Howard Gardner pioneered a new way of thinking about intelligence that is unconventional but well received. His theory has practical application for how we go about learning new skills and choosing the type of work we find most satisfying. Learn more about Howard Gardner and the different types of intelligences, then test your knowledge with a quiz.
Howard Gardner is a psychologist and professor of neuroscience at Harvard University and is best known for developing the theory of Multiple Intelligences. His popular 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, explains his theory in detail.
What Is Meant by Multiple Intelligences?
People who have linguistic intelligence have the ability to use language well to express their thoughts and ideas. They would typically be good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words. Occupationally, you might find a linguistically intelligent person working as a writer, speaker, lawyer, orator, or translator.
When people are strong in logical-mathematical intelligence, they have the ability to understand the underlying principles of cause and effect or to see logical relationships between ideas, numbers or concepts. These people would be very competent at math, creative problem-solving, organizing, logical reasoning and investigating new ideas. A logical-mathematically intelligent person would naturally gravitate toward working as a scientist, mathematician, accountant, or engineer.
People with musical intelligence have an ability to quickly pick up rhythms, hear patterns and tones, and/or express themselves through singing or playing an instrument. They learn best through auditory means, such as lectures or conversations. They typically are thinking about, listening to or playing music as much as time allows. They are often able to create new music and reproduce music that they hear. Likely occupations include musician, music teacher, music composer, and opera singer.
When individuals have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, they are inclined to use their bodies to accomplish a task. This group gravitates to activities that allow them to solve problems by moving around and becoming physically involved.
Careers that allow people with this type of intelligence to flourish include athletics, the performing arts (dancing, acting), construction, law enforcement, and the military.
When people have spatial intelligence, they have the ability to internally represent objects or associations between objects using the mind’s eye. For example, a good chess player has the ability to spatially plot out several, if not a dozen or more, moves ahead. Spatial intelligence would also enable an artist or architect to mentally visualize what an image looks like before he or she reproduces it on paper. Occupations suited for a person with spatial intelligence might include artists, engineers, architects, sculptors, and builders.
Someone with naturalist intelligence has the ability to nurture and relate to living things (plants and animals in particular) with a unique sensitivity. This skill translates into not only working directly with the natural environment but being able to recognize, organize and classify species and ecological relationships in nature.
A person with this intelligence might be found working as a botanist, geologist, chef, animal trainer, or farmer.
Having intrapersonal intelligence means having significant self-understanding that includes a clarity on your strengths and weakness, embracing achievable personal goals, knowing what makes you unique, and possessing an ability to reflect on and regulate your own emotion and reaction to situations. This type of intelligence can be found in virtually all professions and is not limited to a particular genre of occupations. Those who need a high degree of intrapersonal intelligence would include mental health therapists, psychiatrists, entrepreneurs, and managers.
To have interpersonal intelligence you must understand other people well.
These people are sensitive to the moods, feelings, motivations and personal experiences of others. They intuitively can read social cues and know how to appropriately respond to them in a way that makes other people feel safe and understood. These are skills that are not limited by occupational titles but are especially important for those who are therapists, social workers, teachers, salespersons, medical professionals, or politicians.
A person who has existential intelligence has the ability to think deeply and engage with others on the larger questions of life, such as ethics, death and spiritual themes. This person might be found working as a counselor, minister, ethicist, hospice professional, or in mortuary science.
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