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University of Wyoming

A Multiplicity of Intelligences

Rather than having just an intelligence defined by IQ, humans are better thought of as having eight, maybe nine, kinds of intelligences, including musical, spatial and kinesthetic

by Howard Gardner

The following includes excerpts from an article by Gardner in the special issue of Scientific American on Intelligence.

As a psychologist, I was surprised by the huge public interest in The Bell Curve, the 1994 book on human intelligence by the late Harvard University psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and policy analyst Charles Murray. Most of the ideas in the book were familiar not only to social scientists but also to the general public. Indeed, educational psychologist Arthur R. Jensen of the University of California at Berkeley as well as Herrnstein had written popularly about the very same ideas in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Perhaps, I reasoned, every quarter-century a new generation of Americans desires to be acquainted with "the psychologist's orthodoxy" about intelligence -- namely, that there is a single, general intelligence, often called g, which is reflected by an individual's intelligence quotient, or IQ.

This concept stands in contrast to my own view developed over the past decades; that human intelligence encompasses a far wider, more universal set of competencies. Currently I count eight intelligences, and there may be more. They include what are traditionally regarded as intelligences, such as linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities, but also some that are not conventionally thought of in that way, such as musical and spatial capacities. These intelligences, which do not always reveal themselves in paper-and-pencil tests, can serve as a basis for more effective educational methods.


The examples of each intelligence are meant for illustrative purposes only and are not exclusive -- one person can excel in several categories. Note also that entire cultures might encourage the development of one or another intelligence; for instance, the seafaring Puluwat of the Caroline Islands in the South Pacific cultivate spatial intelligence and excel at navigation, and the Manus children of New Guinea learn the canoeing and swimming skills that elude the vast majority of seafaring Western children.

1. LINGUISTIC - A mastery and love of words with a desire to explore them. Poets, writers, linguists: T.S. Eliot, Noam Chomsky, W. H. Auden, Maya Angelou.

2. LOGICAL-MATHEMATICAL - Confronting and assessing objects and abstractions and discerning their relations and underlying principles. Mathematicians, scientists, philosophers: Stanislaw Ulam, Alfred North Whitehead, Henri Poincare, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Paul Erdos.

3. MUSCIAL - A competence not only in composing and performing pieces with pitch, rhythm and timbre but also in listening and discerning. May be related to other intelligences, such as linguistic, spatial or bodily-kinesthetic. Composers, conductors, musicians, music critics: Ludwig van Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Midori, John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell.

4. SPATIAL - An ability to perceive the visual work accurately, transform and modify perceptions and re-create visual experiences even without physical stimuli. Architects, artists, sculptors, mapmakers, navigators, chess players: Michelangelo, Frank Lloyd Wright, Garry Kasparove, Louise Nevelson, Helen Frankenthaler, Frida Kahlo.

5. BODILY-KINESTHETIC - Controlling and orchestrating body motions and handling objects skillfully. Dancers, athletes, actors: Marcel Marceau, Martha Graham, Michael Jordan, Alvin Ailey.

6 and 7. PERSONAL INTELLIGENCES - Accurately determining moods, feelings and other mental states in oneself (intrapersonal intelligence) and in others (interpersonal) and using the information as a guide for behavior. Psychiatrists, politicians, religious leaders, anthropologists: Sigmund Freud, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Mead.

8. NATURALIST - Recognizing and categorizing natural objects. Biologists, naturalists: Rachel Carson, John James Audubon, Charles Darwin.

9. EXHISTENTIAL (possible intelligence) - Capturing and pondering the fundamental questions of existence. More evidence, however, is needed to determine whether this is an intelligence. Spiritual leaders, philosophical thinkers: Jean-Paul Sartre, Soren A. Kierkegaard, Dalai Lama.

Look at the Sternberg web sites too. His work on intelligence is aimed at adults as opposed to Gardner's work done primarily with children. His book, The Triarchic Mind in 1986 has become a classic. I've included a paper by Dr. Burton Sisco, formerly of UW, on Sternberg, which you might find interesting.