Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence is a psychological construct that has been studied throughout the history of psychology.and also from other related sciences.

The first proposals that defined it spoke of a rather numerical and/or linguistic type of intelligence. However, authors began to emerge who saw beyond these intelligences.

This is the case of the Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theorywhere this author talks about up to 11 different intelligences. His proposal was a revolution, because it broadened this field of knowledge and allowed people to begin to value other competencies and strengths beyond their “cognitive level”.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory: What Is It?

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is an American psychologist and researcher, known for making great contributions in the field of cognitive abilities.

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences comes from Evolutionary Psychology, and has Piagetian influence (by Jean Piaget). This theory argues that cognitive competence (or intelligence) is actually a set of skillsIn other words, there are many “intelligences” that every individual possesses.

All these intelligences are equally important for daily life; simply, each one of them has specific characteristics, and is used in some fields or others. For example, linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences are the most commonly used in schools or in the academic sphere. However, other types of intelligence within Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory will be used more in other areas.

Thus, Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory contemplates 11 types of differentiated intelligenceswhich are as follows.

Linguistic intelligence

Linguistic intelligence is “classical” intelligence, in the sense that almost every time we listen to talk about intelligence, we think about it (along with logical-mathematical intelligence). It’s about intelligence related to being able to read, write and communicate.i.e. based on language.

It also means being good at learning languages, and being able to express yourself correctly and efficiently. It is one of the most powerful intelligences in schools.

Logical-mathematical intelligence

The second intelligence raised by Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is logic-mathematics. Another one of the “classics”, relates to numbers, calculation, and in short, to mathematics.. It also relates to more logical processes, abstract reasoning, etc.

Along with the previous one, it is one of the most powerful in school, often neglecting other types of intelligence.

3. Spatial intelligence

Spatial intelligence has to do with how we perceive spacesand how we place ourselves within them. It is also related to visual-motor and visual-spatial processes, and to the ability to memorize paths and know how to orient us.

That is why some studies have shown how taxi drivers have a more developed spatial intelligence, because they are used to move around a lot and memorize streets, routes and trajectories.

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4. Musical Intelligence

Musical intelligence is logically related to music, and to the ability to play an instrument well, to be sensitive to musical notes (to know how to differentiate them, to intone them…), to understand a score, to know how to discriminate melodies, rhythms and instruments in a piece of music, to be sensitive to compose, etc.

It is one of the most artistic and creative intelligences.within Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory.

5. Kinetic-body intelligence

Kinetic-body intelligence is related to motor skills and psychomotor skills.. That is to say, it includes the capacities related to knowing how to move in space, coordinating our movements with our actions or our desires, etc. It is especially noticeable in athletes and high performance athletes.

In addition, it allows to move the body with fluidity, to be able to make precise movements, etc.

6. Interpersonal intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence has to do with the ability to relate to others in a fluid and satisfying way.. It also involves the ability to make friendly contacts, to know how to engage in conversation, how to relate, how to help others, and so on.

I mean, it has to do with oneself in relation to others.

7. Intrapersonal Intelligence

The seventh intelligence of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory is intrapersonal; unlike the previous one, it has more to do with oneself.

It encompasses the concepts of self-esteem, self-concept, etc.. and refers to the ability we have to reinforce (or praise) ourselves when we have done something right, or when we need it, as well as the ability we have to be right with ourselves.

This type of intelligence is also related to “emotional intelligence”, which Daniel Goleman would later propose, and which alludes to the capacity to reflect on one’s own emotions (recognize them, manage them, transform them…), to the capacity to empathize, to understand others, to adjust our emotions to the context, etc.

8. Naturalistic Intelligence

Gardner’s Naturalistic Intelligence refers to intelligence related to the environment and natureIn other words, the capacity we have to be sensitive to nature, to know how to take care of it, to appreciate its beauty and its benefits, not to pollute, to recycle, etc.

In other words, it has to do with knowing how to deal with nature, with valuing it and with carrying out actions that protect and care for it.

9. Existential Intelligence

Existential intelligence alludes to the capacity we have to find meaning in our lives.what we do. In other words, it would be our capacity to answer the philosophical questions that have always been asked throughout history: who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going, in a more metaphorical sense, not so much a scientific sense.

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In other words, we can apply it in our own life to find meaning in the things we do, and to find a goal (as well as aspirations) in life.

10. Spiritual Intelligence

This intelligence, together with the following one, is one of the last to be raised in Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. That is to say, it was one of the last that were formulated/added, some time after the proposal of the model of multiple intelligences.

Refers to a more mystical, more abstract intelligence; relates to the ability to have faith in something (be it a religion, an energy…). I mean, it helps to “believe in something” beyond what we see. It also relates to the attainment of a sense of inner peace and well-being.

11. Moral Intelligence

Finally, moral intelligence alludes to the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong, from an ethical or moral point of view. In other words, it allows us to understand why an action can be considered “good” or “bad”, and allows us to have moral values and principles to guide our own action.

It is perhaps the most “philosophical” intelligence, which seeks to act meaningfully and fairly.

Beyond the 11 Intelligences: Contributions by H. Gardner

Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory proposes the evaluation of these types of intelligence only when there is a good reason to do so; moreover, this evaluation should be conducted in a comfortable environment, with familiar cultural materials and roles.

Howard Gardner, too, develops a curriculum and assessment program for preschool childrenThe so-called “Spectrum Project”. Later on, it develops another program: the so-called “Zero Project”, which has the objective of promoting learning, thinking and creativity in children.

On the other hand, Howard Gardner questions the importance of the famous “G Factor” of intelligence, so defended by other authors as the central element of intelligence. That is to say, it questions its explanatory importance outside the formal schooling environment.

Finally, he argues that the origin of intelligence (rather, of “intelligences”) is the interaction that occurs between genetic factors and environmental factors.

Bibliographic references

  • Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences. Theory in practice. Barcelona: Paidós.

  • Gardner, H. (1999). Reformulated intelligence. Multiple Intelligences in the 21st Century. Barcelona: Paidós.

  • Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2018). What is intelligence? From IQ to multiple intelligences. EMSE Publishing.