When I was a kid, there was an awkward process in the first few weeks of the school year when the children were sorted like beans and sent off into different parts of the classroom — or different rooms entirely.
During reading and math, several of my best friends were pulled into one group, and I was pulled into another. I wouldn't see them again until recess.
You probably experienced something like this as well. The “smart” kids were put into accelerated groups; the “average” students were sorted into on-level studies; and those who were “below average” were placed in another group.
It doesn't take long for school children to figure out what's going on, and this sorting process can stick with kids (especially those deemed average or below average) for the rest of their lives.
All of this sorting was based on standardized IQ testing which measures linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. The problem is that IQ testing doesn't paint the full picture of one's intelligence.
IQ tests can limit student potential and perpetuate stereotypes within a classroom setting. Social and economic factors can impact scores, as can a student's motivation to do well on the test.
A traditional IQ assessment tests children in reading comprehension, limits, series, and mathematical knowledge, but they don't test for subjects that include mechanics, social skills or creativity.
We all know that not everyone learns the same way, but in the last 35 years, a new vision of what intelligence means has emerged — the theory of multiple intelligences.
Who Is Howard Gardner?
First described in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardener, professor of education at Harvard University and a developmental psychologist, the theory of multiple intelligences suggests there are nine kinds of intelligence that explain how you interact with the world around you.
He outlined his multiple intelligence theory in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
His theory disputes the notion that there is just a single human intelligence that can be assessed by standard psychometric instruments like IQ tests that typically only account for linguistic, logical, and spatial abilities.
Gardner believes that people have several different ways of processing information, and these ways are relatively independent of one another. The standard intelligence theory emphasizes the correlation among abilities.
Educators and teacher find inspiration in Gardner's theory as it allows for the idea that there is more than one way to define a person's intellect.
Figuring out your type may help you determine where your strengths lie and give you some insight into your personality.
Here is a breakdown of the different types of intelligence:
According to Gardener, the concept of traditional intelligence is extremely limited. It doesn't account for the wide variety of human talents. These are the nine intelligence types that Gardner has defined:
- Intra-Personal Linguistic
Let's go over each of these types so you have a better understanding of where you might fall in the multiple intelligence spectrum.
1. Spatial Intelligence
Also called picture intelligence, spatial intelligence is the ability to think and see the world in three dimensions.
People who are skilled in this form of thought often have an active imagination and excel in things like art, architecture and graphic design.
This is the kind of person who always has a couple of puzzles half-finished around their home or a book of mazes tucked into the bottom of their bag to keep them entertained during long waits.
2. Intra-Personal Intelligence
Unlike it's opposite, interpersonal intelligence, intra-personal intelligence is the understanding of yourself and how you see the world.
These individuals are often shy but are always highly motivated and are heavily involved in the planning of their own lives.
This form of intelligence is useful for those who work in fields where they are studying people, like psychology or philosophy. It's easier to understand the motivations of others if you can recognize your own.
3. Linguistic Intelligence
If you love language and are skilled in the use of the written word, you may find that you're high in linguistic intelligence.
These people often express themselves better in writing than they ever could in speech and typically work in creative careers.
Novelists, public speakers, and journalists all fall into this category — people who are skilled with words and know how to organize them into pleasing and informative sentences.
4. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence refers to individuals who are fit and skilled in the use of their bodies.
People who fall into this category are most often dancers and athletes, but surgeons and others who must perform extraordinarily delicate and controlled procedures are also thought to have high levels of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
5. Interpersonal Intelligence
We've already discussed the kind of intelligence needed to know yourself. Now we're moving on to interpersonal intelligence: the skills you need to know other people.
These are often referred to as ‘people skills' — the ability to communicate with others effectively both verbally and nonverbally.
You'll often see these individuals in positions that allow them to work with people — teachers, actors, politicians and others who spend most of their time around other people all demonstrate high levels of interpersonal intelligence.
6. Existential Intelligence
Have you ever spent a lot of time wondering about the nature of the universe, where we go when we die or how we got here in the first place?
If so, you may rank high in existential intelligence. People who are existentially intelligent might also fall into one or more of the other categories — it isn't a type of intelligence that tends to lend itself to categorization.
7. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
Individuals who have a good relationship with numbers tend to rank high on the logical-mathematical intelligence scale.
It's easy for these individuals to recognize patterns, calculate solutions to complicated problems and use abstract thought to make connections that the rest of us might miss.
People who excel in careers in science and math often rank high in this form of intelligence, as well as detectives and those who need to use deductive reasoning in their line of work. Sherlock Holmes likely ranked high in this type of intelligence.
8. Musical Intelligence
Musical intelligence is relatively self-explanatory. It is the ability to create and recreate music with a variety of instruments, possibly including your voice.
Singers, composers, conductors and most other people involved in the music industry fall under this category.
These individuals may or may not seek out a career in music, but all of them are often found singing to themselves or drumming on whatever surface is in front of them.
9. Naturalist Intelligence
Naturalist intelligence is frequently found in people who seek careers where they can work in or with nature.
These individuals are skilled in finding patterns among living and non-living things that exist in nature. Their career choices can be as varied as the world that surrounds them.
Naturalists may find work in botany or zoology or even be just as happy working as a chef, gardener or hunter.
Finding your Intelligence Type
According to Howard Gardener's website, there are no official intelligence tests to determine where your multiple intelligence strengths lie, though others have developed unofficial tests to help give you an idea of where you fall.
This one is fairly comprehensive, though it does leave out the existential intelligence option.
Gardener doesn’t believe in self-assessment when it comes to his multiple intelligence theory, for two primary reasons:
- There is no scientific evidence to suggest that people have any greater insight into their own strengths and weaknesses than an assessor.
- Most people don’t know the difference between preferences and interests, which makes it difficult to provide an accurate assessment.
Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are can be helpful in that it provides you with a foundation to help you become more successful in your career or in making changes in your life, but assessing those strengths and weaknesses yourself doesn't provide you with the whole picture.
Intelligence or Skill?
Gardner's book came out more than 30 years ago, but time has not lessened the debate about whether his intelligence types are actually forms of intelligence or if they're skills that can be learned.
Even three decades later, the multiple intelligence theory is still controversial. Many old-school purists believe that these are simply skills that can be learned rather than inherent traits.
They hold to the idea that the things we learn in school, like math and language, are the true forms of intelligence, and if you don't excel in either of those, then you're just not intelligent.
Whatever you classify as intelligence, one fact is becoming increasingly clear. We need to change the way we look at education and intelligence because the newest generations of students are refusing to be pigeonholed into a single classification.
Creative pursuits that have always been more rewarding are starting to become more lucrative as well, and these innovative individuals (often ones that excel in linguistic, spatial or musical intelligence) don't thrive in a traditionally structured schooling environment.
Where do you think you fall on the multiple intelligence scale?
Are you a balance of all nine types or do you lean more toward the creative side?
Or maybe you lean more toward the logical side of things? You might also fall right in the middle, excelling in intra- and interpersonal communication.
Without an official test and someone to proctor it for you, it might be hard to determine where you fall.
Unofficial tests can be a useful tool, but be careful when using one to assess yourself. You may not get an accurate picture of the kind of career or field in which you could thrive in.
When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter if we're dealing with two types of intelligence or 200 — everyone thinks a little differently, and that's what makes us able to survive as a species.
If we all thought the same way, life would be pretty boring!