In 1983, Howard Gardner proposed that intelligence wasn’t just dominated by a single, generalized ability. Gardner felt that intelligence had to fulfill eight specific criteria. Then he chose eight different abilities that he felt would be able to meet the needs of that criteria. This would allow people to identify which ways they were able to learn most effectively, including through non-cognitive abilities, so that every person had the opportunity to grow in a way that made the most sense for them.
The eight criteria that Gardner identified as needing to be fulfilled included an individual awareness of their place in evolutionary history, the potential for brain isolation, core operations, a coding susceptibility, developmental progression that is distinctive in nature, the possibility of savants or prodigies, and psychological or psychometric findings.
Once Gardner identified these core components for his theory, he also identified specific abilities that could be used as evidence to show that the criteria for intelligence had been met.
What Are the Eight Abilities that Gardner Chose?
Gardner chose abilities that would show evidence of mental awareness or interaction that could be processed with a certain response. Each ability offers something specific that could be classified as intelligence on its own, or when combined with the other abilities, would show evidence of a potentially superior form of intelligence.
Here are the eight abilities that Gardner chose.
1. Musical Rhythmic (Harmonic)
This modality involves how intelligence interacts with tones, sounds, rhythms, and even music. People who are rated highly in this modality often have excellent pitch. Some even have absolute pitch. These individuals are well-equipped in the areas of singing, composing music, and playing various instruments.
High modality individuals are also very sensitive to meter, tone, pitch and rhythm. They tend to be very hard on themselves for making an error and want melody and timbre to be as perfect as possible. They learn difficult concepts easily when they are set to music or melody.
2. Visual Spatial
People who are rated high in this modality are able to visualize space with accuracy by picturing it in their mind. This is also one of the intelligence factors that is included in other models of intelligence, including the hierarchical mode.
3. Verbal Linguistic
Most people are able to communicate with verbal linguistic skills at some level. Those who rate highly on this modality are able to demonstrate a greater facility with language fluency, using specific words instead of generalities to accurately communicate within conversation or writing. People with this intelligence modality may also be adept at learning new languages with ease.
This ability is also displayed through various verbal techniques, such as memorization, storytelling, reading and remembering information. It is one of the most loaded general intelligence factors that shows overall mental ability and can be tested through the use of a verbal IQ testing model.
4. Logical Mathematical
Although mathematics and logic are central points to this modality, hence its name, the real focus here is on the ability to perform critical thinking. It offers evidence of having the ability to understand an underlying principle. People who rate highly in this modality are able to handle numbers, abstractions, and logical reasoning because there is a higher overall fluid intelligence that is present.
5. Bodily Kinesthetic
Being intelligent requires more than command over thinking processes. There must also be an ability to show that one can overcome instinctual urges. The mind must have the ability to control bodily motions to such an extent that objects can be handled with skill.
People who rate highly in this modality are also able to handle issues that involve timing. They can train their responses to correspond with specific movements, actions, or timeframes in order to accomplish a specific goal. You will find individuals who excel in sports, acting, or musical careers tend to rank highly in this intelligence modality.
Law enforcement, military service, and construction also require high modality levels in this area of intelligence for success. It is an intelligence that can be developed over time, but individuals must be actively participating in the skill for it to develop. Simulations have proven to be ineffective in enhancing this modality.
Sometimes the people who rate highly in this intelligence modality are referred to as having a high “emotional intelligence.” This is because individuals equipped with this modality are particularly sensitive to the changing feelings, moods, and motivations that occur in the people who are around them. Those with particularly high rankings in this modality can even recognize specific emotions and anticipate reactions to those emotions from strangers.
Most people who have use this intelligence modality to their advantage look for ways to cooperate with a team or group. They look for the place where they can fill-in a gap that is needed so that everyone can get along without conflict.
Sometimes this is thought of as being an extrovert, but introverted personalities can easily rank high in interpersonal intelligence. It’s not about liking people; it’s about understanding them at a core level. These folks like to enjoy a good discussion or watch a debate, making them excellent teachers, counselors, or even social workers.
This intelligence modality is much like the interpersonal modality, but looking inward at oneself. It is the ability to deeply understand personal morals and values. People who rank highly in this modality are very aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses. They also know what makes them unique and are unafraid to push that uniqueness out for the world to see.
A unique trait that comes with the intrapersonal intelligence modality is an ability to be able to predict personal emotions, reactions, and behaviors.
This intelligence modality wasn’t actually part of the original theory of multiple intelligences. It would be Gardner who decided that it should be added, which occurred in 1995. People who rank highly in this modality are able to recognize and identify flora and fauna. They can also see how personal decisions would affect the natural world and would use their skills in this modality to protect and preserve it.
Are There Any New Additions Coming to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences?
Gardner has not wanted to commit to two additional forms of intelligence, but had admitted that there is evidence of their existence.
The first is a spiritual intelligence. Individuals who would be considered philosophers or developmental theorists would be considered as having a high level of this modality. The only problem with this modality is the fact that it is difficult to give it a quantifiable condition. After all, spirituality is more about the individual than a general scientific principle. Although others have attempted to give this modality a greater definition, Gardner prefers to consider the possibility of an existential intelligence.
One hallmark of being gifted in this modality is the ability to be a source of guidance for other people, even if they happen to disagree with the conclusions that have helped in your personal guidance.
The other modality that is being considered by Gardner is what he calls the Teaching Pedagogical intelligence. According to Gardner, this would be a modality which would allow someone to teach others in a successful way.
There have been other modalities that have been proposed by those who are familiar with Gardner’s theory of intelligences, but he does not acknowledge that they should be part of his theory. This would include proposed modalities that include sexuality and reproduction, cooking or other specific vocational skills, and humor.
How Has Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences Been Received?
The primary criticism of Gardner’s theory is that it doesn’t actually expand upon the definition of intelligence. It simple denies intelligence as it has been traditionally understood. Instead of an ability that someone has, the theory redefines it as a modality that may be partly inherited.
Gardner’s theory also tends to offer a low correlation between the different aspects of intelligence, whereas many psychometrics, such as an intelligence test, tend to find that there are high correlations between the different components of intelligence.
The bottom line? There really isn’t any empirical evidence that backs up what Gardner has theorized. Many people can pick out specific skills or attributes that correspond with the varying intelligence modalities. Certain animals may also rank highly, or even higher, than humans in certain categories. When combined with the low correlation levels, it tends to add more confusion to what intelligence really happens to be.
Of course, there are also some people who believe that the traditional definition of intelligence is too generalized. Just because one person is good at math and another is good at music doesn’t mean one is more intelligent than the other. Intelligence becomes subjective and individualized instead of categorized, which makes it more like how humans learn and think instead of creating a cookie-cutter definition.
Whether one agrees or disagrees, Howard Gardner’s theories of multiple intelligences continues to inspire conversation and debate. In that way, it may even be contributing to its own modalities.