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Learning Styles Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences

The theory of multiple intelligences is a theory first introduced by Howard Gardner in 1983 (see reference below). According to Gardner, his theory of multiple intelligences (MI) is actually a clearer description of what human cognition is like.

Gardner defines intelligence as the biological potential to process information in certain ways in order to solve problems or fashion products that are valued in a culture or community. Because of that, each society gets to say what counts as intelligence. Intelligence changes as culture changes.

When it comes to learning, MI theory presents some fascinating possibilities for teachers, especially if a teacher is interested in differentiating their instruction. Armstrong (2000) has excellent suggestions for teaching to the multiple intelligences.

Initially, Gardner identified seven intelligences. These were linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence. In the nineties an eighth intelligence (naturalist) was introduced, and currently Gardner is working on identifying a ninth intelligence, existential (or spiritual) intelligence.

A Brief Explanation of Each Intelligence

Linguistic Intelligence: The capacity to use words effectively whether orally or in writing.

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: The capacity to use numbers effectively and to reason well, i.e., problem solving, scientific reasoning.

Spatial Intelligence: The ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to perform transformations upon these perceptions.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: Expertise in using one's whole body to express ideas and feelings and facility in using one's hands to rpoduce or transform things.

Musical Intelligence: The capacity to perceive, discriminate, transform and express musical forms.

Interpersonal Intelligence: The ability to perceive and make distinctions in the moods, intentions, motivations, and feelings of other people.

Intrapersonal Intelligence: Having self-knowledge and the ability to act adaptively on the basis of that knowledge.

Naturalist Intelligence: Having an interest in nature and an understanding of animal behavior as in archaeology and anthropology.

Existential (or Spiritual) Intelligence (?): Engaging in the spirituality and the mystical nature of "man." Based on Gardner's criteria for being officially identified as an intelligence, at present the existential intelligence is half or two-thirds of an intelligence.

Key Points about the Intelligences

Each person possesses all eight (nine?) intelligences.

Most people can develop each intelligence to an adequate level of competency.


Armstrong, T. (1994). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York, NY; Basic Books.