In 1979 a young graduate student in cognitive-development psychology, Howard Gardner and a group of colleagues received a grant from the Bernard Van Leer Foundation. The money was intended to, “ …produce a scholarly synthesis of what had been established in the biological, social, and cultural sciences about the nature and realization of human potential ( Gardner, 1999, p.32 ).” Four years later, Gardner published his discoveries, including his infamous Theory of Multiple Intelligences, in the 1983 book, Frames of Mind ( Gardner, 1999 ).
Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory originally contained seven intelligences, and defined an intelligence as, “ the ability to solve problems or to create products that are valued within one or more cultural settings ( Gardner, 1993, Gardner,1999, p.33).” Since that time, Gardner has expanded his list to ten, following the addition of three more theoretical intelligences ( Gardner, 1999 ). His theory has revolutionized the methods in which children are taught, and spawned new methods of recognizing an individual’s cognitive abilities.
Linguistic, or verbal, intelligence is identified as the first of the seven intelligences. Children with this kind of intelligence enjoy reading, writing, or other creative tasks such as story telling or crossword puzzles ( Abernathy, 1999 ). These children will be exceptionally apt at understanding the order and meaning of words, persuading others, and more easily recognizing and utilizing the humorous aspects of language( Edwords, 1999 ). T.S. Eliot possessed this intelligence, as evidenced by his creation of a magazine, dubbed “ Fireside,” at the age of ten. He composed eight complete issues in a three-day period, each including poems, adventure stories, humor, and a gossip column ( Gardner, 1993 ).
A compliment to those with verbal intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence includes various abilities such as inductive and deductive reasoning, numbers and relationships, and patterns ( Edwords, 1999 ). Children with this gift will exhibit an interest in strategy games, patterns, and experiments ( Abernathy, 1999 ). People with this gift also display an incredibly rapid process of problem solving. They may cope with many variables at once and create numerous hypotheses. In the same process, all hypotheses will be quickly evaluated, then accepted or rejected in turn. This intelligence is also considered the “…archetype of ‘raw intelligence’ or problem solving faculty that…cuts across domains ( Gardner, 1993, p.20 ).”
Before the introduction of advanced navigational systems, sailors steered their course by position of the stars, weather patterns, and water color. These seafarers had the gift of spatial intelligence. They had the ability to envision the position of certain islands and landmasses as reference points. They could not physically see the landmarks, but formulated a mental picture of their journey ( Gardner, 1983, Gardner, 1999 ). People with spatial intelligence think in images and pictures. Children may be fascinated by jigsaw puzzles, or exceptional with three-dimensional toys such as Legos™ or Tinker Toys™ ( Abernathy, 1999 ). Individuals gifted in this area can easily find their way in unfamiliar spaces and express talent in graphic representation. Students with this quality excel in geometry, trigonometry, and architecture due to their ability to recognize relationships of objects in space and to accurately perceive figures from different angle
Musical intelligence is easily recognized, especially in young children. Musical prodigies abound in our society as evidenced by the young Yehudi Menuhin in the late 1970s. He witnessed a performance of the San Francisco Orchestra at three years old. He demanded a violin for his birthday, received it, and became an international performer by the age of ten ( Gardner, 1993 ). Children of musical intelligence display a mature appreciation of music early in their childhood. They are sensitive to sound, usually aware of some sounds others may miss, and these children are seen frequently drumming or singing to themselves. Sensing characteristics of a tone and easy reproduction of melodies or rhythm are also distinguishable characteristics of musically intelligent individuals ( Abernathy, 1999, Edwords, 1999 ).
Many athletes exhibit the quality of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. This particular aspect of the multiple intelligence theory may not contain the cognitive processes of the other intelligences, but there exists a clearly defined developmental series in young children. This development schedule qualifies bodily-kinesthetic knowledge as an intelligence ( Gardner, 1999 ). This intelligence may take longer to expose itself, but once it surfaces, the gifted individuals are often athletic, dancers, or exhibit excellent manual dexterity, as in crafts, woodworking, or sewing (Abernathy, 1999 ).
The remaining two intelligences are compliments of each other. Interpersonal intelligence is the capacity to notice, or read, the intentions, desires, and emotions of others. Anne Sullivan possessed this intelligence, which enabled her to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller ( Gardner, 1993 ). In a classroom setting, children with this ability tend to be leaders among their peers and understand the feelings and motivations of others ( Abernathy, 1999 ). They also work wonderfully in groups, assisted by their effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills ( Edwords, 1999 ).
The opposite of interpersonal intelligence is intrapersonal intelligence, “…The knowledge of the internal aspects of a person ( one’s self ) ( Gardner, 1993, p.24 ).” Individuals with this intelligence understand themselves and their feelings. This intelligence requires evidence and support from language, either written, spoken, or sung. Therefore, individuals with interpersonal intelligence usually exhibit strong linguistic intelligence ( Gardner, 1993 ). Children with this gift may be shy, overly aware of their own feelings, and utilize self-motivation as opposed to outside influences
Gardner has recently added one more intelligence to his list, with two more aspects of cognitive abilities not yet labeled as intelligences. Naturalist intelligence was modeled by Charles Darwin, and allows people to distinguish among, classify, and utilize features of the environment ( Edwords, 1999 ). Just as most children master language at an early age, most children also exhibit a tendency to explore the world of nature. However, some children display extraordinary abilities to distinguish and identify objects and distinctions in the natural world. Many autobiographical texts of biologists document a keen interest in plants and animals accompanied by a desire to identify, classify, and interact with them. The taxonomic systems for classifying plants and animals in many cultures satisfies the criteria for including naturalist intelligence as the eighth aspect of Gardner’s theory ( Gardner, 1999 ).
After naturalist intelligence there have been no further additions to Gardner’s intelligences. One considered for inclusion was that of spiritual intelligence. Eluding to Gardner’s definition of an intelligence, revised from the original in 1983, now stating that an intelligence is a “ biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture ( Gardner, 1999 ),” the intellectual powers portrayed in Buddha or Christ do not fit the problem solving or product creation that satisfies the criteria for an intelligence. Therefore, Gardner chose not to include spiritual intelligence in his list of multiple intelligences ( Gardner, 1999, Edwords, 1999 ).
The final aspect, presently under scrutiny by Gardner, is that of existential intelligence. People possessing this intelligence understand the human condition according to the significance of life, the meaning of death, and experiences such as love for another person or total immersion in a work of art or literature. There are well-defined stages of sophistication in this aspect of cognitive abilities, and it’s roots come just prior to the Stone Age. Early humans may have used this grappling with existential issues as a primary form of cognitive abilities. For these reasons, existentialist intelligence has a greater chance of becoming an intelligence than the already dismissed spiritual intelligence ( Gardner, 1999 ).
Howard Gardner has undoubtedly contributed one of the most widely accepted theories of intelligence and cognitive abilities in our present society. His theory has altered the methods in which children are taught and given some insight into discovering the basis of an individuals cognitive strengths and weaknesses. His theory will unquestionably continue to fuel debate over the nature of intelligence. This will ensure that Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences will continue to shape the views of intelligence and cognitive ability for years to come.
Abernathy, M. 1999 Howard Gardner’s Seven Types of Intelligence www.swopnet.com/ed/TAG/7_Intelligences.htm(10/26/2000)
Edwords, A. 1999. Components of the Multiple Intelligences http://boisdarc.tamu-commerce.edu/www/e/edwords/components.htm(10/27/2000)
Garner, H. 1983. Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York, Basic Books
Gardner, H. 1993. Multiple Intelligences; The Theory in Practice. New York, Basic Books
Gardner, H. 1999. Intelligence Reframed. New York, Basic Books