There Are Eight Forms of Intelligence, Not Just One: Which Apply to You?

Intel­li­gence is a fraught sub­ject of dis­cus­sion, and only becom­ing more so. Among the frame­works devel­oped safe­ly to approach it, one has gained spe­cial promi­nence: the the­o­ry cham­pi­oned by devel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Howard Gard­ner, author of the book Frames of Mind: The The­o­ry of Mul­ti­ple Intel­li­gences. And how many such intel­li­gences are there? In the Big Think video above — post­ed in 2016, 33 years after Frames of Mind — he names ten: lan­guage, log­ic and math­e­mat­ics, musi­cal, spa­tial, bod­i­ly-kines­thet­ic, inter­per­son­al, intrap­er­son­al, nat­u­ral­ist, teach­ing, and exis­ten­tial. 

Some of these may strike you as only tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed to intel­li­gence, tra­di­tion­al­ly defined. Gard­ner has con­sid­ered this: “Peo­ple say, ‘Well, music’s a tal­ent, it’s not an intel­li­gence.’ And I say, ‘Well, why, if you’re good with words, is that an intel­li­gence, but if you’re good with tones and rhythms and tim­bres…”

Nobody, in his telling, has ever come up with a con­vinc­ing response. Hence his mis­sion to expand the def­i­n­i­tion of intel­li­gence beyond the aggre­gate mea­sure of brain­pow­er long known as the gen­er­al intel­li­gence fac­tor — or more com­mon­ly, “g fac­tor” — to encom­pass the sort of skills whose use­ful­ness we can see in the real world, away from the con­struct­ed rig­ors of psy­cho­me­t­ric tests.

“Whether there’s eight intel­li­gences or ten or twelve is less impor­tant to me than hav­ing bro­ken the monop­oly of a sin­gle intel­li­gence, which sort of labels you for all time,” says Gard­ner. You can see eight of his intel­li­gences bro­ken down in more detail — and per­haps even iden­ti­fy your own strongest suit — in the Prac­ti­cal Psy­chol­o­gy video just above. Gard­ner also express­es opti­mism about our abil­i­ty to devel­op dif­fer­ent intel­li­gences: you can choose to con­cen­trate on a spe­cif­ic one, but “if you want to be a jack of all trades and be very well-round­ed, then you’re prob­a­bly going to want to nur­ture the intel­li­gences which aren’t that strong.” What­ev­er your own view on mul­ti­ple intel­li­gences, don’t for­get how the old say­ing orig­i­nal­ly went in full: “Jack of all trades, mas­ter of none, though often bet­ter than a mas­ter of one.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Secret to High Per­for­mance and Ful­fil­ment: Psy­chol­o­gist Daniel Gole­man Explains the Pow­er of Focus

How Read­ing Increas­es Your Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence & Brain Func­tion: The Find­ings of Recent Sci­en­tif­ic Stud­ies

Why You Do Your Best Think­ing In The Show­er: Cre­ativ­i­ty & the “Incu­ba­tion Peri­od”

You Don’t “Find” Your Pas­sion in Life, You Active­ly Devel­op It, Explains Psy­chol­o­gist Car­ol Dweck, The­o­rist of the “Growth Mind­set”

Why Incom­pe­tent Peo­ple Think They’re Amaz­ing: An Ani­mat­ed Les­son from David Dun­ning (of the Famous “Dun­ning-Kruger Effect”)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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