Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence

What is Intelligence?

The word intelligence derives from the Latin word intelligere which means to comprehend or to perceive. It is the most basic meaning. In this article we will particularly focus on Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence. Let us see some basic definitions of intelligence by psychologists.

Definitions of Intelligence

Lewis Terman, – ‘An ability to think on an abstract level is called Intelligence.’

David Wechsler, – ‘Intelligence is the aggregate or global capacity of an individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment.’

In short, they define intelligence as the ability to learn from one’s experiences, acquire knowledge, and use resources effectively in adapting to new situations or solving problems (Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998; Wechsler, 1975). These are the characteristics that individuals need in order to survive in their culture.

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner refuted the classic view of intelligence as a capacity for logical reasoning. Hence, he proposed that there is no one form of intelligence but a number of intelligence work together.

Definition of Intelligence by Howard Gardner – 

Intelligence is the “ability to solve problems or fashion products that are of consequence in a particular cultural setting or community” (1993)

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence has a different view than most of others. As a result, it says, intelligence is much more than IQ because a high IQ in the absence of productivity does not equate to intelligence. Thus, he claimed that most of previous conceptualizations of intelligence were too narrowly based. Consequently, he argued along with evidence from several different sources. For example – cross-cultural accounts of cognition, studies of exceptional groups, psychometric data, and psychological training studies pointed to the existence of several intelligence.

He noted further that he did not believe there was “one form of cognition which cuts across all human thinking. There are multiple intelligence with autonomous intelligence capacities”. This statement heralded the writing of his book Frames of Mind, which was published in 1983.

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence

Gardner initially formulated a list of seven intelligence. In addition, he revised the theory by adding naturalist intelligence as the eighth. Moreover, he has also considered inclusion of existential intelligence as the ninth intelligence in his theory (Slavin, 2009). The first two have been typically valued in schools; the next three are usually associated with the arts. The next two are what Gardner called ‘personal intelligence’. While the newly added final two are related to aesthetics and philosophical views of life (Gardner 1999)

This image shows the different types of intelligence given by Howard Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligence

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence – Careershodh

1) Linguistic Intelligence:

People who score high on this type of intelligence have good linguistic abilities. Hence, they can easily articulate and express their thoughts by choosing the most appropriate words. They can easily play with the words. Thus, poets, writers, lawyers and speakers have a higher level of linguistic abilities. This area has to do with words, spoken or written. People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages.

They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with dates. As a result, they tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and by discussion and debate. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall. Furthermore, these individuals have an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

Careers that suit those with this intelligence include writers, lawyers, policemen, philosophers, journalists, politicians, poets, and teachers.

2) Musical Intelligence:

People who score high on this are knowledgeable and sensitive to music. They can manipulate musical pattern to create different music. People carrying this intelligence are good signers, play musical instruments and good music composers.

This intelligence involves skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. According to Howard Gardner, musical  intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence. This area has to do with sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones and music.

People with a high musical intelligence normally have good pitch and in fact, may even have absolute pitch and are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. Since there is a strong auditory component to this intelligence, those who are strongest in it may learn best via lecture. Language skills are typically highly developed in those whose base intelligence is musical. In addition, they will sometimes use songs or rhythms to learn. They have sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, meter, tone, melody or timbre.

Careers that suit those with this intelligence include instrumentalists,singers, conductors, disc-jockeys, orators, writers and composers.

3) Logical-mathematical Intelligence:

This involves having the ability to think critically. Such people have a scientific aptitude and are good with numbers and abstract problems.

Scientists have a higher level of this intelligence. This intelligence consists of the capacity to analyse problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. In Howard Gardner’s words, it entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically.

Logical intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking. As a result, this area has to do with logic, abstractions, reasoning, and numbers. It is often assumed that those with this intelligence naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer programming and other logical or numerical activities. On the contrary, a more accurate definition places less emphasis on traditional mathematical ability and more on reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. As a result, it correlates strongly with traditional concepts of “intelligence” or IQ.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include scientists, physicists, mathematicians, logicians, engineers, doctors, economists and philosophers.

4) Spatial Intelligence:

Spatial intelligence is related to one’s ability to manipulate and use visual or mental images.

This intelligence involves the potential for recognizing and manipulating the patterns of both wide spaces such as those negotiated by pilots or navigators. On the other hand, confined spaces such as those encountered by sculptors, architects or championship chess players. This area deals with spatial judgment and the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye.

Careers which suit those with this type of intelligence include artists, designers and architects. A spatial person is also good with puzzles.

5) Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence:

It is the ability to control and train your body or a part of it for construction of products and problem-solving. Hence, people serving in the military, intelligence agencies, sports person, actors and, dancers have higher levels of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

It entails the potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body to solve problems. Moreover, this is the capability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. In theory, people who have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence should learn better by involving muscular movement and are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance. Thus, they may enjoy acting or performing, and in general they are good at building and making things. Hence, they often learn best by doing something physically, rather than by reading or hearing about it.

Careers that suit those with this intelligence include: athletes, dancers, musicians, actors, surgeons, doctors, builders, police officers, and soldiers.

6) Intrapersonal Intelligence :

Being aware of one’s own feelings, emotions, needs, and motives is called having intrapersonal intelligence. So, philosophers and spiritual leaders are high on intrapersonal intelligence.

This demands the capacity to understand oneself. In Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, it involves having an effective working model of ourselves. Moreover, to be able to use such information to regulate our lives. Therefore, this area has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities.

People with intrapersonal intelligence are intuitive and typically introverted. They are skillful at deciphering their own feelings and motivations. Thus, this refers to having a deep understanding of the self. For example –  what are your strengths/ weaknesses, what makes you unique, you can predict your own reactions/ emotions. Moreover they prefer to work alone.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, lawyers, and writers. 

7) Interpersonal Intelligence:

Your ability to understand other person’s behavior, motive, and feelings is known as interpersonal intelligence. People scoring high on this intelligence use their understanding of other people to develop a comfortable bond with other people.

This intelligence is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. Thus, it allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, sales people, religious and political leaders and counselors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence. This area has to do with interaction with others.

In theory, people who have a high interpersonal intelligence tend to be extrovert. Hence, characterized by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. As a result, they communicate effectively and empathize easily with others. May be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate

Careers that suit  those with this intelligence include sales, politicians, managers, counselors/ therapists, teachers, and social workers. 

Naturalistic Intelligence:

This intelligence has to do with nature, nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings. Such a person demonstrates expertise in recognition and classification of the numerous species – the flora and fauna – of her or his environment.

Consequently, careers which suit those with this intelligence include naturalists, farmers and gardeners.

Existential Intelligence:

This dimension was later included in Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence. It is an ability to contemplate phenomena or questions beyond sensory data, such as the infinite and infinitesimal. Career which suits those with this intelligence include cosmologists, and philosophers.

MCQ Test

To check your understanding of the topic, take this short test – Click here for MCQ test – Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence


  • Ciccarelli, S. K.; White J. N. Adapted by Girishwar Misra (2018). Psychology (5th Edition). Pearson.

One Reply to “Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence”

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