Gardner's Theory of Intellectual Development


A number of theories have been put forward in an attempt to explain the various stages of intellectual development. Humans often learn through three general categories including kinesthetic learners, auditory learners, and visual learners. However, scholars have developed a number of approaches towards and theories to human potential beyond such categories. Among such theories is the “theory of multiple intelligences” that was developed by Harvard University’s Professor of Education, Howard Gardner. Gardener’s work in human potential, human cognition, and psychology resulted in the development of multiple intelligences. The development on these initial intelligences has resulted in the development of additional intelligences and there is a possibility of expanding them. Such intelligences, also referred to as competencies, are related to an individual’s unique capabilities as well as the way of demonstrating intellectual abilities. This research paper examines Gardener’s multiple intelligences including, naturalistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial-visual, logical-mathematical, and -linguistic intelligence.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Arguing that knowledge, intelligence, logic, and reason are synonymous, Gardner developed a new perception of intelligence that is increasingly being integrated into the school curricular. Through the theory of multiple of multiple intelligences, the concept of intelligence was expanded to incorporate various areas including interpersonal knowledge, special relations, and, music in addition to linguistic and mathematical ability. This theory challenged the traditional perception of intelligence as restricted to an individual’s linguistic and mathematical abilities (computational and verbal intelligences). It postulates that a grouping of various intelligences could effectively account for the diversity among people in terms of acquisition and utilization of knowledge.

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Gardner employed both cultural and biological research to develop multiple intelligences. According to him, intelligence refers to “the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings”. Initially, Gardner developed a provisional list of seven intelligences. These intelligences include logical-mathematical, linguistics, Spatial, Bodily-kinesthetic, musical, intrapersonal and interpersonal. Typically, logical-mathematical and linguistics intelligences have been valued in learning institutions. In this regard, intelligence was narrowly defined based on the two intelligences at the expense of the rest. The other intelligences including musical, bodily-kinesthetic, and spatial are often related to the arts. Gardner classified intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences as “personal intelligences.”

Linguistic intelligence entails one’s sensitivity to both written and spoken language. In other words, it refers to one’s ability to utilize language effectively in order to attain certain goals, and the ability to learn a certain language. This kind of intelligence involves one’s ability to use language effectively in expressing himself or herself poetically or rhetorically. Language is also regarded as a means to remembering information. In the real-life scenario, various people can be considered as having high levels of linguistic intelligence. These people include speakers, lawyers, poets, and writers. These people are capable of expressing themselves more effectively to the audience either in spoken or written language. However, this does not mean that other people have no linguistic prowess but rather it means that some people have high levels of linguistic intelligence than others.

On the other hand, logistical-mathematical intelligence refers to one’s ability in analyzing problems logically, performing mathematical operations, as well as investigating issues scientifically. It involves the capacity to think logically, reason deductively, and detect patterns. This kind of intelligence is thus mostly associated with mathematical and scientific thinking. As such, mathematicians and scientists can be thought of as having high levels of logistical-computational intelligence.

Musical intelligence, on the other hand, involves the ability to compose and recognize musical rhythms, pitches, and tones. Auditory functions are requisite for the development of musical intelligence in relation to tone and pitch. However, such functions are not necessary when it comes to rhythms. Some scholars contend that this intelligence involves the ability to appreciate, compose, and perform musical patterns. The people who deal with music production, composers, and musicians are often associated with this intelligence. Gardner argued suggested that musical intelligence is equivalent to linguistic intelligence.

Nevertheless, spatial intelligence entails one’s potential to use and recognize patterns of confined regions and wide space. In other words, it is one’s ability to interpret, use, and recognize patterns and images as well as reproduce three-dimensional objects. Park, Lubinski, and Benbow argue that spatial ability is determined by the capacity for mentally transforming, rotating, and generating visual images. It is among the most important cognitive abilities for creating expertise both in the work and learning settings. Individuals with high levels of spatial intelligence are capable of mentally rotating abstract objects. They are also capable of utilizing mental imagery for creative, observation, and artistic activities. Moreover, this intelligence is also important in artistic design in the sense that it facilitates individuals to develop artistic paintings, drawings, and other crafts. It is also important in construction because it enables one to assemble, build, or make things.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence refers to one’s potential of utilizing some parts of the body or the whole body to solve some problems. In other words, it is an individual’s ability to coordinate bodily movements through his or her mental abilities. Gardner perceived physical and mental activity to be related. Individuals with high levels of this intelligence are capable of thinking in movements and utilizing their bodies in complicated and skilled ways for goal-directed and expressive activities. This requires a good sense of coordination and timing. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is demonstrated in the physical skill when one is capable of using the body to perform physical activities including sports, coordination, and balancing. It is also expressed in acting and dancing where people can use their bodies in imitative, rhythmic, and expressive ways. This kind of intelligence has challenged the traditional belief that physical and mental activities are unrelated. In contrast, it has portrayed that the two are interrelated because one must exploit his or her mental ability to control physical activity.

As mentioned before, Gardner categorized intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence as personal intelligence. The former refers to the ability to understand oneself as well as the ability to appreciate and interpret one’s motivations and feelings. It is the capacity not only to be self-aware but also in tune with inner thinking processes, beliefs, values and feelings.

On the other hand, interpersonal intelligence refers to one’s ability to understand others’ desires, motivations, and intentions. It is the capacity to not only detect but also provide an appropriate response to other people’ desires, motivations, and moods. It facilitates collaboration work among individuals and groups. This intelligence is desirable in a number of professions including sales, teaching, and therapy. Similarly, caregivers, actors, and therapists are thought of as having high levels of intrapersonal intelligence.

Naturalistic intelligence refers to the ability categorize and recognize animals and plants as well as other objects. In other words, it entails the ability to appreciate and recognize our relations with the natural environment. Some of the professions that require high levels of this kind of intelligence include zoologists, biologists, and astronomers. This intelligence is requisite for animal care, plant care, and science. About animal care, it enables one to understand the animals’ needs, behavior and characteristics. Plant care entails working with plants in areas such as horticulture, farming, and gardening.

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