The Institute of Critical Thinking

Howard Gardner Lecture

In January 2005 Institute of Critical Thinking hosted lectures by Professor Howard Gardner. Members of the education community in Trinidad and Tobago including the teaching fraternity were invited to participate.


The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Professor Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor of neuroscience from Harvard University, developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) in 1983. This theory challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of education and cognitive science. Unlike the established understanding of intelligence – that people are born with a uniform cognitive capacity that can be easily measured by short-answer tests – MI reconsiders the educational practices of the last century and provides an alternative.


Gardner posits that human beings have nine different kinds of intelligence that reflect different ways of interacting with the world. Each person has a unique combination, or jagged profile of intelligences. Although we each have all nine intelligences, no two individuals have them in the same exact configuration, in the same way that no two individuals have similar fingerprints.


What is Intelligence?

For Gardner, intelligence includes the following:

  • the ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture;
  • a set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life;
  • the potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.


Typography of Nine Intelligences 

1. Linguistic Intelligence: the capacity to use language to express what is on your mind and to understand other people. Any writer, orator, speaker, lawyer, or other person for whom language is an important stock in trade has great linguistic intelligence.


2. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or to manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.


3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence: the capacity to think in music; to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, and perhaps manipulate them. People who have strong musical intelligence do not only remember music easily: it is constantly present in all their activities and thoughts.


4. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body (your hands, your fingers, your arms) to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of production. The most obvious examples are people in athletics or the performing arts, particularly dancing or acting.


5. Spatial Intelligence: the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind, the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world. Spatial intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences.


6. Naturalist Intelligence: the ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in roles such as a botanist or a chef.


7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: having an understanding of yourself; knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. We are drawn to people who have a good understanding of themselves who tend to know what they can and can't do, and to know where to go if they need help.


8. Interpersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand other people. It is an ability that everyone needs, but is especially important for teachers, clinicians, salespersons, or politicians, that is for individuals who deal with other people.


9. Existential Intelligence: the ability and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death, and ultimate realities.


Howard Gardner’s Webpage at Harvard

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