A Shift in Perception

Nearly all of us have acuity in several sensory systems, and most of us are capable of making some cross-sensory connections (e.g. between loud sound and bright light). When we are young, many of us have a proclivity to synesthesia; for example, connecting colors to the sounds of vowels or to the timbre of musical instruments. This capacity tends to atrophy with development, except for the few who have the capacity called synesthesia. Sometimes synesthesia can get in the way of normal processing; sometimes it can contribute to creative work, as with the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin or the novelist Vladimir Nabokov; and sometimes it is just a strange fear—like knowing the days of the week on which major holidays occurred in 1875.

I have long maintained that the multiple intelligences are not yoked to particular senses. Linguistic intelligence can operate independent of whether information enters the ‘central cognitive system’ via sound, sight, or touch. It’s therefore an open question whether we can have synesthesia across intelligences, as we do across sensory systems. Such synesthesia would, for example, yoke linguistic and spatial information, independent of the channels by which this information entered the cognitive system. I do not have a strong intuition about the answer to this question; indeed, this would be a fascinating topic for a young researcher to investigate.

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IQ Tests Hurt Kids, Schools

This article provides documentation that different intelligence tests yield different scores for the same person.  Even more intriguingly, even the same intelligence test, administered multiple times, may yield different scores. The article also and appropriately underscores the importance, in life, of non-cognitive skills, or skills that do not fall comfortably under the IQ measurement.

That said, as I read it, Kaufman still holds onto the hope that, someday, if we are clever enough, we will be able to provide an ultimate and fully reliable and valid test of intelligence. I am skeptical about this. What we value as individuals and as a society changes; and so do the resources and contexts of life also change. And so, in my view, intelligence, or more properly, intelligences, are a moving target. A search for the Ultimate IQ test is like the search for a Fountain of Youth; it may be motivating but it is doomed to fail.

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Early Music Lessons Have Longtime Benefits

This article about the long term benefits of musical lessons reminds us of what our grandmothers knew:  we need to spend a significant amount of time if we want to master a sector of experience and the rewards will last a long time, perhaps even a life time. Yet we should also note that the benefits of such intensive and extensive training may be limited to certain related spheres.

While significant exposure to music in the early years may enhance certain ‘sound’ aspects of linguistic processing, there is little reason to expect that it will help with syntactic aspects of language, let alone with ease in learning foreign languages. We should not expect miracles. We should, instead, train capacities because of their intrinsic interest and importance, and not because we hope for some magical form of ‘transfer.’

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Teach to Each Child’s Intelligence

Fischer describes how, in his position as Dean of a College of Design, he makes use of spatial intelligence to teach many topics. He calls on K-12 education to do the same. Of course, I support the idea of making use of powerful intelligences to convey important lessons and skills.

But two cautionary notes. First of all, not every intelligence can be helpful for learning any topic. I am doubtful, for example, that the personal intelligences can be of much help in mastering mathematics; nor it is likely that logical-mathematical intelligences can significantly increase personal understanding.

Secondly, particularly for younger persons, there are reasons to nurture the less powerful intelligences.  Even if my spatial intelligence is not initially strong; indeed, perhaps especially if my spatial intelligence is not strong, there are good reasons to try to develop it further. Moreover, with respect to this profile, I am referring to myself. I have poor visual and spatial skills, but that has not prevented me from spending much time trying to understand the graphic arts and even conduct research in that area.

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