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Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

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What Are Multiple Intelligences?

When you hear the word intelligence, the concept of IQ testing may immediately come to mind. Intelligence is often defined as our intellectual potential; something we are born with, something that can be measured and a capacity that is difficult to change. In recent years, however, other views of intelligence have emerged. One such conception is the theory of multiple intelligences proposed by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner.

This theory suggests that traditional psychometric views of intelligence are too limited. Gardner first outlined his theory in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, where he suggested that all people have different kinds of "intelligences."1 Gardner proposed that there are eight intelligences, and has suggested the possible addition of a ninth known as "existentialist intelligence"2.

In order to capture the full range of abilities and talents that people possess, Gardner suggests that people do not have just a intellectual capacity, but have many different intelligences including musical, interpersonal, spatial-visual and linguistic intelligences3

While a person might be particularly strong in a specific area, such as musical intelligence, they most likely possess a range of abilities. For example, an individual might be strong in verbal, musical and naturalistic intelligence.

Gardner’s theory has come under criticism from both psychologists and educators. These critics argue that Gardner’s definition of intelligence is too broad, and that his eight different "intelligences" simply represent talents, personality traits and abilities. Gardner’s theory also suffers from a lack of supporting empirical research4.

Despite this, the theory of multiple intelligences enjoys considerable popularity with educators. Many teachers utilize multiple intelligences in their teaching philosophy and work to integrate Gardner’s theory into the classroom.

Learn more about the multiple intelligences can help you better understand your own strengths. Continue reading to learn more about the major characteristics of each type of intelligence. You can also take the multiple intelligences quiz to discover the area in which you are strongest.

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