A Collection of Questions, New and Old, that Howard Gardner has Received and Responded To
Most questions about MI can be found by reviewing this PDF of FAQs, compiled by Howard Gardner.
On occasion, Howard Gardner will receive an interesting or novel question about MI. These unique correspondences are what follow:
Dear Professor Howard Gardner
I’m a reporter from Vietnam writing a story about two Vietnamese authors who mentioned your theory of multiple intelligences in their book. Inspired by your theory, they developed an idea that we can use games to educate children, in that different kinds of games can help children develop their multiple intelligences. Each game developed by the authors can help develop correlative intelligence, and through these games, parents also come to know what kind of intelligence their children have.
For example, to develop linguistic intelligence, parents can instruct their children to play with flashcards with vocabulary, telling stories and reading books. If the children play the games well or are interested in them, they may have strong linguistic intelligence.
To complete my story, I have some questions for you.
1. What do you think about implementing your theory of multiple intelligences in education in Vietnam?
2. What do you think about developing children’s intelligences through games?
3. What do you think about separating the games in groups to develop different kinds of intelligences?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Reporter in Vietnam
Dear Reporter in Vietnam,
Thanks for your note. I’m very happy to learn of your interest in MI and my work. The idea that you describe concerning games is interesting, but I don’t accept the premise entirely. The games may indicate what the child likes, but not necessarily in what areas he/she performs well. Also, especially when one is young, one’s intelligences are quite changeable. As a parent, I’d want to improve the performance with various intelligences, and not simply assume that an initial poor performance means anything. The great Russian psychologist Vygotsky talked about the importance of ‘the zone of proximal development’: not how well do you do initially, but how quickly you improve and how much help/scaffolding you need to improve significantly.
Finally, with respect to your third question, we can assume that a game features a specific intelligence, but we cannot know which intelligence(s) the child actually uses unless we do a separate study. So, for example, a game might be designed for the use of spatial intelligence, but in fact the child might approach it using linguistic or logical intelligence; or the child might use spatial intelligence in a game meant to be musical or bodily-kinesthetic.
With best wishes,
Dear Mr. Gardner,
I have been studying MI theory for quite a while and would like to acknowledge your ideas, which around a decade ago inspired some thoughtful Lithuanian educators to open a preschool that became distinct for its enriched environment, open-minded pedagogues, diversity of learning/playing tools and materials, and meaningful, individual-centered curriculum, comprising and integrating various domains.
Would you mind clarifying several things for me?
1) I am aware that morality and humor are not considered as separate intelligences. However, it is of high importance to nurture moral sense in children. Should we include morality as a component of interpersonal education (morality makes sense only with existence of others), or place an additional emphasis on morality separate from the intelligences?
2) If a child shows exceptional abilities in discriminating smells, creativity in mixing smells, or has an outstanding sense of taste, to which intelligence should we refer? Olfaction and gustation do not have representations in neocortex as vision or hearing, but are processed in forebrain structures. At the same time, these senses do contribute to a certain type of problem solving,and they can cause product fashioning (perfume, flavors, etc.).
3) Why shouldn’t we reconsider “technical” intelligence? The usage of tools might be a separate computational system, as each device being used “gets” its own representation in the brain, no matter if we wear high-heels, or drive a car. This gadget-body integration is worth revision in terms of intelligence. Sending you a link for a review: http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/528141/the-thought-experiment/ .
Thank you for your time spent on addressing my inquiries.
Educator in Lithuania
Thank you for your note and your interest in multiple intelligences. I am glad to hear of your work in this area, and I have tried to answer your questions below:
1. Morality is a general emphasis on the value “normative” dimension of life—any intelligence can be used in a moral/ethical or immoral/unethical way.
2. As for unusual sensory capacities, this is not something that I have investigated; intelligences operate on information, irrespective of which sensory organs (transducers) are stimulated. Thus, language intelligence is activated, whether the information arrives via eye, ear, or fingertips. So the question is not “Are the taste buds stimulated?”, but rather what use one makes of the discriminations thereby enabled. And naturalist intelligence or logical intelligence are but two of the intelligences that could be enabled…
3. I have often thought about technological intelligence, but our tools change so dramatically—most of them are digital now—that I doubt that a separate intelligence is involved.
With best wishes,
Dear Howard Gardner,
I am studying your theory of multiple intelligences. I am in 7th grade and am doing a TEDx Talk at my school, which is a presentation of any topic of my choice. I am informing the audience about your theory and explaining how SATs and other tests only test a few of the intelligences. Could I ask a couple questions regarding the talk?
1. What were your personal experiences that led to coming up with this theory?
2. What are ways SATs and ISEE tests can include parts of each intelligence?
3. What sort of world will the future be if we start informing young students about each intelligence and teach them things about each intelligence, not only a few?
4. How do you define intelligence and how do SAT creators define it?
Middle School Student
Dear Middle School Student,
Thanks for your note, and I’m glad to hear about your upcoming talk. Here are some brief responses to your questions:
1. I am sending you a few articles that tell about how I developed MI theory (click here).
2. Multiple choice tests can’t tap the different intelligences effectively—you need to look directly at ability. For example, the way to test spatial intelligence is to see whether a person can learn quickly to navigate around an unfamiliar territory. That said, you could probably improve standardized tests so that they surveyed at least certain aspects of some of the other intelligences.
3. From teachers all over the world, I’ve learned that students love to learn about the several intelligences. However, schools and countries vary enormously in terms of how much attention they pay to intelligences other than linguistic and logical-mathematical.
4. See the articles for my definitions. SAT creators are reluctant to define intelligence, but it is clear to me that they are interested only in logical and linguistic intelligences.
Good luck with your presentation!
With best wishes,
I am performing bibliographic work based on your Theory of Multiple Intelligences as a part of my degree. I have a few questions for you:
1. How many books altogether have been written on the theory so far?
2. Nowadays, how many intelligences exist?
3. Is Spiritual Intelligence considered or not? Why?
4. What is the purpose of the Multiple Intelligences?
Congratulations on your excellent work.
Dear MI Inquirer,
Thanks for your note. To answer your questions, I have written three books on MI (Frames of Mind, Intelligence Reframed, and Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons). I have also co-edited Multiple Intelligences Around the World about the use of MI theory in various countries across the globe.
There are hundreds of other books in many languages about MI; I don’t keep track of them. My book Intelligence Reframed, published in 1999, had a reasonably complete bibliography, but that was over 15 years ago! The same book explains why I do NOT believe that there is a spiritual intelligence (see chapters 4 and 5).
The psychological purpose of MI is to give an account of how the mind and the brain are organized; the educational purpose is to think about how education might be different, in view of this account of cognitive organization. As I’ve written in various books, the chief educational applications are ‘individuation’ and ‘pluralization.’
I hope that this is helpful to you.
With best wishes,
Hello Dr. Gardner,
I am a senior in high school, and I am writing to you today to ask if I could e-mail interview you on your theory of multiple intelligences and its application to education today and in the future. I am working on a research project, and I already have 20 written sources which include many of your books and reflection papers. However, I want to gather field research from experts and educators to react to my stance. As the theorist behind MI, I would like to ask you a few short questions that are not reflected in your written work. It would be an honor to cite you as a primary source. Thank you in advance for simply reading this e-mail.
I first discovered your theory of MI in eighth grade when I wrote my first research paper. Now, I would like to expand on your theory about how primary and secondary schools can utilize this idea to improve formal education. I am in contact with educators both locally and on the West coast because I want to analyze different reactions from small, large, public, and private educational institutions.
Below are three questions I am trying to figure out. I think these questions show the educational barriers (such as miscommunication and understanding of MI format) that need to be recognized in order to improve formal education and apply the theory of MI. I appreciate any response you can give.
General questions and ideas:
1. Gap between “a person’s desired capacity” and he (or she’s) strong intelligence(s): MI states that all people possess seven intelligences (I am following your original theory from Frames of Mind) and differences arise only in the degree of the intellectual strengths per individual. How can educators assess multiple intelligences to determine a student’s intellectual strength(s) and appropriate/personalized learning method(s) while still giving the student (or parent) freedom to choose the desired approach?
2. No Labeling: In today’s society, book series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent are dominating pop culture. These books deal with dystopian societies and labeling people into factions. So in a sense, I think that if the MI approach becomes a reality, some people in society might label themselves according to their strongest level of intelligence. This is not the response that MI should receive from the public. So how can experts and educators approach MI without the misconception of labeling?
3. Best Curriculum Understanding = Student Fun: I believe that in order for a student to truly “master” the academic material and fully understand its context (even in situations or problems the student has not yet encountered), the student should enjoy and have fun while learning the curriculum. Today, there are millions of students who take education for granted because they dislike going to school. The most cited response to why is, “It’s not fun.” I recently attended the Liberty Medal Ceremony in October where Malala Yousafzai spoke about her struggle to achieve an education and was inspired. She said, “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” I completely agree and want all students to see that education is important. So my question is, how can educators and experts develop a personalized education that is also fun and engaging?
Thank you. I would be grateful to have your feedback.
Student in Philadelphia
Thanks for sending your questions. I have outlined my answers below.
1. I’ve prepared a statement about assessment which I reproduce here.
As you may know, I have not developed a multiple intelligences (MI) test myself. The closest I have come is my participation in the creation of Project Spectrum materials, which we have used with children from the ages of 3-7; see the three books on Project Spectrum published by Teachers College Press. I don’t place a great deal of weight on self-assessment for two reasons:
1) There is no reason to believe that most people have particular insights into their own strengths;
2) Most people do not understand the differences between what you like to do (preferences), what you are interested in, and how powerful your computational capacities are. Only the latter indicate the strength of an intelligence.
Many people have developed their own measures of the multiple intelligences. The best known instrument is the MIDAS. This test, developed by Branton Shearer (who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org), has been administered to thousands of people all over the world.
I realize that many people, and especially policymakers, want some kind of an instrument, and if I were in their position, I would probably use the best available set of instruments for each intelligence or develop my own measures. I’d also rely heavily on triangulation—that is, using more than one source of data. For example, if individuals rate themselves on their intelligences, but one also obtains ratings from those who know them well (family, friends, present and former teachers), the profile of intelligences would be more reliable.
The gold standard consists of performance measurements, where you have to demonstrate your intelligence and not just testify to it. So, for example, assess interpersonal intelligences by observing how a person handles a conflict situation or motivates others to pursue a certain course of action. Assess spatial intelligence by seeing how quickly a person masters an unfamiliar geographical terrain.
Please see the book, Multiple Intelligences around the World (Jossey Bass, 2009), which contains an article about the Explorama written by Sahl-Madsen. The Explorama is a site which allows visitors to profile their own intelligences (http://uk.danfossuniverse.com/page12356.aspx).
You might also wish to consider attending one of the Project Zero Summer Institutes. They are one week long seminars held each summer in July–August; further information can be found at www.pz.harvard.edu.
I agree entirely with your implication that there should be student or parental choice in how one learns. At the same time, it’s certainly useful to take into account one’s intellectual strengths and weak areas. Then one can make an informed decision. This process can be analogized to medical lab tests. It is certainly better to know the results than to be ignorant, but the patient should have considerable choice about the treatment of choice- so long as she is aware of risks and benefits of the various alternatives.
2. Once a term or category has been introduced, one cannot legislate how it is to be used. Nor, in my view, should one try to legislate. I’ve learned a lot about “MI theory” by observing the many, often surprising, ways in which it is used around the world. Indeed, in the book Multiple Intelligences Around the World, 42 scholars from 15 countries on 5 continents describe the multitude of ways in which they have made use of the theory.
As the creator of the theory, what can I do and what should I do? First, I should try to model and write about uses of the theory of which I approve. Second, if I think that a use is inappropriate or pathological, I should say so, loudly and clearly. This is what I do, for example, with respect to claims that one can diagnose intelligences and life courses by examining fingerprints.
3. You raise a fundamental educational question that dates back to the Greeks and indeed to the Bible. Any effort to demonstrate that learning should be all fun and that the purpose of learning is to be happy all the time is delusional—that is my objection to the claim that ‘games’ and ‘game-ification’ will somehow magically solve the problems of effective education.
How do we get young people to value education? Principally by modeling how we ourselves learn and make use of our learning; and by creating lessons and environments that are engaging and productive. An ancient sage said that the purpose of education is to make you want to do what you have to do. Finding a balance between hard work, on the one hand, and feelings of ‘flow’ on the other, is the challenge facing every educator—and, for that matter, every student.
I hope that these answers are helpful to you.
With best wishes,
Dear Dr. Gardner,
Thank you for outlining your answers. I appreciate you taking the time to offer your insights. The books and links you specified were extremely helpful. For the past couple of weeks, I have been reviewing the sources and I was delighted to find in-depth explanations to my inquiries. However, I have two final questions that I would like to ask if you don’t mind.
1. The role of technology is increasing in today’s society. Almost all people own and use a smartphone, tablet, computer, or some sort of device every day. In certain situations, there are students who are unable to attend school and instead use technology (computers, tablets, etc) to obtain an education. Expanding on that thought, is online school the future of education? And if yes, can educators still personalize education and apply the theory of MI through wireless communication? (Generally, I’m a traditionalist. I enjoy and believe in attending school, but for those who are unable to go to class, this may be the best connection.)
2. This question is for my understanding so as to better structure my research according to your philosophy. Did you intend for the theory of multiple intelligences to be used toward academics and education? Or did you create the theory only for a better understanding of human cognition?
Any response you can give is appreciated.
Thank you once again,
Student in Philadelphia
Thank you for your recent follow-up note and your continued interest. The answers to your two additional questions are below.
A: The prevalence and use of technology as a means to access educational materials, courses, and information has certainly had a large impact on the field of education in the past decade. We are now in the era of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and platforms like EdX, where courses are made available online for free enrollment. One can now receive credits and even attain a degree without leaving the comfort of home.
There are benefits and drawbacks to online education. Technological advances have made online schooling a “wave of the future,” so to speak, but I am not without reservations. While it is good that information is now accessible to anyone with an interest to find it, and students can now broaden their horizons through any computer, tablet, smartphone, etc., I worry about a future world in which a professional, like a doctor or lawyer, can become certified without having had any real-world training or face-to-face interaction with peers and mentors, which is key to the learning process.
One of the positive sides to technology, however, (to directly address your question) is that it allows for greater personalization (or individuation) and pluralization of the educational experience for students. Instead of a classroom full of students all expected to learn in the same way and at the same pace, programs and apps can allow single students to advance at their own speed and to choose ways of learning that work best for them.
A: The theory of MI was my response to traditional measures of intelligence like IQ. I drew on a wide variety of sources and disciplines when developing the theory, including my background in arts and in research with patients with brain damage.
I originally thought that the theory would be most relevant to the field of psychology for understanding the human brain and the intellectual capacities that it enables, but for the most part, traditional psychologists did not align themselves with it. I was surprised and pleased to find that instead, MI spread rapidly in educational circles due to its implications for teaching and learning. That is where it has had its most significant effect.
I hope that this answers your questions, and I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors.
With best wishes,
Dear Professor Gardner,
I’m 32 years old, and I’m studying for my master degree in special education at the University of Tromsø, in Alta way up north in Norway. I have a background from training rescue dogs and wonder if the saying, “It’s hard to get an old dog to sit” could be relevant to the theory of knowledge that you present in your book The Unschooled Mind. In other words, are the things you learn in the first period of you life concrete and hard to reshape?
MI in Norway
Dear MI in Norway,
Thank you for your note. There is something to what you say. However, at age 71, I hope that the saying “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks” is not “the last word,” so to speak. I am still trying to learn new things—and when I fail, I ask my grandchildren to help me!
With best wishes,
Thank you for a quick answer. Since my last e-mail, I have been studying the field of special education, and especially the so called “grayzone”-pupil, which finds his way of learning (intelligence) not accounted for in the schools’ perception of how learning is carried out in general. He’s not the “ideal”-student, nor the one with a traditional handicap. His disadvantage is somewhat constructed by the learning environment.
My question is, why do we talk about children and young adults in terms of multiple intelligences, but not adults? In the interaction between teacher and student, teachers may tend to ignore the fact that he or she also has a preference in terms of intelligence. Wouldn’t it be fair to take into consideration that this preference would orient the learning process towards the teacher’s preference?
MI in Norway
Dear MI in Norway,
Thanks for this inquiry. As far as I know, no one has restricted the notion of MI to children, and I use it all the time with respect to individuals of all ages. In fact, I have slides about “the graying of multiple intelligences.”
With best wishes,
I’m now currently studying your book Intelligence Reframed, and I wonder if I have the correct understanding of your set of criteria for the MIs, as shown in my summary below?
An Intelligence must:
1. Be a result of evolution.
2. Be able to be isolated.
3. Be related to specific actions, operations, or mental processes.
4. Be described by language, since language is derived from the intelligences, and them again from content in our world surrounding us.
5. Have an evolutionary, cross-cultural, developmental history.
I see 6 and 7 as an attempt to get the point across, rather than as criteria for an intelligence. Am I right?
6. The existence of prodigies and exceptional people.
7. How multitasking can reveal isolated intelligences.
Is this correct?
MI in Norway
Dear MI in Norway,
The conditions you outline are roughly correct but not exactly. For example, it is important to be able to describe an intelligence in some kind of symbol system, but it need not be language. In today’s lingo, we’d talk about susceptibility to ‘coding.’ I recommend that you look at Chapter 4 of my book Frames of Mind.
With best wishes,
Greetings from India. I briefly went through your theory of multiple intelligences, and my question to you is how emotion affects the intelligence of a person. Like a placebo for medicine, are there any placebos that can be used to induce or stimulate intelligence in a person, thereby making him feel euphoric, and will that feeling of euphoria strengthen the brain even more expanding his intelligence? I am an undergraduate student with immense interest in understanding how a brain works. Though I have a parochial knowledge, I believe that emotions play a major role with respect to intelligence. I am eagerly waiting for your reply.
With best regards,
Emotional Intelligence in India
Dear Emotional Intelligence in India,
Thanks for your letter and your interest in multiple intelligences. Unfortunately, I do not think that there are any “placebos” that can stimulate intelligence or a feeling of happiness/euphoria. I would bet on hard work being effective for broadening intelligence rather than any magic potions or easy shortcut solutions.
With best wishes,
I am training to be a Primary School Teacher in the Netherlands. It will come as no surprise to you that your MI theory is part of our curriculum, and we are trained to design and give lessons keeping the different intelligences in mind.
I read in your piece “Multiple Intelligences After Thirty Years” in which you state, “ I concluded that there was ample evidence for a naturalist intelligence; and suggestive evidence as well for a possible existential intelligence (“the intelligence of big questions”).”
I was wondering whether you had made steps in proving (to yourself) that these intelligences (or indeed others) exist.
I understand that you must receive emails like this regularly so please be assured that I understand should you not find the time to answer.
In highest regard,
Teaching in the Netherlands
Dear Teaching in the Netherlands,
Thanks for your respectful note. To decide rigorously whether a candidate ‘counts’ as an intelligence is something that I no longer do. And so the case for ‘existential’ and ‘pedagogical’ intelligences remains in limbo, at least until someone decides to evaluate the evidence in light of the criteria laid out in Chapter 4 of Frames of Mind.
More generally, I now think that what I’ve done is open people’s eyes to the strong likelihood that the usual definitions and measures of intelligence are too narrow. They may elucidate what it takes to succeed in a certain kind of school at our time (what I call academic or scholastic intelligences) but are woefully inadequate in accounting for the full range of human intellectual/cognitive capacities.
My list of intelligences represents a serious scholarly effort to ascertain and delineate these additional cognitive capacities.
Anyone is free to nominate candidate intelligences, from humor intelligence to sexual intelligence to cooking intelligence. But to be taken seriously, the nominator needs to fulfill two criteria:
1. Have a set of criteria for what is, and what is not, an intelligence, as laid out, for example, in Frames of Mind.
2. Be sure not to confuse DESCRIPTION (how an intelligence works) with PRESCRIPTION (how we would like individuals to act, to use those intelligences). My delineation of intelligences is strictly amoral: any intelligence can be used benevolently or malevolently. How those intelligences are used is very important; my colleagues and I have devoted twenty years to studying Good Workers, Good Persons, and Good Citizens. But the use of an intelligence is a different question than the nature and operation of that intelligence.
I hope that these notes are useful to you.
With best wishes,
I want you to know that throughout my life I have used MI in so many ways and am now doing so in working with keeping healthy in the older years. I have been chairing the Health and Wellness Team here in a retirement residence where I now live, and I have some questions for you.
I have noticed that Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence seems to be the first to go in elders, as well as later on losing the ability to keep track of their checking account and other financial information using Mathematical Intelligence. Yet I had a friend who was developing Alzheimer’s disease who could still use her Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence to play skillful tennis with our group but lost her Visual/Spatial skills as she would lose her way in driving to the tennis club.
We also find that hearing and singing old familiar songs can bring some people out of a semi-comatose state and even restore Verbal skills as they sing the words. We have a multi-sensory MI room for these folks. All of this is fascinating to me, and I wonder if you have been doing any research in this area. I wrote a little pamphlet on Keeping Well (Mentally, Physically, Socially, Emotionally, and Spiritually) that we distribute here, and much of it has to do with what I learned from you. I will always be grateful for what you have done not only for me but for the whole world of education.
MI While Aging
Dear MI While Aging,
As you may know, I have never myself developed measures for the several intelligences, though others have done so deliberately or incidentally, and so we do not have reliable data on the decline of various intelligences. It’s a subject ripe for investigation, and the impressions that you have jotted down are a promising place to begin.
My own speculations are as follows. Individuals with clear dementing diseases, specifically Alzheimer’s, often first present spatial symptoms: they get lost easily and don’t remember even such simple routes as the way home from work or from a relative’s home. There are other dementing diseases (like Pick’s disease) where social appropriatenes proves vulnerable (these are more ‘frontal,’ while the Alzheimer’s patients are more compromised in the ‘parietal’ areas). I think that in Alzheimer’s patients, linguistic skills are fairly robust, except for proper names, because one can circumlocute in cases where the precise word is not essential. But memory of events, particularly recent events, is likely to be compromised, and so of course one can’t talk accurately about what has happened.
More generally, we are protected in those cognitive areas where we have lots of strength and experiences. So, for example, the musical intelligence of a musician allows that person to appear OK to others, though other musicians, and those close to the musician, may detect declines.
Like others, I’ve been impressed that rich experiences, like going to a museum, often activate capacities that had been seen to be deteriorating, probably because of strong emotional ‘jags.’ But I know of no convincing evidence that dementing diseases can be halted. In that way, life is unfair, or perhaps we should say that it is one of the few areas of life where total fairness does obtain, because no one, alas, is immune from dementia.
What, if anything, can we do? Exercise all parts of our mind and body regularly; push oneself, but not too hard; choose one’s genes well; and if dementia happens to ourselves or others with whom we are close, accept it with as much grace as we can.
Those are my scattered thoughts. I’m glad to know that you are actively involved in your community.
All the best,
Dear Professor Gardner,
My work with dancers and athletes all these years may best fall into the category of (loosely) Translational Research. The work has been practice-based in the studio and on the field with the athletes. I feel that there is a story to tell and may be somewhat of an “application of multiple intelligences.”
One of the primary principles of my teaching in the dance studio has been in the development of Kinesthetic Awareness. I find an explosion of literature on the topic. My thought was to talk with you, who I consider the expert, for your definition of Kinesthetic Awareness.
My first question is: how would you define Kinesthetic Awareness? (Chapter 9 in Frames of Mind does lay this out, but I wondered how you feel it fits with a relation to dance training?)
The second question may be whether you think that Kinesthetic Awareness may actually be a “sixth sense” that elite athletes and dancers may acquire.
Sorry if this may seem rather non-academic or too simplistic, but I my thinking has been influenced by the Kuhnian notion of “revolution.” One of my seminars on “Sensual Science” works with the development of creative thinking based on nurturing an interdisciplinary thought process. “Sensual Science” is my answer to Thomas Kuhn’s reference to “Normal Science.”
Thank you once again for your kindness and assistance.
An MI Teacher
Dear MI Teacher,
Thanks for your note and questions. The most important thing for me to say is that you know infinitely more about the topic than I do, and so the most I can do is to give you a thought off the top of my head.
I would say that ‘being aware of your body and its options’ is quintessential to bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. The only hitch is that the awareness need not be conscious, and certainly not hyper-conscious. In other words, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence manifests itself whether or not the person can speak about it or conceptualize it. I’d say the same thing about any intelligence. The test is in performance per-se, not in self-awareness or articulateness.
Some bodily-kinesthetic awareness is built into our nervous system. When I injure myself, my body knows which moves to avoid whether or not I have a clue. But other bodily-kinesthetic awareness is acquired, quickly or slowly, over the course of a lifetime. When a hockey player knows exactly what move to make, to receive and send a puck in a desired direction, he/she is reacting on the basis of ‘fast thinking’—even though it may have taken 10,000 hours of practice to reach that level.
I hope that this quick note is a bit of a help to you.
With best wishes,
Hello Professor Gardner,
I saw Elaine Paige’s performance of “Memories” from Cats in London’s West End, back in the ’90s. The clip and your quiz on MIOasis led me to realise that one of the most profound intelligences we possess is that of Empathy. It is a mainstay of our ability to perform within society, and its presence is confirmed by the circa 5% of the populace who seem to be devoid of this intelligence (sociopaths). This intelligence is clearly a part of your classification ‘Interpersonal Intelligence (people smarts),’ but although sociopaths are devoid of empathy, they most certainly are not limited in their capacity of ‘people smarts.’
This observation posed for me two issues. The first is the question – should not Empathy be classified independently as an eighth intelligence, as, for all its vital importance to society, it is not essential for the Interpersonal Intelligence?
The second observation is that intelligences are principally innate and function even without further development or even our awareness of them, but of course we can hone or develop these intelligences by deliberate ‘exercise.’ This in turn led me to realise that some intelligences lay outside of the brain – autonomous actions, reflex actions and ‘muscle memory.’ How extensive and important are these ‘animalistic’ intelligences? Are we missing important intelligences (such as empathy)? Are some intelligences so hard wired as to be beyond ‘education’? Are our innate abilities (musical, logical, linguistic, etc.) simply the expression of the degree of innate intelligence we are born with? Does our primal level of our intelligences drive our life selections (our interests)? And finally, for the well being of society, should we not be schooling/developing our Empathy Intelligence?
These questions led me to consider tangential lines of knowledge I have recently come across. In her book Quiet, Susan Cain exposes the two distinct characteristics of introvert vs extrovert. Clearly, these are both powers or ‘Intelligences’ as distinct from one being a lack of the other, which prior to the publication of Quiet was the accepted perception of ‘introverts’ as being lacking in the skills of the ‘extrovert.’
I am reading Multiple Intelligences at the moment, but would greatly appreciate you thoughts on my observations and questions.
Curious About MI
Dear Curious About MI,
Thanks for your thoughtful note. In my original work, I proposed 7 intelligences; about 15 years ago, I added a ‘naturalistic intelligence,’ and I’ve spoken informally about possible ‘existential intelligence’ and ‘pedagogical intelligence.’
Of course it would be easy to keep adding intelligences, so I’ve set quite a high bar. Any candidate intelligence has to fulfill my eight criteria reasonably well and not to be subsumed under an already defined intelligence (or set of intelligences).
To the extent that ‘empathy’ involves the understanding of other persons, it fits comfortably under my definition of interpersonal intelligence. On that basis, it’s just one of many factors that make one sensitive to the world of other persons. Note, however, the sadist has quite a bit of empathy: he knows how the victim feels, and that is why he engages in sadism.
Some colleagues have spoken and written about ‘applied empathy.’ In the vernacular that means you don’t just ‘feel someone else’s pain.’ Rather, you do something to alleviate that pain. I like that move but note that it involves an assumption of HOW an intelligence is used. And on my formulation, any intelligence is amoral: linguistic intelligence can be used, à la Emily Dickinson, to write vigorous poetry. It can also be used, à la Joseph Goebbels,to foment hatred. Both Nelson Mandela and Slobodan Milosevic had plenty of interpersonal intelligence (and probably empathy), but they used those capacities in divergent ways.
Hi Professor Gardner,
I’m a journalist, and I’m writing about multiple intelligences for a foreign magazine.
I read the FAQ on your website, but I’d like to know if there are updates. I heard that today you define 12 intelligences; is that correct? Could you tell me more about the new ones?
Thank you in advance.
All the best,
Thank you for your kind note and your interest in my work. In my original book, I described musical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal (social) intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence (understanding of self). A few years later, I added naturalist intelligence: the capacity to make consequential distinctions in the world of nature. I also have speculated about two other possible intelligences: existential intelligence, the intelligence of ‘big questions’; and pedagogical intelligence, the intelligence that allows human beings to convey knowledge or skills to other persons.
At present, I am not gathering empirical data about these candidate intelligences. I and others are free to talk or write about these intelligences more informally. There is no foolproof way of determining what is or is not an intelligence. And while I devised the criteria, in principle anyone can apply them. In the past, much of my time was spent in trying to explain why the evidence does not support the postulation of other candidate intelligences—e.g. religious intelligence, moral intelligence, humor intelligence, etc. For a discussion of these issues, see Chapter 4 of Intelligence Reframed.
I hope this is helpful and I wish you the best of luck with your article!
With best wishes,
Hello Dr. Gardner,
Currently, I am enrolled in an early childhood education class, and we had an assignment about questions that we would ask a theorist about his work. I chose your Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and I have a question that the class and I would like to ask you. Based on Cultural Psychology, does this theory have cultural relevance? If I go into another culture, will these nine intelligences still cover the broad span of intelligence of the children? Could there be other intelligences around the world that are not present here in America? Please let me know if you know of any studies that you or anyone else has done that could have covered this. Thank you so much for your time and patience with this matter.
An MI Scholar
Dear MI Scholar,
Thanks for your note and good question. When I wrote Frames of Mind over thirty years ago, I said that the theory of multiple intelligences was probably culture bound, but less so than other theories of intelligence. And that is because cross-cultural studies were a primary source of information for the intelligences. Please look at the extensive anthropological references in the book. Since then, we have published a book called Multiple Intelligences around the World. 42 authors from 15 countries on five continents have made contributions, and so, again, this points to a de-parochializing of the theory.
Some have speculated that there are forms of intelligence peculiar to our era, like digital intelligence, but I have not been persuaded. I suspect that the list of human intelligences, whatever it will ultimately be, will be discernible all over the world, even though particular cultures will doubtless favor specific intelligences at specific times.
Dear Dr. Gardner,
I have been wondering about the intelligences that are involved with great detectives. Surely a high logical-mathematical ability is essential when making deductions, but I also know that great detectives must have sharp observational skills. One thing that Sherlock Holmes would always note in the books is that people often see but they do not observe. I am really horrible with my observational skills and I wish to improve them. I was thinking that maybe this was spatial intelligence, but then I remembered that naturalistic intelligence is also involved with noticing subtle details. So is it spatial, naturalistic, both, or some other intelligence?
An Aspiring Cognitive Scientist
Dear Aspiring Cognitive Scientist,
Good question! I don’t think that there is a ‘right answer’ but before I got to your own hypothesis, I also invoked naturalist intelligence. So if we could study Holmes’ brain and Holmes’ mind, we might find that he has a high amount of naturalist intelligence.
Dear Dr. Gardner,
I am doing a report for my Bachelor’s degree on The theory of Multiple Intelligences and was wondering if Existential Intelligence was one that you had included in your theory? During my research I have found it included in some sources and not even mentioned in others. Which is the proper one to use? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
That is a fair question. Existential has not been ‘officially added’ to the list of intelligences, but I speak informally about it, and also about ‘pedagogical’ (or teaching) intelligence.
Dear Dr. Gardner,
I am a student of Architecture in Madrid. In this moment, I´m carrying out the last project of architecture for my graduation; this project is the design of a school for students of Primary and Secondary Education and Bachillerato (High School).
The students of these courses are comprised between the 10 and the 18 years. During a time, I have been collecting information on his theory of the multiple intelligences. A very interesting theory and that I wanted to incorporate to the pedagogical program that would contribute to the school that I am designing.
But what I need, like a future architect, is to know how the spatial organization of a pedagogical space like this should be. Besides, I wanted to formulate you some questions about the space of a centre of education that, perhaps, had been studied in your University. These are my questions:
1st. Must every intelligence have an specificied space to carry out the pedagogical activities of this intelligence? Must the different areas for the developing of pedagogical activities for many intelligences be mixed?
2nd. What partial needs and pedagogical resources are necessary in the different spaces of development of the multiple intelligences?
3rd. Does it exist any investigation in your University associated with the architectonical space where pupils are educated and the progress of knowledge, specially about the development of multiple intelligences of pupils?
4th. Does it exist any publication, written or in the web where the relationships between architectonical space and multiple intelligences education are studied?
I thank you so much for your attention.
An Architecture Student
Dear Architecture Student,
Thank you for your note. MI theory is a theory about how the mind is organized and how it develops. It is NOT an educational theory (though it has been used by educators in many countries) and it is certainly not an architectural theory or plan or application. Of course, if you believe that MI theory is valid, and you are involved in the education of young children, you are going to want to create spaces in which the different intelligences can be activated and work together. And many museums, as well as schools, are organized physically both to display and to provide opportunities for the exercise of the intelligences.
There are certainly architects who have thought and written about the application of Multiple Intelligences. Years ago, there was a firm in New Orleans called Concordia, which developed schools in the MI tradition. I do not monitor such developments. But since you have good English skills, and have access to search engines, I am sure that you can find relevant information. And even better, perhaps you can create your own “MI Spaces.”