What are Multiple Intelligences?

People with verbal/linguistic intelligence are skilled at reading, writing, and using words.
Some people are gifted in music, or have musical intelligence.
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  • Written By: Licia Morrow
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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Howard Gardner pioneered the theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983 with his groundbreaking book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The basic tenet of the work is that individuals have unique cognitive learning modes that are often not addressed in the typical educational setting. A particularly important part of Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory is that it provides eight distinct pathways to learning. Gardner, through his creation of multiple intelligences, contributed not only to educational theory, but to an understanding of unique cognitive functions.

Gardner sets forth eight distinct intelligences that he believes are rooted in brain development, with each individual’s reaction to internal or external stimuli being attached to their intelligence. Gardner further theorizes that people use their inherent brain responses to help them in problem solving in all situations. For example, a person with strength in logical/mathematical intelligence may look at a piece of writing and distinguish structure and logic behind the components included, while a musical person may relate well to the rhythm of the writing.

Individuals generally show a strength in one of the following of the multiple intelligences: verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, or naturalist.


With a belief that most educational situations are heavily geared toward either a verbal/linguistic or logical/mathematical style, Gardner created multiple intelligences to assist those students who may possess a different type of cognitive function in addressing varied subjects. Most people possess skill levels in several of the areas of multiple intelligences; however, the overwhelming trend is an outstanding talent in one area above the others.

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence is characterized by a talent with reading, writing, and communicating with words.

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence involves excellent reasoning skills, and an ability to calculate and see things in a well-ordered way.

Visual/Spatial Intelligence usually belongs to people whose cognitive responses revolve around pictures and visualization, like navigating and drawing.

Musical Intelligence is seen in people who are gifted in music composition, singing, or rhythm.

Body/Kinesthetic Intelligence appears most in people who would be described as “hands on.” They are usually able to use their bodies in some way when tackling projects like constructing a model, acting in a play, or performing surgery.

Interpersonal Intelligence is associated with people who thrive from working well with others, have large doses of empathy, and understand the motivations of others.

Intrapersonal Intelligence is an ability to self-reflect, understand one’s own motivations and talents, and accept one’s own capacity to succeed.

Naturalist Intelligence was an addition, in 1996, to the original list. People with a naturalist ability have a talent in recognizing parts of the natural world and use that understanding productively.


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