Theory_of_multiple_intelligences

Theory of multiple intelligences

The Multiple intelligences is an educational theory, first developed by Howard Gardner, that describes an array of different kinds of "intelligences" exhibited by human beings. Gardner suggests that each individual manifests varying levels of these different intelligences, and thus each person has a unique "cognitive profile." The theory was first laid out in Gardner's 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and has been further refined in subsequent years.

The theory was proposed in the context of debates about the concept of intelligence, and whether methods which claim to measure intelligence (or aspects thereof) are truly scientific. Gardner's theory argues that intelligence, as it is traditionally defined, does not adequately encompass the wide variety of abilities humans display. In his conception, a child who masters the multiplication table easily is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles to do so. The second child may be stronger in another kind of intelligence, and therefore may best learn the given material through a different approach, may excel in a field outside of mathematics, or may even be looking through the multiplication learning process at a fundamentally deeper level that hides a potentially higher mathematical intelligence than in the one who memorizes the concept easily. The theory suggests that, rather than relying on a uniform curriculum, schools should offer "individual-centered education", with curriculum tailored to the needs of each child. (This includes working to help students develop the intelligences in which they are weaker.) Gardner identifies kinds of intelligences based upon eight criteria. His eight criteria for describing something as an independent kind of intelligence (rather than merely one of the skills or abilities included in a kind of intelligence, or a synonym for, or combination of other kinds of intelligence) include:

  • case studies of individuals exhibiting unusual talents in a given field (child prodigies, autistic savants);
  • neurological evidence for areas of the brain that are specialized for particular capacities (often including studies of people who have suffered brain damage affecting a specific capacity);
  • the evolutionary relevance of the various capacities;
  • psychometric studies; and
  • the existence of a symbolic notation (e.g. written language, musical notation, choreography).

Gardner originally identified seven core intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. In 1999 he added an eighth, the naturalistic intelligence, and indicated that investigation continues on whether there is an existential intelligence.

The theory has been widely criticized in the psychology and educational theory communities. The most common criticisms argue that Gardner's theory is based on his own intuition rather than empirical data and that the intelligences are just other names for talents or personality types. Despite these criticisms, the theory has enjoyed a great deal of popularity amongst educators over the past twenty years. There are several schools which espouse MI as a pedagogy, and many individual teachers who incorporate some or all of the theory into their methodology. Many books and educational materials exist which explain the theory and how it may be applied to the classroom.

Gardner's Categories of Intelligence

Bodily-Kinesthetic

This area has to do with movement and doing. People are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance and often prefer activities which use movement. People who have this intelligence usually learn better by getting up and moving around. They may enjoy acting or performing, and in general they are good at building and making things. They often learn best by physically doing something, rather than reading or hearing about it. Those with strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence seem to use what might be termed muscle memory; for example they remember things through their body, rather than through words (verbal memory) or images (visual memory). It requires the skills and dexterity for fine motor movements such as those required for dancing, athletics, surgery, craftmaking, etc. Careers which suit those with this intelligence include athletes, dancers, actors, surgeons, builders, and soldiers.

Interpersonal

This area has to do with interaction with others. People in this category are usually extroverts and are characterized by their sensitivity to others' moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. They communicate effectively and empathize easily with others, and may be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and diplomats.

Verbal-Linguistic

Verbal-linguistic intelligence has to do with words, spoken or written. People with verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words and dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and via discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians and teachers.

Logical-Mathematical

This area has to do with logic, abstractions, inductive and deductive reasoning, and numbers. While it is often assumed that those with this intelligence naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer programming and other logical or numerical activities, a more accurate definition places emphasis less on traditional mathematical ability and more reasoning capabilities, abstract pattern recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations.

Those who automatically correlate this intelligence with skill in mathematics criticize this intelligence by arguing that logical ability is often more strongly correlated with verbal rather than mathematical ability: for example, in the Graduate Record Examination, a test often used in the United States to decide who will be admitted to graduate school, the old Analytic section correlated more strongly with the Verbal section than the Mathematical. One possibility is that formal, symbolic logic and strict logic games are under the command of mathematical intelligence, while skills such as fallacy hunting, argument construction, etc. are under the command of verbal intelligence.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and economists.

Naturalistic

This area has to do with nature, nurturing and relating information to one's natural surroundings. This is the eighth and newest of the intelligences, added to the theory in 1999. This type of intelligence was not part of Gardner's original theory of Multiple Intelligences. Those with it are said to have greater sensitivity to nature and their place within it, the ability to nurture and grow things, and greater ease in caring for, taming and interacting with animals. They may also be able to discern changes in weather or similar fluctuations in their natural surroundings. They are also good at recognizing and classifying different species. "Naturalists" learn best when the subject involves collecting and analyzing, or is closely related to something prominent in nature; they also don't enjoy learning unfamiliar or seemingly useless subjects with little or no connections to nature. It is advised that naturalistic learners would learn more through being outside or in a kinesthetic way.

The theory behind this intelligence is often criticized, much like the spiritual or existential intelligence (see below), as it is seen by many as not indicative of an intelligence but rather an interest. However it might have been a more valuable and useful intelligence in prehistoric times when humans lived closer to nature.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include scientists, naturalists, conservationists, gardeners and farmers.

Intrapersonal

This area has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities. Those who are strongest in this intelligence are typically introverts and prefer to work alone. They are usually highly self-aware and capable of understanding their own emotions, goals and motivations. They often have an affinity for thought-based pursuits such as philosophy. They learn best when allowed to concentrate on the subject by themselves. There is often a high level of perfectionism associated with this intelligence.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, writers and scientists.

Visual-Spatial

This area has to do with vision and spatial judgment. People with strong visual-spatial intelligence are typically very good at visualizing and mentally manipulating objects. They have a strong visual memory and are often artistically inclined. Those with visual-spatial intelligence also generally have a very good sense of direction and may also have very good hand-eye coordination, although this is normally seen as a characteristic of the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

Some critics point out the high correlation between the spatial and mathematical abilities, which seems to disprove the clear separation of the intelligences as Gardner theorized. Since solving a mathematical problem involves reasoningly manipulating symbols and numbers, spatial intelligence is involved in visually changing the reality. A thorough understanding of the two intelligences precludes this criticism, however, as the two intelligences do not precisely conform to the definitions of visual and mathematical abilities. Although they may share certain characteristics, they are easily distinguished by several factors, and there are many with strong logical-mathematical intelligence and weak visual-spatial, and vice versa.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include artists, engineers, and architects.

Musical

This area has to do with rhythm, music, and hearing. Those who have a high level of musical-rhythmic intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. They normally have good pitch and may even have absolute pitch, and are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. Since there is a strong auditory component to this intelligence, those who are strongest in it may learn best via lecture. In addition, they will often use songs or rhythms to learn and memorize information, and may work best with music playing in the background.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include instrumentalists, singers, conductors, disc-jockeys, and composers.

Other intelligences

Other intelligences have been suggested or explored by Gardner and his colleagues, including spiritual, existential and moral intelligence. Gardner excluded spiritual intelligence due to what he perceived as the inability to codify criteria comparable to the other "intelligences". Existential intelligence (the capacity to raise and reflect on philosophical questions about life, death, and ultimate realities) meets most of the criteria with the exception of identifiable areas of the brain that specialize for this faculty. Moral capacities were excluded because they are normative rather than descriptive.

Savant Syndrome

Gardner used case studies of Autistic Savants as part of his theory on multiple intelligences. On one hand they have severe mental disabilities and thus impaired social skills, on the other they have some extraordinary mental abilities not found in most people. The Savant Syndrome skills involve striking feats of memory and often include arithmetic calculation and sometimes unusual abilities in art or music. There is actually a disproportionate regularity with which the triad of blindness, mental disability and musical genius occurs in savant syndrome. Examples include Derek Paravicini who has severe learning disability but can remember every song he has ever heard. Others with savant syndrome are not autistic, but develop these abilities later on in life usually as a result of some accident, illness or trauma. For example Alonzo Clemons was a regular child until he suffered brain damage as a result of a fall. Afterwards he learned to create accurate animal sculptures from clay using his photographic memory. Some scientists thus believe that the potential to be a genius is latent in all people but is obscured by normal functioning intellect. In the case of savants, the damage to the brain has somehow disrupted normal functioning and has allowed the brain to access these latent skills.

Savants are generally viewed as having exceptional spatial intelligence but verbal defects.

Use to education

Traditionally schools have emphasized the development of logical intelligence and linguistic intelligence (mainly reading and writing). While many students function well in this environment, there are those who do not. Gardner's theory argues that students will be better served by a broader vision of education, wherein teachers use different methodologies, exercises and activities to reach all students, not just those who excel at linguistic and logical intelligence.

Many teachers see the theory as simple common sense. Some say that it validates what they already know: that students learn in different ways. On the other hand, James Traub's article in The New Republic notes that Gardner's system has not been accepted by most academics in intelligence or teaching.

George Miller, the esteemed psychologist credited with discovering the mechanisms by which short term memory operates, wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Gardner's argument boiled down to "hunch and opinion" (p. 20). And Gardner's subsequent work has done very little to shift the balance of opinion. A recent issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law devoted to the study of intelligence contained virtually no reference to Gardner's work. Most people who study intelligence view M.I. theory as rhetoric rather than science, and they're divided on the virtues of the rhetoric.

The application of the theory of multiple intelligences varies widely. It runs the gamut from a teacher who, when confronted with a student having difficulties, uses a different approach to teach the material, to an entire school using MI as a framework. In general, those who subscribe to the theory strive to provide opportunities for their students to use and develop all the different intelligences, not just the few at which they naturally excel.

A Harvard-led study of 41 schools using the theory came to the conclusion that in these schools there was "a culture of hard work, respect, and caring; a faculty that collaborated and learned from each other; classrooms that engaged students through constrained but meaningful choices, and a sharp focus on enabling students to produce high-quality work.

Of the schools implementing Gardner's theory, the most well-known is New City School, in St. Louis, Missouri, which has been using the theory since 1988. The school's teachers have produced two books for teachers, Celebrating Multiple Intelligences and Succeeding With Multiple Intelligences and the principal, Thomas Hoerr, has written Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School as well as many articles on the practical applications of the theory. The school has also hosted four conferences, each attracting over 200 educators from around the world and remains a valuable resource for teachers interested in implementing the theory in their own classrooms.

Thomas Armstrong considers that Waldorf education organically engages all of Gardner's seven intelligences .

Criticism

Criticisms of the theory's application in schools come in four major forms. First, opponents argue that the theory may lead to a sort of intellectual relativism, wherein students' failures are explained away as being an example of a different kind of intelligence, not a lesser one. As a result, there are those in the Gifted and Talented community who have criticized Gardner's theory, because any support of the idea that all children are equally gifted, just in different ways, might lead to the reduction or broadening of Gifted and Talented programs. Gardner himself has said that he does not believe his theory will have this type of consequence for gifted programs, and that he never intended his theory to affirm that all people are equally gifted, but rather that the definition of intelligence was too narrow to encompass all types of intelligence.

The second major criticism is that it is fallacious to say that someone may be good in one intelligence but not in another. Every multiple domain IQ test ever normed (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Stanford-Binet IQ test, Ronald K. Hoeflin's Mega test) has shown that all the areas tested are correlated. This trend is also shown in tests like the Graduate Record Examination, the SAT, the PSAT, the ACT, etc., on every one of which each section correlates to a high degree with the others; the correlation rarely drops below 0.6 on the -1 to 1 scale. Hence, it has been argued that persons who excel in one type of intelligence usually excel in several others; and many times in all.

The third major criticism of multiple intelligences as an application in schools is that there is a risk of teachers excusing students from doing well in an area in which they are weak. Students who may not "naturally" learn to read and write well nevertheless need to read and write well. Similarly, the goal is for students to succeed in all areas defined as intelligence by Gardner, and not default to their strengths.

There is an inherent risk of students developing a sense of inferiority in given areas. Students who are identified as not being "musical" learners may have less incentive to become musical learners.

A methodological criticism is that the assessment of one's form of intelligence is usually determined via a self-administered test. The usual form asks the respondent 40-60 questions such as "Do you prefer to stand when working?" This sort of question leaves much room for assessment error, and does not conform to survey techniques and methodology such as double-blind testing.

Another criticism is that the distinction between developmental stage and "intelligence" is not sufficiently well accounted for. For example, the average five-year-old is more likely to answer "yes" to the question "Do you like to move about a lot?" than the average forty-year-old. Conversely, the older person is more likely to seem to have interpersonal "intelligence," which might be better labeled as a developed skill -- solving problems with others or speaking in public, for example.

Opposing views

The definition of intelligence

As one would expect from a theory that redefines intelligence, one of the major criticisms of the theory is that it is ad hoc. The criticism is that Gardner is not expanding the definition of the word "intelligence"; rather, he denies the existence of intelligence, as is traditionally understood, and instead uses the word "intelligence" whenever other people have traditionally used words like "ability". This practice has been criticized by Robert J. Sternberg (1983, 1991), Eysenck (1994), and Scarr (1985). Defenders of MI theory argue that the traditional definition of intelligence is too narrow, and thus broader definition more accurately reflects the differing ways in which humans think and learn. They would state that the traditional interpretation of intelligence collapses under the weight of its own logic and definition, noting that intelligence is usually defined as the cognitive or mental capacity of an individual, which by logical necessity would include all forms of mental qualities, not simply the ones most transparent to standardized I.Q. tests.

Some of these criticisms arise from the fact that Gardner has not settled on a single definition of intelligence. He originally defined it as the ability to solve problems that have value in at least one culture, or as something that a student is interested in. However, he added a disclaimer that he has no fixed definition, and his classification is more of an artistic judgment than fact:

Ultimately, it would certainly be desirable to have an algorithm for the selection of an intelligence, such that any trained researcher could determine whether a candidate's intelligence met the appropriate criteria. At present, however, it must be admitted that the selection (or rejection) of a candidate's intelligence is reminiscent more of an artistic judgment than of a scientific assessment. (Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, 1985)

Gardner argues that by calling linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities intelligences, but not artistic, musical, athletic, etc. abilities, the former are needlessly aggrandized. Many critics balk at this widening of the definition, saying that it ignores "the connotation of intelligence...[which] has always connoted the kind of thinking skills that make one successful in school.

Gardner writes "I balk at the unwarranted assumption that certain human abilities can be arbitrarily singled out as intelligence while others cannot Critics hold that given this statement, any interest or ability is now redefined as "intelligence". Thus, by adopting this theory, studying intelligence becomes difficult, because it diffuses into the broader concept of ability or talent. Gardner's addition of the naturalistic intelligence and conceptions of the existential and moral intelligences are seen as fruits of this diffusion. Defenders of the MI theory would argue that this is simply a recognition of the broad scope of inherent mental abilities, and that such an exhaustive scope by nature defies a simple, one-dimensional classification such as an assigned IQ value. They would claim that such one-dimensional values are typically of limited value in predicting the real world application of unique mental abilities.

Intellectual relativism

Many critics argue that the theory's definition of intelligence leads to the belief that all human beings are equally intelligent, but in large part this is based on misunderstanding. Gardner argues that there are many different kinds of intelligence and that none is better or more important. However, people have differing abilities within these types of intelligences. Albert Einstein and a person who is good at mathematics both display logical-mathematical intelligence, but at no point does the theory say that all people with the logical-mathematical intelligence are equally intelligent.

Lack of empirical evidence

Some critics argue that many of Gardner's "intelligences" actually correlate with the g factor, supporting the idea of single dominant type of intelligence. For example, Carroll (1993) argued that verbal comprehension, auditory processing, visual perception and ability in logic and mathematics all correlate with each other and are actually subsets of global intelligence. This gives further support for a theory of a single type intelligence.

A critical review of MI theory argues that there is little empirical evidence to support it:

"To date there have been no published studies that offer evidence of the validity of the multiple intelligences. In 1994 Sternberg reported finding no empirical studies. In 2000 Allix reported finding no empirical validating studies, and at that time Gardner and Connell conceded that there was "little hard evidence for MI theory" (2000, p. 292). In 2004 Sternberg and Grigerenko stated that there were no validating studies for multiple intelligences, and in 2004 Gardner asserted that he would be "delighted were such evidence to accrue" (p. 214), and he admitted that "MI theory has few enthusiasts among psychometricians or others of a traditional psychological background" because they require "psychometric or experimental evidence that allows one to prove the existence of the several intelligences" (2004, p. 214)." (Waterhouse, 2006a, p. 208).

Supporters of the MI theory would counter that such dependency is to be expected as this point, as scientific methodology aimed at uncovering intelligence was created under the traditional theory of intelligence, thus leaving a new theory the necessity of initially having to utilize the methodology of the old theory until new modes of scientific inquiry can be developed.

The same review presents evidence to demonstrate that cognitive neuroscience research does not support the theory of Multiple Intelligences:

"the human brain is unlikely to function via Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Taken together the evidence for the intercorrelations of subskills of IQ measures, the evidence for a shared set of genes associated with mathematics, reading, and g, and the evidence for shared and overlapping “what is it?” and “where is it?” neural processing pathways, and shared neural pathways for language, music, motor skills, and emotions suggest that it is unlikely that that each of Gardner’s intelligences could operate “via a different set of neural mechanisms” (1999, p. 99). Equally important, the evidence for the “what is it?” and “where is it?” processing pathways, for Kahneman’s two decision-making systems, and for adapted cognition modules suggests that these cognitive brain specializations have evolved to address very specific problems in our environment. Because Gardner claimed that that the intelligences are innate potentialities related to a general content area, MI theory lacks a rationale for the phylogenetic emergence of the intelligences." (From Waterhouse, 2006a, p. 213).

A number of articles have surveyed the use of Gardner's ideas and conclude that there is no evidence that his ideas work in practice. Steven A. Stahl found that most of the previous studies which claimed to show positive results had major flaws:

Among others, Marie Carbo claims that her learning styles work is based on research. {I discuss Carbo because she publishes extensively on her model and is very prominent in the workshop circuit...} But given the overwhelmingly negative findings in the published research, I wondered what she was citing, and about a decade ago, I thought it would be interesting to take a look. Reviewing her articles, I found that out of 17 studies she had cited, only one was published. Fifteen were doctoral dissertations and 13 of these came out of one university—St. John’s University in New York, Carbo’s alma mater. None of these had been in a peer-refereed journal. When I looked closely at the dissertations and other materials, I found that 13 of the 17 studies that supposedly support her claim had to do with learning styles based on something other than modality.

However, the continuing evolution of scientific understanding about the brain and its function suggest further insight into alternative neural pathways and cognitive sources will be likely. (Time, Jan 29, 2007).

See also

Notes

References

  • Eysenck, M. W (1994) "Intelligence". In M. W. Eysenck, (ed.), The Blackwell dictionary of cognitive psychology (pp. 192-193). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1983) "Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences." New York: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1993) "Multiple Intelligences: The Theory Into Practice." New York: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1999) "Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century." New York: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, Howard. (1998) "A Reply to Perry D. Klein's 'Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight'" Canadian Journal of Education, 23(1), 96-102.
  • Gardner, Howard, and Seana Moran. (2006). The science of Multiple Intelligences theory: A response to Lynn Waterhouse. Educational Psychologist, Volume 41, Issue 4, Fall 2006, pp. 227-232.
  • Gardner, H. (2004) Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other people's minds. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, p. 196.
  • Kavale, Kenneth, A., and Steven R. Forness, 1987. "Substance over style: Assessing the efficacy of modality testing and teaching", Exceptional Children 54:228-239.
  • Klein, Perry, D. (1997) "Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight: A critique of Gardner's theory", Canadian Journal of Education, 22(4), 377-394.
  • Klein, Perry, D. (1998) "A response to Howard Gardner: Falsifiability, empirical evidence, and pedagogical usefulness in educational psychology" Canadian Journal of Education, 23(1), 103-112.
  • Kornhaber, Mindy. (2004) "Psychometric Superiority? Check the Facts"
  • Kornhaber, Mindy, Edward Fierros and Shirley Veenema. (2003) "Multiple Intelligences: Best Ideas from Research and Practice"
  • Lohman, D. F.(2001). "Fluid intelligence, inductive reasoning, and working memory: Where the theory of Multiple Intelligences falls short." In N. Colangelo & S. Assouline (Eds.), Talent Development IV: Proceedings from the 1998 Henry B. & Jocelyn Wallace National Research Symposium on talent development (pp. 219-228). Scottsdale, AZ: Gifted Psychology Press. Link
  • Scarr, S. (1985) "An authors frame of mind [Review of Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences]" New Ideas in Psychology, 3(1), 95-100.
  • Sempsey, James, "The Pedagogical Implications Of Cognitive Science and Howard Gardner's M.I. Theory (A Critique)" 10.19.93
  • Steven A. Stahl "Different Strokes for Different Folks?: A Critique of Learning Styles", American Educator, Fall, 199
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1983, Winter) "How much Gall is too much gall? {Review of Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences}". Contemporary Education Review, 2(3), 215-224.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1988) The triarchic mind: A new theory of human intelligence New York: Penguin Books.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1991) "Death, taxes, and bad intelligence tests", Intelligence, 15(3), 257-270.
  • Tupper, K.W. (2002) Entheogens and Existential Intelligence: The Use of Plant Teachers as Cognitive Tools Canadian Journal of Education. 27(4), 499-516
  • Traub, James (1998, October 26). Multiple intelligence disorder, The New Republic
  • Waterhouse, Lynn. (2006a). Multiple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A critical review. Educational Psychologist, 41(4), Fall 2006, pp. 207-225.
  • Waterhouse, Lynn. (2006b). "Inadequate Evidence for Multiple Intelligences, Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence Theories." Educational Psychologist, 41(4), Fall 2006, pp. 247-255.
  • Willingham, Daniel T. (2004) "Check the Facts: Reframing the Mind," Education Next

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