this intelligence include writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians, poets, and teachers.

 

Logical-mathematical

This area has to do with logic, abstractions, reasoning, and numbers. While it is often assumed that those with this intelligence naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer programming and other logical or numerical activities, a more accurate definition places less emphasis on traditional mathematical ability and more reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. It correlates strongly with traditional concepts of “intelligence” or IQ.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and economists.[1]

 

Bodily-kinesthetic

In theory, people who have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence should learn better by involving muscular movement (e.g. getting up and moving around into the learning experience), and are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance. They may enjoy acting or performing, and in general they are good at building and making things. They often learn best by doing something physically, rather than [by] reading or hearing about it. Those with strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence seem to use what might be termed muscle memory – they remember things through their body such as verbal memory or images.

Careers that suit those with this intelligence include: athletes, dancers, musicians, actors, surgeons, doctors, builders, police officers, and soldiers. Although these careers can be duplicated through virtual simulation, they will not produce the actual physical learning that is needed in this intelligence.[2]

Musical-rhythmic

This area has to do with rhythm, music, and hearing. Those who have a high level of musical-rhythmic intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. They normally have good pitch and may even have absolute pitch, and are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. Since there is a strong auditory component to this intelligence, those who are strongest in it may learn best via lecture. Language skills are typically highly developed in those whose base intelligence is musical. In addition, they will sometimes use songs or rhythms to learn and memorize information.

Careers that suit those with this intelligence include instrumentalists, singers, conductors, disc-jockeys, orators, writers and composers.

 

Interpersonal

This area has to do with interaction with others. In theory, people who have a high interpersonal intelligence tend to be extroverts, characterized by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. They communicate effectively and empathize easily with others, and may be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate.

Careers that suit those with this intelligence include sales, politicians, managers, teachers, and social workers.[3]

 

Intrapersonal

This area has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities. People with intrapersonal intelligence are intuitive and typically introverted. They are skillful at deciphering their own feelings and motivations. This refers to having a deep understanding of the self; what are your strengths/ weaknesses, what makes you unique, can you predict your own reactions/ emotions.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, lawyers, and writers. People with intrapersonal intelligence also prefer to work alone.

 

Naturalistic

This area has to do with nature, nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings. Careers which suit those with this intelligence include naturalists, farmers, and gardeners.

 

Existential

This area has do to with philosophical issues of life. The learn best by thinking analytical questions.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include readers, religious speakers.

 

Use in education

Traditionally, schools have emphasized the development of logical intelligence and linguistic intelligence (mainly reading and writing). In fact, IQ tests (given to about 1,000,000 students each year) focus mostly on logical and linguistic intelligence. While many students function well in this environment, there are those who do not. Gardner’s theory argues that students will be better served by a broader vision of education, wherein teachers use different methodologies, exercises and activities to reach all students, not just those who excel at linguistic and logical intelligence.

Many teachers see the theory as simple common sense. Some say that it validates what they already know: that students learn in different ways. On the other hand, James Traub‘s article in The New Republic notes that Gardner’s system has not been accepted by most academics in intelligence or teaching.

George Miller, the esteemed psychologist credited with discovering the mechanisms by which short term memory operates, wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Gardner’s argument boiled down to “hunch and opinion” (p. 20). Gardner’s subsequent work has done very little to shift the balance of opinion. A recent issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law devoted to the study of intelligence contained virtually no reference to Gardner’s work. Most people who study intelligence view M.I. theory as rhetoric rather than science, and they’re divided on the virtues of the rhetoric.

The application of the theory of multiple intelligences varies widely. It runs the gamut from a teacher who, when confronted with a student having difficulties, uses a different approach to teach the material, to an entire school using MI as a framework. In general, those who subscribe to the theory strive to provide opportunities for their students to use and develop all the different intelligences, not just the few at which they naturally excel.

A Harvard-led study of 41 schools using the theory came to the conclusion that in these schools there was “a culture of hard work, respect, and caring; a faculty that collaborated and learned from each other; classrooms that engaged students through constrained but meaningful choices, and a sharp focus on enabling students to produce high-quality work.”[4]

Of the schools implementing Gardner’s theory, the most well-known is New City School, in St. Louis, Missouri, which has been using the theory since 1988. The school’s teachers have produced two books for teachers, Celebrating Multiple Intelligences and Succeeding With Multiple Intelligences and the principal, Thomas Hoerr, has written Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School as well as many articles on the practical applications of the theory. The school has also hosted four conferences, each attracting over 200 educators from around the world and remains a valuable resource for teachers interested in implementing the theory in their own classrooms. Thomas Armstrong argues that Waldorf education organically engages all of Gardner’s eight intelligences.[5]

Questions

Questions raised about Gardner’s theory include:

  • What kind of correlations exist between the intelligences, or are they completely independent?
  • Should schools be focusing on teaching to students’ strengths or on remediating where they are weak?
  • To what extent should students be aware of their profile in the various intelligences?

 

Opposing views

The definition of intelligence

As one would expect from a theory that redefines intelligence, one of the major criticisms of the theory is that it is ad hoc. The criticism is that Gardner is not expanding the definition of the word “intelligence”; rather, he denies the existence of intelligence, as is traditionally understood, and instead uses the word “intelligence” whenever other people have traditionally used words like “ability“. This practice has been criticized by Robert J. Sternberg (1983, 1991), Eysenck (1994), and Scarr (1985).

Defenders of MI theory argue that the traditional definition of intelligence is too narrow, and thus broader definition more accurately reflects the differing ways in which humans think and learn. They would state that the traditional interpretation of intelligence collapses under the weight of its own logic and definition, noting that intelligence is usually defined as the cognitive or mental capacity of an individual, which by logical necessity would include all forms of mental qualities, not simply the ones most transparent to standardized I.Q. tests.

Some of these criticisms arise from the fact that Gardner has not settled on a single definition of intelligence. He originally defined it as the ability to solve problems that have value in at least one culture, or as something that a student is interested in. However, he added a disclaimer that he has no fixed definition, and his classification is more of an artistic judgment than fact:

Ultimately, it would certainly be desirable to have an algorithm for the selection of an intelligence, such that any trained researcher could determine whether a candidate’s intelligence met the appropriate criteria. At present, however, it must be admitted that the selection (or rejection) of a candidate’s intelligence is reminiscent more of an artistic judgment than of a scientific assessment. (Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, 1985)

Gardner argues that by calling linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities intelligences, but not artistic, musical, athletic, etc. abilities, the former are needlessly aggrandized. Many critics balk at this widening of the definition, saying that it ignores “the connotation of intelligence…[which] has always connoted the kind of thinking skills that makes one successful in school.”[6]

Gardner writes “I balk at the unwarranted assumption that certain human abilities can be arbitrarily singled out as intelligence while others cannot”[7] Critics hold that given this statement, any interest or ability is now redefined as “intelligence”. Thus, by adopting this theory, studying intelligence becomes difficult, because it diffuses into the broader concept of ability or talent. Gardner’s addition of the naturalistic intelligence and conceptions of the existential and moral intelligences are seen as fruits of this diffusion. Defenders of the MI theory would argue that this is simply a recognition of the broad scope of inherent mental abilities, and that such an exhaustive scope by nature defies a simple, one-dimensional classification such as an assigned IQ value. They would claim that such one-dimensional values are typically of limited value in predicting the real world application of unique mental abilities.

Andreas Demetriou suggests that theories which overemphasize the autonomy of the domains are as simplistic as the theories that overemphasize the role of general intelligence and ignore the domains. He agrees with Gardner that there indeed are domains of intelligence that are relevantly autonomous of each other. In fact, some of the domains, such as verbal, spatial, mathematical, and social intelligence are identified by most lines of research in psychology. However, in his theory, one of the Neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, Gardner is criticized for underestimating the effects exerted on the various domains of intelligences by processes that define general processing efficiency, such as speed of processing, executive functions, and working memory, and hyper-cognitive processes underlying self-awareness and self-regulation.

All of these processes are integral components of general intelligence that regulate the functioning and development of different domains of intelligence. In fact, a 2006 study by Visser and colleagues which was designed to test the autonomy of Gardner’s intelligences showed clearly that most of them are heavily dependent on the general factor of intelligence.[8]

Thus, it is argued that the domains are to a large extent expressions of the condition of the general processes. At the same time, the domains may vary because of their constitutional differences but also differences in individual preferences and inclinations. Moreover, their functioning both canalizes and influences the operation of the general processes.[9][10] Thus, one cannot satisfactorily specify the intelligence of an individual or design effective interventions programs unless both the general processes and the domains of interest are evaluated (Demetriou & Kazi, 2006; Demetriou, Mouyi, & Spanoudis, 2010).

Lack of empirical evidence

Some critics argue that many of Gardner’s “intelligences” actually correlate with the g factor, supporting the idea of single dominant type of intelligence. For example, Carroll (1993) argued that verbal comprehension, auditory processing, visual perception and ability in logic and mathematics all correlate with each other and are actually subsets of global intelligence. This gives further support for a theory of a single type intelligence.

A critical review of MI theory argues that there is little empirical evidence to support it:

“To date there have been no published studies that offer evidence of the validity of the multiple intelligences. In 1994 Sternberg reported finding no empirical studies. In 2000 Allix reported finding no empirical validating studies, and at that time Gardner and Connell conceded that there was “little hard evidence for MI theory” (2000, p. 292). In 2004 Sternberg and Grigerenko stated that there were no validating studies for multiple intelligences, and in 2004 Gardner asserted that he would be “delighted were such evidence to accrue” (p. 214), and he admitted that “MI theory has few enthusiasts among psychometricians or others of a traditional psychological background” because they require “psychometric or experimental evidence that allows one to prove the existence of the several intelligences” (2004, p. 214).” (Waterhouse, 2006a, p. 208).

The same review presents evidence to demonstrate that cognitive neuroscience research does not support the theory of Multiple Intelligences:

“the human brain is unlikely to function via Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Taken together the evidence for the inter-correlations of sub-skills of IQ measures, the evidence for a shared set of genes associated with mathematics, reading, and g, and the evidence for shared and overlapping “what is it?” and “where is it?” neural processing pathways, and shared neural pathways for language, music, motor skills, and emotions suggest that it is unlikely that that each of Gardner’s intelligences could operate “via a different set of neural mechanisms” (1999, p. 99). Equally important, the evidence for the “what is it?” and “where is it?” processing pathways, for Kahneman’s two decision-making systems, and for adapted cognition modules suggests that these cognitive brain specializations have evolved to address very specific problems in our environment.

 

Because Gardner claimed that that the intelligences are innate potentialities related to a general content area, Multiple intelligence theory lacks a rationale for the phylogenetic emergence of the intelligences.” (From Waterhouse, 2006a, p. 213).

A number of articles have surveyed the use of Gardner’s ideas and conclude that there is little to no academically substantiated evidence that his ideas work in practice. Steven A. Stahl found that most of the previous studies which claimed to show positive results had major flaws:

Among others, Marie Carbo claims that her learning styles work is based on research. {I discuss Carbo because she publishes extensively on her model and is very prominent in the workshop circuit…} But given the overwhelmingly negative findings in the published research, I wondered what she was citing, and about a decade ago, I thought it would be interesting to take a look. Reviewing her articles, I found that out of 17 studies she had cited, only one was published. Fifteen were doctoral dissertations and 13 of these came out of one university—St. John’s University in New York, Carbo’s alma mater. None of these had been in a peer-refereed journal. When I looked closely at the dissertations and other materials, I found that 13 of the 17 studies that supposedly support her claim had to do with learning styles based on something other than modality.[11]

To date, the current No Child Left Behind high-stakes test legislation does not encompass the multiple intelligences framework in the exams’ design and/or implementation.[12]

 

 

Notes

  1. Ibid, p. 703
  2. Gardner, “Heteroglossia: A Global Perspective” Interdisciplinary Journal of Theory of Post-Pedagogical Studies (May 1984)
  3. Gardner “Interpersonal Communication amongst Multiple Subjects: A Study in Redundancy,” Experimental Psychology (2002)
  4. Kornhaber, “Psychometric Superiority? Check Your Facts,” 2004
  5. “Waldorf education embodies in a truly organic sense all of Howard Gardner’s seven intelligences…not simply an amalgam of the seven intelligences. Many schools are currently attempting to construct curricula based on Gardner’s model simply through an additive process (what can we add to what we have already got?). Steiner’s approach, however, was to begin with a deep inner vision of the child and the child’s needs and build a curriculum around that vision.” Thomas Armstrong, cited in Eric Oddleifson, Boston Public Schools As Arts-Integrated Learning Organizations: Developing a High Standard of Culture for All
  6. Willinggam, “Check the Facts: Reframing the Mind,” 2004
  7. Gardner, Howard (1998). “A Reply to Perry D. Klein’s ‘Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight'”. 96–102. http://www.jstor.org/pss/1585790
  8. Visser, B. A., Ashton, M. C., & Vernon, P. A. (2006). Beyond g: Putting multiple intelligences theory to the test. Intelligence, 34, 487-502.
  9. Demetriou, A., Efklides, A., & Platsidou, M. (1993). The architecture and dynamics of developing mind: Experiential structuralism as a frame for unifying cognitive developmental theories. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 58, Serial Number 234.
  10. Demetriou, A., Christou, C., Spanoudis, G., & Platsidou, M. (2002). The development of mental processing: Efficiency, working memory, and thinking. Monographs of the Society of Research in Child Development, 67, Serial Number 268.

  11. Stahl, “Different Strokes for Different Folks: A Critique of Learning Styles”
  12. Rothstein, R., & Jacobsen, R. (2006). “What Is Basic?”. Principal Leadership, 7(4), 14-19.

 

References

   

  • Demetriou, A., & Kazi, S. (2006). Self-awareness in g (with processing efficiency and reasoning). Intelligence, 34, 297-317.
  • Demetriou, A., Mouyi, A., & Spanoudis, G. (2010). The development of mental processing. Nesselroade, J. R. (2010). Methods in the study of life-span human development: Issues and answers. In W. F. Overton (Ed.), Biology, cognition and methods across the life-span. Volume 1 of the Handbook of life-span development (pp. 36–55), Editor-in-chief: R. M. Lerner. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Eysenck, M. W (1994) “Intelligence”. In M. W. Eysenck, (ed.), The Blackwell dictionary of cognitive psychology (pp. 192–193). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1983) “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” New York: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1993) “Multiple Intelligences: The Theory In Practice.” New York: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1999) “Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century.” New York: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1998) “A Reply to Perry D. Klein’s ‘Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight'” Canadian Journal of Education, 23(1), 96-102.
  • Gardner, Howard, and Seana Moran. (2006). The science of Multiple Intelligences theory: A response to Lynn Waterhouse. Educational Psychologist, Volume 41, Issue 4, Fall 2006, pp. 227–232.
  • Gardner, H. (2004) Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, p. 196.
  • Kavale, Kenneth, A., and Steven R. Forness, 1987. “Substance over style: Assessing the efficacy of modality testing and teaching”, Exceptional Children 54:228-239.
  • Klein, Perry, D. (1997) “Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight: A critique of Gardner’s theory”, Canadian Journal of Education, 22(4), 377-394.
  • Klein, Perry, D. (1998) “A response to Howard Gardner: Falsifiability, empirical evidence, and pedagogical usefulness in educational psychology” Canadian Journal of Education, 23(1), 103-112.
  • Kornhaber, Mindy. (2004) “Psychometric Superiority? Check the Facts”
  • Kornhaber, Mindy, Edward Fierros and Shirley Veenema. (2003) “Multiple Intelligences: Best Ideas from Research and Practice”
  • Lohman, D. F.(2001). “Fluid intelligence, inductive reasoning, and working memory: Where the theory of Multiple Intelligences falls short.” In N. Colangelo & S. Assouline (Eds.), Talent Development IV: Proceedings from the 1998 Henry B. & Jocelyn Wallace National Research Symposium on talent development (pp. 219–228). Scottsdale, AZ: Gifted Psychology Press.
  • Scarr, S. (1985) “An authors frame of mind [Review of Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences]” New Ideas in Psychology, 3(1), 95-100.
  • Sempsey, James, “The Pedagogical Implications Of Cognitive Science and Howard Gardner’s M.I. Theory (A Critique)” 10.19.93
  • Steven A. Stahl “Different Strokes for Different Folks?: A Critique of Learning Styles”, American Educator, Fall, 199 [1]
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1983, Winter) “How much Gall is too much gall? {Review of Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences}”. Contemporary Education Review, 2(3), 215-224.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1988) The triarchic mind: A new theory of human intelligence New York: Penguin Books.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1991) “Death, taxes, and bad intelligence tests”, Intelligence, 15(3), 257-270.
  • Tupper, K.W. (2002) Entheogens and Existential Intelligence: The Use of Plant Teachers as Cognitive Tools. Canadian Journal of Education. 27(4), 499-516
  • Traub, James (1998, October 26). Multiple intelligence disorder, The New Republic
  • Waterhouse, Lynn. (2006a). Multiple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A critical review. Educational Psychologist, 41(4), Fall 2006, pp. 207–225.
  • Waterhouse, Lynn. (2006b). “Inadequate Evidence for Multiple Intelligences, Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence Theories.” Educational Psychologist, 41(4), Fall 2006, pp. 247–255.

Willingham, Daniel T. (2004) “Check the Facts: Reframing the Mind,” Education Next

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