Study Finds Game-Based Learning Can Increase Intelligences in Students

In January 2018, M. Esther del Moral Pérez, Alba P. Guzmán Duque, and L. Carlota Fernández García published an article titled, “Game-Based Learning Increasing the Logical-Mathematical, Naturalistic, and Linguistic Learning Levels of Primary School Students” in the Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research. Howard Gardner comments below:


In the educational literature, there is continuing discussion of whether games can contribute to learning and, if so, in what ways.  As the title indicates this study of game-based learning provides suggestive evidence that three discrete intelligences can be enhanced by weekly hour-long sessions.



Game-based learning is an innovative methodology that takes advantage of the educational potential offered by videogames in general and serious games in particular to boost training processes, thus making it easier for users to achieve motivated learning. The present paper focuses on the description of the Game to Learn Project, which has as its aim not only to promote the use of serious games and digital mini-games for the development of Multiple Intelligences, but also to analyse whether this methodology results in increased learning. Teachers assessed the level achieved by primary education students (N=119) in each learning category, before and after participating in the project, by means of a qualitative instrument. Finally, after corresponding analysis through descriptive statistical techniques, bivariate correlations, and ANOVA, the results showed significant differences between children’s learning levels in logical-mathematical, naturalistic and linguistic abilities before and after their participation in this innovative project, thus revealing a widespread increase in every indicator.

To read the full article, click here: Game-Based Learning Increasing the Logical-Mathematical, Naturalistic, and Linguistic Learning Levels of Primary School Students.

Study of Spatial Intelligence

In a new study, published in Cognitive Science in June 2017, researchers at University College London and Bangor University have found that artists, architects, and sculptors process spaces differently. When asked to describe the spaces in three different images (a Google Street View image, a painting of St. Peter’s Basilica, and a computer-generated surreal scene), the variation in participants’ responses correlated to their professions.

Howard Gardner comments on the study below:

“I’m glad to see that researchers are trying to understand the different manifestations of spatial intelligence. The decision to look at painters, architects, and sculptors is a shrewd one—and the comparisons make sense. We would expect that sculptors—working in three dimensions—would share aspects of the painters’ and of the architects’ approaches.

Whether these findings have specific brain and developmental implications is a more vexed issue. Everything that we do involves the brain and so it’s to be expected that different kinds of activities involve different brain areas—how could it not be the case? And assuming it is the case, why is this so? There could be genetic reasons (best demonstrated by studying identical twins reared apart), training reasons (how teachers introduce skills), work experiences (what one does every day for many years), or a combination of these things. After all, individuals may be attracted to the visual-spatial professions because of innate proclivities; but even if individuals were randomly assigned to a spatial treatment, we would expect their brains ultimately to change. Whether those who become proficient do so primarily because of nature or primarily through the amount and type of training remains to be seen.”

Thomas Hoerr, MI Expert, Emeritus Head of School, New City School, and Scholar In Residence, UMSL College of Education, comments:

“When I present on MI, I like to spend a bit of time talking about how all of our intelligences might be put to use. I note that, as Howard has written, any complex act draws from more than one intelligence. (In fact, that would be the case for most simple acts, as well.) Intelligences are not used in isolation.

Beyond that, it’s helpful for people to consider the various manifestations of intelligences. Thinking about how the work of an architect differs from an artist makes sense to folks; the dimensions resonate. Likewise, the differences between poetry and prose are quite salient.

For teachers, in particular, I hope that this realization will encourage them – give themselves permission, if you will – to offer different experiences and pathways for kids to learn. It’s great, for example, to incorporate the spatial intelligence in teaching social studies concepts. Alone, I like that idea! Better, though, is if those spatial intelligences can be nuanced, so that there are opportunities for kids to use a range of materials, e.g., paint, clay, paper, and photography (though not on the same day!). The more teachers can envision the various aspects of intelligences, the more they can work to give students these kinds of opportunities.

What all of this does, as Howard theorized, is illustrate the multiplicity of multiple intelligences. That’s an exciting idea!”


For more information on the study, visit the following webpage:

Study of Learning Disorders: Evidence for MI Theory?

A study of the relationship between learning disorders and intellectual profiles, published in February 2017 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, lends further empirical support to the theory of multiple intelligences.

Written by Enrico Toffalini, David Giofrè, and Cesare Cornoldi, the study sampled over 1,000 children diagnosed with specific learning disorders, revealing partial differences in intellectual profiles between subgroups.

Gardner commented on this finding, saying:

This large study of students with specific learning disabilities provides evidence for distinct multiple intelligences. Each of the four profiles has a revealing mixture of strengths and weaknesses. The study is especially notable because it focuses on difficulties in school—an institution which typically valorizes only linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. One can readily assume that if one looks across the range of profiles of strengths and weaknesses, both in and outside of school, equally distinctive profiles would emerge.

A PDF of the article is available here via the Association for Psychological Science.

Multiple Intelligences and English Language Teaching in Lebanon


A recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Academics explored the use of Multiple Intelligences in teaching English as a second language in classrooms in Beirut, Lebanon. Conducted by Norma Ghamrawi over the course of one academic year, the study sought to answer the following research questions:

#1: How does the application of the MI theory in one school’s KG II ESL classrooms impact students’ acquisition of vocabulary?

#2 What relationship exists between the MI profile of teachers and the kind of intelligences they most often address in their classrooms?

#3 What is the predominant level of thinking skills (low/high on Bloom’s Taxonomy) that teachers address when they use the MI theory?

Ghamrawi utilized videotaped school sessions, student interviews, and surveys to determine that students taught in MI classes exhibited higher rates of retention of new vocabulary.

To read the published results of Ghamrawi’s study, click on the link below:

Multiple Intelligences and ESL Teaching and Learning: An Investigation in KG II Classrooms in One Private School in Beirut, Lebanon 



Howard Gardner Comments on Article Regarding Standardized Testing and Inequality in Schools

Recently, I received correspondence from Dr. Matthew Knoester of the University of Evansville. Dr. Knoester shared with me his article  ”Standardized Testing and School Segregation: Like Tinder for Fire?” which can be found here.   In this piece, Knoester and Au review research on the effects of segregation and discuss how standardized testing is used to further facilitate racial segregation in schools today.

I agree generally with the critique presented in this article.  The problem as I see it is that many of our schools, at various levels, valorize the kinds of skills involved in standardized testing and so there is a vicious (or at least non virtuous) circle. I was once asked, by the deans of admission at several leading law schools, whether I could help change the LSAT. I terminated the conversation with one direct question:  “Are you willing to change what happens in Law School?”

Once we begin to truly value other kinds of skills and intelligences, then perhaps the veneration of ETS-style instruments will begin to give way to  a more nuanced and differentiated view of higher education.



The Teaching Intelligence: Clues from the Brain

In defining the original intelligences, I laid out a set of eight criteria, deliberately drawn from several research traditions. I evaluated intelligence candidates on the extent to which they fulfilled these eight criteria. Originally, I delineated seven intelligences that became the components of MI theory. Some years later, I became convinced that an eighth intelligence, a naturalist intelligence, warranted inclusion in the list, and I spoke and wrote somewhat whimsically of a possible ninth intelligence—existential intelligence: the intelligence of big questions.

Unless the situation changes, I am no longer in the process of identifying and evaluating candidate intelligences. It is more important that the plurality of intelligences be established than that I put forth the ultimate or final list.

That said, I have been speaking informally about the possibility of an additional intelligence. I’ve termed it the ‘pedagogical intelligence’ or, less formally, the ‘teaching intelligence.’ We all know that two individuals can be equally skilled or knowledgeable in an area, but only one of them proves able to teach it effectively to others. Probing a bit more deeply, we can classify individuals in terms of what they can teach, how they can teach it, and how flexibly they can deploy their pedagogical tricks, depending on the nature and degree of success of a particular occasion of learning.

But there are two factors that I find more compelling. First of all, there is the recent discovery that even very young children are able to teach. The demonstrations are quite compelling. An apparatus or game is presented to the child, and he is given the chance to master that entity. He is then asked to ‘teach’ that game or apparatus to children of two ages: one clearly younger, the other clearly older. Contrary to what many of us would have predicted, even a toddler is aware of the core requirements of teaching: adjusting your pedagogy to the knowledge and skill of the learner(s). We know this to be true because the toddler—say, a child of three or four—will provide far more detail and explanation to a younger child (say, a two year old) than to an older child (say, a five year old). This demonstration fulfills one of the requirements of an intelligence: its existence across all humans, and its variable strength across the human species.

The second factor, even more recent, are brain studies of individuals involved in the act of teaching/learning. This is work described by Lisa Holper and colleagues in their article “The Teaching and the Learning Brain.” Not only does teaching activate quite specific brain structures. More importantly, you can gain evidence on whether teaching is effective by noting the amount of activity in the pre-frontal regions of the cortex and, intriguingly, the consistency of neural patterns between the designated teacher and the designated learner (or, as the authors put it, “dancing at the same pace”). Presumably, an individual with high pedagogical intelligence will more readily adjust her teaching strategies, in light of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the current teaching strategy. In the future, the teacher may be able to draw on neural as well as behavioral evidence. To read this article in its entirety, click here.

-Howard Gardner

Reference: Holper, L. et al. (2013). The teaching and the learning brain: A cortical hemodynamic marker of teacher-student interactions in the Socratic dialog. International Journal of Educational Research (59), pp. 1-10.

More Evidence that Practice Does Not Make Perfect: Music and IQ

By Howard Gardner

For close to a generation, claims have been made that musical training makes one smarter—either raising IQ (general intelligence) or improving performance in school (grades, test performance). Almost always, these claims are based on correlations between amount of time individuals have practiced and how do they on various measures. However, these correlational claims do not exclude the possibility that individuals are willing to practice for a reason—ranging from having more talent to being more motivated to learn in general.

Now, using the tools of behavioral genetics, Miriam Mosing and colleagues have released a study which provides evidence that it is not practice per se that improves cognitive performance, but rather the power of genetic influences. Comparing twins who have practiced a musical performance with those who do not, the authors find no difference in intellectual performance or level. As the authors conclude, “the relationship between practice and IQ was mostly due to shared genetic influences.”

While the study does not  focus directly on musical intelligence, I believe that this research has implications for MI theory. Specifically, the advantages of musical practice are most likely to occur for individuals who have musical talents, or in my terms “musical intelligence.” Of course, we should never discourage individuals from pursuing an interest in music. But we should also not assume that simple involvement in music has a magical and inexplicable transfer to other cognitive realms.

To read the full study in Developmental Science, click here to access a PDF.

Reference: Mosing, M. et al. (2015, April). Investigating cognitive transfer within the framework of music practice: genetic pleiotropy rather than causality. Developmental Science. pp. 1-9.

How is Number Represented in the Brain?

A principal component of the theory of multiple intelligences has been the belief that the human nervous system has evolved to facilitate a number of relatively independent computations. Rather than a single intelligence, on which one draws for the full panoply of skills, there are neural regions or networks that are more specifically dedicated to language, number, music, and the like.

A quite original aspect of the theory is that the intelligences are not yoked to a specific sensory capacity: for example, linguistic intelligence (known to be represented in the left hemisphere of right handed individuals) is mobilized whether linguistic information enters through the ear, the eye, or (in the case of the blind reading Braille) the fingertips.

When MI theory was developed over 30 years ago, most of our knowledge of the brain basis of cognition came from the study of individuals who had suffered brain damage. The findings were consistent, but at a very gross level; brain damage does not follow strict guidelines! In the intervening era, researchers have developed far more sophisticated means of studying the representation of capacities in the brain.

A study released in Science provides a number of fascinating findings. First of all, by using functional magnetic resonance imaging, it is possible to examine numerical capacities quite specifically in the human parietal cortex. Specific cortical areas, known as association cortex, are stimulated by numerical operations that occur across different sensory capacities; unlike, say, face recognition or tone discrimination, they are not restricted to a specific sensory cortex. Most remarkably, the size and manner of cortical representations actually reflects the size (technically, the numerosity) of the array; if you look at the pattern of neuronal arousal, you can tell whether the array contains few or many stimuli.

What I like best about the study is the clear implication that the human brain has evolved, not only to represent specific sensory input, but also to capture important distinctions that cut across the senses. I suspect that when scientists begin to study other intelligences, ranging from spatial to interpersonal, they will discover a clear rationale for the way these capacities are represented in the human brain.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

-Howard Gardner

Harvey, B.M. et al. “Topographic Representation of Numerosity in the Human Parietal Cortex.” (September 2013). Science, 341 (6150), pp. 1123-1126.

A Surprising Finding from the IQ World: Educational Implications

As a principal proponent of multiple intelligences, I have often been critical of scholarly work on the traditional notion of a single intelligence. From a scientific point of view, I think that multiple intelligences theory accounts better for the range of human performances. From an educational perspective, IQ testing is much better at classifying people than at helping them. It is an extraordinarily blunt instrument.

An article in Psychological Science reports a surprising finding. As the title of the study indicates, in primary school, literacy and numeracy turn out to be more heritable than psychometric (IQ) intelligence. The term “heritability” can be off-putting; technically, it refers to the sources of variation within a population. But in practical terms, it simply means that a certain proportion of one’s performance can be attributed to one’s genetic background: if we know about the performances of your grandparents on a set of tasks, it will help us predict how you will perform on similar tasks.

The surprise is that school is supposed to teach you literacy and numeracy, while it does not concern itself directly with improving intelligence (which is thought by many to be largely heritable and hence difficult to nudge upwards). And yet, it turns out that more of performance on literate and numeracy test can be attributed to one’s genetic background.

The authors speculate on the possible reasons for this unexpected finding. It may be, as they believe, that because school focuses on the Three Rs, it actually levels the playing field across individuals, and, according to behavioral genetics theory, that leveling actually increases the potency of the heritability factor. (Put differently, when there are no successful interventions, then environmental factors emerge as more powerful.)

But I am interested in this result for a different reason. Rather than focusing simply on IQ, as so often happens in psychometric research, the scientists are looking at more specific factors–in my terms, at linguistic intelligence and at logical-mathematical intelligence. (And, at least in principle, they could look at spatial intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, etc.)

Moreover, to the extent that students show different strengths in these different intelligences, it suggests two things:

1) We can identify student intellectual potentials in more specific areas; and

2) We can experiment with educational approaches that are more specifically addressed to specific capacities, such as those involved with language and number.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

-Howard Gardner



Kovas, Y et al. “Literacy and Numeracy Are More Heritable Than Intelligence in Primary School.” (2013). Psychological Science, 24(10), pp. 2048-2056.

Drawing Ability, Genes, and Intelligence

A study by Rosalind Arden et al in Psychological Science measures whether drawing ability has a correlation with genes and overall intellectual capacity by testing over 7,000 pairs of twins. The study presents two findings:

1) how well students draw has a genetic component; and
2) drawing ability relates to general intelligence.

Actually, however, the report is quite misleading. The test is not a test of drawing in any artistic sense; indeed, the authors state that their “scoring system ignores features such as overall size, charm, proportion, expressed emotions… and other characteristics of children’s drawings.” Indeed, far from presenting a new measure of anything, the study is simply a repetition of work that is almost a century old, as described in Florence Goodenough’s book Measurement of Intelligence by Drawing (1926). The scorers only take into account how many features of the body are included, period.

As for drawing ability having a genetic component, it is worth noting but hardly surprising, as so does virtually every human behavior except for traits such as language. From the view of either classical intelligence theory or the theory of multiple intelligences, we have not learned anything new.

-Howard Gardner


Arden, R., M. Trzaskowski, et al. “Genes Influence Young Children’s Human Figure Drawings and Their Association With Intelligence a Decade Later.” (2014). Psychological Science 25(10), pp. 1843-1950.