Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences Theory

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Howard Gardner: Multiple Intelligence Theory

              Michelle Sargent


           University of Phoenix
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                              Howard Gardner: Multiple Intelligence Theory

       Intelligence is defined as the application of cognitive skills and knowledge to learn,

problem solve, and means to an end valued by an individual or culture. It is also culturally

shaped and defined because cultural practices support and recognize specific intellectual

qualities that are useful (Kowalski & Western, 2007).

       Howard Gardner, a Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School

of Education, created the theory of multiple intelligences that distinguishes eight kinds of

intelligence that are generally independent, neurologically unique, and show alternate courses of

development. These include musical, bodily/kinesthetic, spatial, linguistic or verbal,

logical/mathematical, naturalist, intrapersonal, and interpersonal intelligences that appeared in

his 1983 book entitled Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences he originally

identified only seven standard components of intelligence (Plucker, 2003).

       Gardner concluded from his research that strength in one area of intelligence did not

necessarily predict strength in another area. Drawing from multiple disciplines such as

psychology, biology, sociology, and anthropology his research revealed that the human mind is a

series of separate faculties, with loose and unpredictable relationships with one another rather

than an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) because a high IQ without productivity does not equal usable

to intelligence. Gardner created several specific criteria for defining intelligence. In order for a

particular intelligence to qualify, it is considered from multiple perspectives consisting of eight

standard criteria (Plucker, 2003).

       The first of the criteria is the potential of brain damage. For example, a stroke patient can

have some forms of intelligence while still having damage to other cognitive abilities such as

speech. The second criterion is the evolutionary placement that has to have played a role in the
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development of the ability to cope with the environment through adaptability. For example, early

humans needed to navigate a multitude of terrains using spatial recognition. The third criterion is

the presence of core operations or the ability to recognize and discriminate variances in physical,

auditory, or spatial factors of the environment. For example, in determining a language

intelligence the individual would take into consideration the syntax, tone, and word meaning

(Plucker, 2003).

       The fourth, fifth, and sixth criterions are susceptibility to programming of symbolic

system and development progression. These criteria are dependent on one another as an

individual must be susceptible to programming in order to show development progression.

Mathematics, logic, maps, and charts are just a few examples of how these criterions are

measured. An individual must be able to learn the symbol system for each in order to

developmentally progress within the cultural and social structures to a positive end. The

developmental progress is defined as the presence of a developmental path that leads toward an

expert state. Although individuals do not necessarily show their "intelligence" in its raw state the

ability to progressively develop ability through the symbol system recognition can lead to an

expertise in a specific type of intelligence. Criterion four and five are tempered by the sixth

criterion that takes into consideration the existence or presence of the “idiot savant” such as an

Autistic individual who excels at mathematics (Plucker, 2003).

       The final two criterions are the support of experimental psychology and psychometric

findings. The support from experimental psychology must indicate the extent to which two

operations are related or different. For example, two individuals are asked to perform the same

task and carry on a conversation at the same time. If both the tasks require the type of

intelligence such as language, then it is unlikely that either individual would be able to complete
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the task because the use of language skills in both task and speech creates interference. Along

with the experimental psychology Garner uses the tenets of psychometric data to greater refine

the intelligence determination (Plucker, 2003). From this process eight distinct intelligence types

emerge. The most natural of the eight are Bodily - Kinesthetic, Spatial – Visual, and


        Bodily – Kinesthetic is defined as those who learn best through activity: games,

movement, hands-on tasks, and building (Cortland University, n.d). These individuals are often

extremely active and are prone to touching everything. This type of intelligence comes more

naturally than one may think as the natural instinct to touch something new or previously un-

experienced is often referred to as human curiosity; it is this curiosity that propels this type of

intelligence toward the more refined intelligence of mathematics. Without the hands-on approach

to learning the mathematical or logical intelligence would not encompass the experimental

processes needed to achieve excellence and advancement in the field.

        The Spatial – Visual intelligence is defined as those who learn best by seeing things done

and organizing thoughts and tasks (Cortland University, n.d). Individuals with this type of

intelligence need to see what is being discussed in order to understand. The use of charts,

graphs, maps and other visual aids allow the individual to see the process through organization.

This natural intelligence can be seen in the dating back to the time of the cave paintings found in

Lascaux France. These cave paintings show that even early man needed a visual reference for

tasks, culture, and a way to pass on tradition and history. The use of visual intelligence also leads

to greater intelligence in the linguistic – verbal type that relies on the use of language through

writing, reading, and speaking.
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       The Existentialistic intelligence is defined as those who learn in the context of where our

species place is in the grand scheme of things (Cortland University, n.d). This intelligence is as

natural as breathing for our species. From before recorded time mankind has looked to the sky,

and asked “Why are we here?” and “What does it all mean?” From the cave paintings in Lascaux

France to the philosophers of ancient Greece to current religious philosophies we as species have

tried to define our position in the cosmos. This need to know, this natural desire to find

placement in a vast universe leads to Naturalistic and Musical – Rhythmic intelligence as each

employ the existential view to improve.

       These three intelligence types directly affect an individual’s personal success. Although it

may not be necessary to excel at all three simultaneously to succeed and individual does need a

basic aptitude for them in order to meet with success in all aspects of life. The use of visual –

spatial intelligence affects the very core of academics; an individual who cannot extrapolate

anything from maps, books, charts or other visual aids will struggle greatly in several common

situations such as primary education, job training, and assembly of products.

       The use of Bodily – Kinesthetic intelligence is necessary to some degree as much of the

on the job training programs and primary education standards require an individual to be able to

perform tasks explained through action. Much like the Visual – Spatial intelligence this aspect of

the human condition is partially natural that allows individuals to perform tasks with improved

quality through repetition. It is an intelligence that many overlook because it comes naturally to

some extent. The degrees of expertise in this area determine the very fields of study or work an

individual will likely chose.

       Humanity is generally existential as individuals, cultures, and societies as we

continuously attempt to define mankind’s place in the world. This natural wonder or need for
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placement in the grand scheme of life is necessary to succeed in any field of study or line of

work as it provides drive to succeed, to create and to question the world we live in. Humanities

wonder and awe of everything in and out of this world prods us steadily forward into new

futures, new technologies, and new ideas.

       There are eight types of intelligences according to Howard Gardner theory that defines

how individuals learn, what individuals excel at and how individuals interpret information. No

single intelligence can define an individual. Humans are multifaceted and so too are their

learning styles. All learning intelligence types apply to each individual but in degrees. The

application of individual intelligence types can be described as a full circle of intelligence as

each intelligence type is assigned a degree of expertise or natural inclination beginning at zero

degrees and ending at 360 degrees. Each intelligence type plays an important part in the success

of an individual in life, work, and academics.
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       Cortland University. (n.d). Multiple Intelligence (MI) – Howard Gardner. Retrieved from

       Kowalski, R. & Western, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Retrieved from EBOOK COLLECTION: Kowalski, R. & Western, D. (2009). Psychology (5th

ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

       Plucker, J. A. (Ed.). (2003). Human intelligence: Historical influences, current

controversies, teaching resources. Retrieved [insert month day, year], from

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