Multiple Intelligences

Posted by: Aneesh Lohani

For the purpose of simplicity, intelligence may be defined as mental faculties, such as, discernment, wit, acumen, brilliance, smartness, shrewdness, perspicacity, sagacity, etc. Intelligence also applies to facts and figures in general and sensitive information of investigative, political, military and/or national value. Other connotations of the word are irrelevant to this essay and will be left out. The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a measure of one’s intelligence – an assessment test used in schools and for various purposes since the early 1920s.

Dr. Howard Gardner, an American scholar of psychology, released a book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences” in 1983 to advocate reforms in IQ testing standards used in American schools that were mainly focused on mathematical and verbal reasoning ability of students to measure their intelligence. The theory has received backing from some school teachers that have found appreciable results of its application in schools, whereas the scientific community has criticized the theory on grounds that the proposed forms of intelligence are simply, human abilities, and are not at all detached from the broader connotations of intelligence. The theory has also been criticized and refuted due to lack of insufficient empirical evidence.

The purpose of the theory was to identify various forms of intelligence in students early, so that their special cognitive profile could be developed accordingly. If one seen lagging in one form of intelligence was doing well on others, he or she could be trained for professions that would suit him or her better. On the other hand, students found lagging in one form of intelligence could be helped to develop the same by stimulating their other receptive faculties to relay information. A simple example of this principle is the use of visual training to educate people who do not ideally digest auditory information, or the use of graphical illustration to project ideas.

The three methods most people use to learn and digest information are: a) auditory input – instructions through voice (lectures in classrooms), b) Visual input – explanation of ideas through graphical, spatial and diagrammatic use, and c) Practical input – communication of ideas and information through practical demonstration and hands-on approach. Most people fit the first two profiles, while a very small percentage of people learn better through the third method. In his book “Frames of Mind”, Gardner suggested seven forms of intelligences:

1) Logical/Mathematical
2) Linguistic/Verbal
3) Visual/Spatial
4) Bodily-Kinesthetic
5) Musical/Rhythmic
6) Interpersonal
7) Intrapersonal

Later Added:

8) Naturalist
9) Spiritual (later dropped)
10) Existential
11) Moral (later dropped)

Other Forms of Intelligences:

Savant Syndrome

The following interpretation of the various forms of intelligence are my personal analysis of the concepts and may vary from what Gardner, himself, may advocate.

Logical/Mathematical: this applies to human faculty of ratiocination – recognizing relationships, patterns, rules and/or incongruence to form logical conclusions on a matter, whether derived from mathematical analysis or befitting axiomatic realities. For example, if all children in planet X are blind, and if child A is found on planet X; child A, by virtue of logic, must also be judged to be blind. But, if all children of Group A in planet X are blind; some in group B, who are also in Group A, are also blind; and if some in Group C belong to group B, one cannot say with certitude that anyone in Group C is necessarily blind, because those in Group C that belong to Group B could be the non-blind ones. Mathematical intelligence applies to problem solving capacities where rules (mathematical concepts or logic) are applied to find solutions. A simple example of a mathematical intelligence test is to find the next number in the series: 4, 9, 11, 15, 25, 30, 32, 36, 46, _. If each number in the sequence is subtracted by the following number and plotted, a repeating pattern emerges (5, 2, 4, 10, 5, 2, 4, 10). Therefore, the next number in the series must be greater than 5. Logically/mathematically intelligent people learn better through visual and practical input.

People who excel in this form of intelligence make competent researchers, physicists, mathematicians, economists, computer engineers, accountants, chess players, etc. Due to their greatly developed reasoning abilities, people who excel in this ability also make prolific lawyers, engineers and managers. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Jack Walsh, Adam Smith, Leonardo Da Vinci, etc are some among many logically/mathematically intelligent people. The best way to develop and/or sustain this ability is through brain teaser games, strategic computer games, So Du Ku puzzles, other puzzles, etc.

Linguistic/Verbal: this applies to creative, abstract, allusive, jocose and intelligent use of language. Highly developed listening and communication skills; natural ability to express oneself in intelligent, creative, figurative and philosophical contexts; strong arsenal of vocabulary, and more importantly, remarkable abilities to gather implied connotations of complex ideas and sentences; proclivities for puns, metaphors, similes, riddles, witticism and repartees; good sense of humor and elucidation and eloquence are hallmarks of linguistic intelligence. People with this type of intelligence are “good with words”. If they have interpersonal skills, they will show remarkable ability to rivet people’s attention, being greatly enjoyable to listen to, while also being convincing and persuasive. Linguistic/verbal intelligence is usually measured through vocabulary, identification of word associations and analogies, and acknowledgment of complex ideas and concepts shrouded in elusive language through verbal reasoning. People who’re linguistically consistent digest auditory information better than visual and practical information.

Linguistically intelligent people make excellent leaders, diplomats, politicians, poets, writers, actors, dramatists, teachers, comedians, lawyers, philosophers and also lady’s men, etc. William Shakespeare, Salman Rushdie, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Socrates, Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Sean Conrey, Leonardo Da Vinci, creative writers at EU and Casanova are perfect examples of linguistically intelligent people to name a few. To develop or sustain this ability, one can play crossword puzzles, read and write consistently and participate in interesting and intelligent debates or fall in love with your dictionary.

Visual/Spatial: this applies to greatly developed senses and understandings of visual patterns, space, surroundings, environment, geometry, forms, shapes, sizes, pictures and structures. People with this form of intelligence are able to get, what is called as, the “whole picture”. They have great visual memory, mental capacity to manipulate spatial patterns and are able to see things from different perspectives. People with this ability are masters at “thinking outside the box”. They have greatly developed aesthetic sense and are artistically consistent. They are able to register visual information of their environment (shapes, structures, pictures, forms, etc) from a very early age and develop them as they grow up. Due to this special ability, spatially intelligent people are capable of creative imagination. They are also able to better predict where, say, the highlights, mid tones, shadows and darkness must fall on objects of complex geometry. They are able to read fluently due to their experience in picturing word shapes and sentence structures. People with this ability best learn through visual input.

“Deu ot hte avobe ifnomraiton, vsiullay itnellginet poelpe cna raed tihs snetnece fulnelty”.

If one could read the above sentence fluently, he or she is somewhat spatially intelligent. The reason is quite clear – “ifnomraiton” is a manipulated shape of information, just as “itnellginet” is a manipulated shape of intelligent with the added advantage of the first and last letters in the words remaining intact and the general geometry of the letters staying in close proximity to the actual words. Our brains subconsciously reorganize the shape of ifnomraiton to match the nearest neighbor registered in our brains: information. Now try to figure out “fonriamito” and “liglineten”. This is much tougher, because our brains cannot connect these shapes to any word shapes in our memory banks – the distortion breaks the rule by completely destroying the visual signature of the words information and intelligent. Know people who excel in figuring out such words in trivia games? Now you have a great respect for their spatial intelligence.

Generally, people do not read each letter in a word, but simply identify the shape of the word. People register word shapes in their memory banks through years of experience in reading starting from early school years when a child’s perception of his or her environment grows exponentially with his or her neuron development. That is how most people can read a whole page fluently without pausing. In the distorted sentence above, the most difficult part to read is the “Deu ot hte avobe” part. Here, spatially intelligent people do not identify each word, but the phrase “due to the above”. This collection of words, itself, has a distinctive shape. Consider how most of us (including spatially intelligent people) cannot read some old English fonts that are more artwork than letters. The reason is simple – our brains cannot identify the modern art in the letters, much less identify the shape of the word, itself.

Most modern IQ tests include visual/spatial parts where repeating patterns of shape, colors, inverted, distorted and rotated shapes and images and optical illusions are tested. A typical example of a visual/spatial intelligent test is to identify a shape that doesn’t fit in a sequence comprising of, say, a circle and quadrilaterals, such as, parallelograms, squares, rectangles and rhombuses. Some tests give you a light source and ask you to identify the correct highlights and shadows that must appear in an object among some that are incorrect. Complex tests include abstract collection of shapes housed in some other abstract shape compared to another set of abstract shapes where one is required to access the apparent relationships between the two models to identify the shape that must logically fit in a space left blank. This type of question involves both logical and spatial intelligence.

Needless to mention, visual/spatially intelligent people make excellent artists, painters, graphic designers, sculptors, animation artists, interior designers, photographers, engineers, pilots, navigators, architects, CEO’s, sci-fi writers, film directors, etc.  Pablo Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci, John Hagen, Kenzo Tange, etc are few examples of people who excel in this category. To develop or sustain spatial ability, one can develop habits of reading maps, enjoying the outdoors, taking up photography, drawing, etc.

Musical Intelligence: this applies to human ability to recognize rhythmic patterns, time intervals, octaves, beat, pitch, movement and modulation of sounds; the ability to appreciate, recognize and create ideas, melody, harmony, musical phrases, scales and modes in the mind and convert them to musical forms; natural tendencies to sing with highly developed senses for pitch, cadences, harmony and aptitudes to learn musical instruments easily, etc. People with this form of intelligence have, what musicians call, a “great ear”; that is, the ability to recognize intervals (the distance between two pitches). They also have great euphonious tastes and are generally aesthetic in nature. Not only musicians, but all those who can tap along to the rhythm of the songs they listen to, or figure out mentally where the melody must go while listening to a new song, or can relate to the music as a whole have some degree of musical intelligence. All those who appreciate and like all genres of music also have hidden potential to excel in music. Musically intelligent people learn best through auditory input.

Musically intelligent people make great musicians, singers, sound engineers, poets, soloists, composers, dancers, producers, etc. Mozart, Bach, Narayan Gopal, Jagtit Singh, William Blake, Pink Floyd, DJ’s, etc are examples of highly musically intelligent people to name a few. To develop or sustain this ability, one can practice scales, arpeggios, singing, listening to varied genres of music, composing music, etc.

A scale is a passage of notes (a particular sound/pitch) in a certain sequence. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sha or Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do is a perfect example. Modes are also scales, but they are used from varying positions from within the parent scale. Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sha Sa and Dha Ni Sha Sa Re Ga Ma Pa are perfect examples of modes of the main Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sha scale. Modes are used to give depth, character, color and mood to scales.  Modulation is a change in scales to a different key (how the song Because of You by Kelly Clarkson goes higher towards the end – this is a modulation in keys)

Bodily-Kinesthetic: this applies to the ability of using one’s body and its various parts to perform an art or various jobs that require skill. People with this ability remember best through their bodies. Some call this muscle smart. Consider how one who drives or rides a bike knows exactly how much pressure to apply on the accelerator on startup to avoid an abrupt engine-cutoff that usually troubles a beginner. Gardner was criticized for suggesting that bodily use to perform a task is intelligence. Critics regarded this to be talent and not intelligence. Yet, some naturalists claim that Chimpanzees that use twigs (tools) to draw out insects from deep fissures in trees to eat are intelligent. Intelligence or ability, people who excel here are generally good at learning and perfecting skills that require bodily coordination with or without external objects (tools) to perform a task – body-balancing/maneuvering skill, body-energy harnessing skill, hand-eye coordination, feet-eye coordination, hand-machine coordination, hand-tool performing skills, etc. Sportspersons like football players that use eye-feet-ball coordination to perfect their balancing, dribbling and maneuvering skills; Cricket Batsmen that use hand-eye coordination and hand-bat (tool) maneuvering skills to play their shots; and athletes that use their bodies to perfect running, jumping, throwing, swimming, diving (body maneuvering, balancing and energy harnessing), etc are proponents of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Carpenters, ironsmiths, blacksmiths, sculptors, farmers, dancers, glass blowers, painters, musicians, drivers, etc are bodily-kinesthetically intelligent people who derive skill from limb-tool and machine coordination. All of us, who can write, type, hammer nails or maneuver joysticks, for example, on game pads are also kinesthetically intelligent. People with this form of intelligence learn better through practical input.

Understandably, people like Ronaldo, Michael Schumacher, Sachin Tendulkar, Sania Mirza, Michael Angelo, Joe Satriani, pottery makers in Kathmandu, Leonardo Da Vinci, Carl Lewis, etc are examples of bodily-kinesthetically intelligent people. Perhaps, the best way of sustaining this ability or develop it would be to first stay fit and healthy and to engage in sports activities.

Interpersonal: this applies to all those who are sociable or people-smart. They are able to deal with different people based on how well they can read people and act accordingly: extroverts. They have interpersonal skills and are empathetic in nature; that is, they can sense, feel, understand and relate to people’s emotions, facial expressions, body language, temperament, motivations, beliefs, outlook, views, etc making them dependable and accountable. This comes in handy in professions where interaction with people is necessary, such as, sale jobs and psychiatry. Actually, in communication – as far as relay, receipt and understanding of content in a conversation is concerned – words account for only 7%; voice, tone and pitch account for 38% and visual cues, such as, facial expression, gestures and body language, account for 55%. People with interpersonal intelligence are good at working as a part in a whole, such as in teams due to their ability to effectively listen and communicate. People of this nature enjoy debates and discussions and learn best through auditory input in group settings. Environments where teachers allow students to discuss topics collectively while being taught are ideal settings for people of this type of intelligence to learn best. Brainstorming sessions in office meetings are also ideal settings for interpersonally intelligent people to learn best.

Naturally, people in this category make excellent teachers, sales executives, politicians, leaders, psychiatrics, psychologists, managers, social workers, teachers, etc. They also make great friends to have around. To develop or enhance this ability, one may take up discussions and debates and learn to listen carefully to people and for visual cues, participate in group activities, etc.

Intrapersonal: this applies to people who’re self-reflective, self-aware and introspective. They are able to understand the root of their emotions, their inner identity, their inner motivations and goals: introverts. They are usually very inclined to philosophy due to their introspective habits that give way to inclination in thinking. People with this type of intelligence usually do things best left alone or with their own volition and are prolific at being self-taught. Motivation and inner will plays a defining role for such people in life, as they’ll seldom do things if they’re not internally driven. They are generally existentialist in nature; that is, they rely on their capacity to think, understand, relate and interpret life through self-gained knowledge, experiences and lead life according to the ideals, beliefs and priorities they develop as a result. They are the thinkers amongst us all and have a tendency to be perfectionists. Intrapersonal people are worldly opposed to interpersonal people – they learn best left alone by thinking over ideas compared to interpersonal people who learn better in teams and groups. The fact that interpersonal people and intrapersonal people are worlds apart doesn’t necessarily make the former essentialists (people who define their roles and priorities in life in accordance to accepted customs and beliefs).

People with intrapersonal intelligence make excellent thinkers, philosophers, researchers, scientists, writers, poets, etc. Apart from the above-mentioned professions, intrapersonally intelligent people do very well on professions or positions that offer great autonomy. Due to the fact that outside influences don’t count much for such people, they can also become steadfast theologians. Examples include Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Albert Einstein, etc.

Encompassing Thoughts: Most people have special cognitive profiles: they have all seven forms of intelligences, but excel in one or two of them. The combination of mathematical and spatial may make a brilliant architect, while a combination of spatial and kinesthetic may make a brilliant fighter jet pilot. The combination of linguistic and interpersonal may make a really charming person, while a combination of musical and intrapersonal may make a brilliant composer that can touch hearts. The rare combination of intrapersonal, interpersonal, linguistic and mathematical ability may make a wise individual with the best of both worlds – a kind heart and a brilliant mind with the ability to apply philosophical reflections into life, while a great combination of all intelligences will certainly make one a true genius.

Naturalist: Gardner has been most heavily criticized for suggesting this as a form of intelligence. Initially, he had only suggested 7 forms of intelligences as explained above. In any case, those who’re supposed to have this form of intelligence are at ease with nature, have a natural capacity to relate to nature and nourish and nurture the young, while also having affinity with animals. I’m not sure whether Gardner was trying to find a synonym for mother’s love or to explain why some of us are close to our pets. Furthermore, someone with naturalist intelligence is supposedly able to predict whether and climate changes. It was also laid out that naturalistic intelligence allows one to identify and classify species, and to be wholly focused on issues and activities related to human interactions with nature rather than any other mundane and modern issues of life. I suppose this would relate to how Charles Darwin became Charles Darwin or why some people devote their lives to studying and filming nature and wildlife. But, I think what Gardner was trying to get at is that some of us are inclined to feel more alive outdoors at the hands of nature.

If a normal human being in, say, Manhattan, New York were to be planted in the mountains of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania without supplies for a month, and if he or she was able to survive, that would probably come close to explaining naturalist intelligence. Now, what if someone in the countryside of Nepal were to be put in a similar position? Chances are people from our own countryside would probably be able to survive better. But, this wouldn’t prove naturalist intelligence, because the Nepali chap would probably have been better suited to such an environment and be able to adapt easily. Some people argue that this form of intelligence may have applied to the prehistoric human who had to rely on nature skills to survive, rather than the modern human. Sill, people who’re naturalistically intelligent would probably be naturalists, conservationists, farmers, gardeners, etc.

Spiritual: Gardner and his colleagues thought about adding this to the list, but later dropped the idea on grounds that spirituality failed the test for intelligence, because there wasn’t sufficient data to correlate this ability to parts in the brain that showed evidence of its activity. In any event, I think Gardner was planning to explain why Buddha became Buddha.

Existential: existentialism is already explained above. People who’re existentially intelligent are supposedly able to draw personally learned philosophical reflections on life, death and ultimate truth and realities. I think this time Gardner was trying to explain how Guru Ravi Shankar, Shai Baba and Ram Dev became who they are.

Moral: this was dropped on the same grounds as explained with spiritual intelligence. Guess who Gardner was trying to understand? I think Mahatma Gandhi.

Savant Syndrome: this is a medical condition where certain people are unable to do the most basic of tasks, but are absolutely brilliant in some other capacity. The syndrome itself results from damage on certain parts of the brain that controls most of our basic functions. Simple activities like picking up a glass to pour water, moving one’s limbs, thinking about an idea and speaking are, perhaps, taken for granted, but they involve complex brain functions. Savants, also called Autistic Savants are unable to do most of these simple tasks; yet, some have been known to remember each and every song they have listened to throughout life. One chap named Alonzo Clemons was a regular child until he fell and had brain damage. He later learned to create accurate sculpture of animals using clay just by relying on his photographic memory. Scientists believe that every human being has the potential to be a genius, but the importance we attach to living our lives in the context of learning the laws and nature of life and the realities of developing functioning intelligences to help us survive in any capacity limit this potential.

Final Thoughts:

Perhaps, if the division of labor – an economic theory that individuals do one thing better than one individual doing all things equally well – may have played a part in some of us not entirely being able to use our latent intellectual potentials. It was for the sake of quality production that the theory of division of labor was suggested. If a factory of chairs had all individuals hammering, sculpting, machine working, painting, housing, packing and distributing everything themselves, quality and time would have been compromised. So the theory suggested that one guy do the hammering, the other, painting, a third, packing and so on. In that regard, each individual would be proficient in his or her job par excellence with quality, time utilization making better economics. Consider how Leonardo Da Vinci – who was proficient in painting, sculpting, military technology, engineering, biology, writing, poetry, thinking, philosophizing, debating, aeronautics, alchemy, physics, mathematics, etc (the list is quite long) – was able to do what he did.

But, the above argument is flawed, because human sustenance isn’t possible without economics. And, there is no certainty, nor time to wait for a doctor to learn to be an engineer, or a pest exterminator to learn rocket science. There isn’t any evidence or appreciable empirical evidence that the same has ever happened. It will suffice to say that Leonardo was a true, great genius born only following some intricate, rare and abstruse happenstance of permutations and combinations.

Implications for Nepal: perhaps, the most pertinent question with regards to Nepal would be: “Intelligence for what?” before we begin to apply our understanding of multiple intelligences and special cognitive profiles of people. We still don’t have IQ testing practices in Nepal. Nor, do we have a defined national policy of utilization of human resources. Nation building first starts with people building. And, in that regard, the first question proponents of new Nepal should be asking is: What should the national priority be with regards to the utilization of human resource? Then, we can move onto other questions concerning what kind of professionals to produce for what purposes. Then, begin to question how we will produce these professionals in the first place. Ultimately, the debate will come down to reform of the education system, but such a reform should not be idealistic in nature. It should be about defining priorities and meeting those priorities by developing the right human resources through ideal settings that can follow the rule of markets. On the other hand – and as far as ideals are concerned – it is the incumbent duty of all human beings to live up to its potential as an intelligent life form to keep on pushing the envelope in a continued effort to evolve further. What is human civilization without progress? It is very simply a jungle.

Multiple Intelligences was last modified: September 11th, 2013 by Aneesh Lohani

Blog Comments

  1. फेरी त्यही अल्छी

    दुईवटा कमेंट हाल्न झन अल्छी लागि रहेको बेला अनिशजी, तपाईको नाम पो गलती हालेछु!!!! सच्च्यायें है अनिशजी!!!

  2. अल्छी

    कत्रो लामो पढ़नै अल्छी लाग्यो!!!! हामी जस्ता अल्छीको लागी भनेर येस्तो लामो article हरु २ / ३ भागमा पोस्ट गरे कसो होला अन्जेशजी!!!!

  3. Rajendra Keshari Pandey

    Aneesh-ji, Your last lines I quote here is correct Quote Nation building first starts with people building. And, in that regard, the first question proponents of new Nepal should be asking is: What should the national priority be with regards to the utilization of human resource? Then, we can move onto other questions concerning what kind of professionals to produce for what purposes. Then, begin to question how we will produce these professionals in the first place. Ultimately, the debate will come down to reform of the education system, but such a reform should not be idealistic in nature. It should be about defining priorities and meeting those priorities by developing the right human resources through ideal settings that can follow the rule of markets.Unqote

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